A thank you to Committee of Inquiry MPs

18 08 2010
To the House committee members of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians:
Ms Sharon Bird MP (Chair) (Australian Labor Party, Cunningham, NSW)

Dr Dennis Jensen MP (Deputy Chair) (Liberal Party of Australia, Tangney, WA)

Ms Julie Collins MP (Australian Labor Party, Franklin, TAS)

Mrs Yvette D’Ath MP (Australian Labor Party, Petrie, QLD)

Mr Steve Irons MP (Liberal Party of Australia, Swan, WA)

Mr Robert Oakeshott MP (Independent, Lyne, NSW)

Mr Sid Sidebottom MP (Australian Labor Party, Braddon, TAS)

The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP (Liberal Party of Australia, Murray VIC)

Mr Mike Symon MP (Australian Labor Party, Deakin, VIC)

Mr Tony Zappia MP (Australian Labor Party, Makin, SA)

Somehow you have found the energy and the will to read the hundreds of submissions, travel to every state and territory, ask the hard questions and critically analyze the information and begin to form understanding and judgements.  In three short months you have seen into the heart of a decline in our profession which has taken decades.  You have looked for truth and for facts and for answers. We thank you for your commitment to education and learning.

We look forward to your report.  But even with no report, we thank you.

The media knows about TEACHER librarians, now! (See the long list of articles in the right hand column!) More principals are starting to look at the research. Parents are asking why their school doesn’t have a TL.  Universities are looking at how to extend their programs. And politicians are starting to understand what can be done at all levels to improve student literacy and learning through libraries. We have a long way to go, but it is a start.

We wish you every success in your campaign and sincerely hope that the committee will be able to finish its valuable and extensive work. And that JULIA GILLARD who requested the inquiry will be there to act upon its recommendations.

Thank you again on behalf of The Hub and Australian teacher librarians and students.





Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools

17 03 2010

YOU HAVE DONE IT!!

1846 of you (now 2025! 27/3/10), so far, have signed the petition for a federal review of school libraries and the government has responded!


In this election year, the timeframe is all too short. One month!! Nevertheless this is our opportunity for the federal government to look at possible recommendations on school library funding and staffing, the first review since the 1970s.
Terms of Reference
To inquire into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools. Specifically, the committee should focus on:
  • the impact of recent policies and investments on school libraries and their activities;
  • the future potential of school libraries and librarians to contribute to improved educational and community outcomes, especially literacy;
  • the factors influencing recruitment and development of school librarians;
  • the role of different levels of government and local communities and other institutions in partnering with and supporting school librarians; and
  • the impact and potential of digital technologies to enhance and support the roles of school libraries and librarians.
As a result of submissions, the committee can recommend those things stated in the petition that so many of you signed, that the government:
  • collect national data on school library staffing, funding, and scheduling;
  • tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services;
  • require that literacy programs and other national curricula should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success;
  • develop national school library standards;
  • increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.
The brief is quite broad and can accommodate these issues and more, such as special grants for Improving Literacy through School Libraries, collection of information on TL training programs and numbers enrolled, make recommendations on inclusions in pre-service teacher training on IL and TL collaboration, development of a national IL curriculum, nominating a National School Library Day, and much more.
We hope that you will assist the associations you belong to to make considered submissions within this short timeframe. Here are general Guidelines for submissions.   Individual submissions will also help the House Education and Training Committee members understand our dreams and the reality.
Our thanks, especially to Sharon Bird, MP for Cunningham, NSW electorate and chair of the House Standing Committee on Education and Training for her efforts in getting this inquiry.
This is an valuable first step in improving school library funding and staffing in Australia for the 21st century.




My School: Open letter to Julia Gillard

28 01 2010

Ms Julia Gillard
Prime Minister

Dear Ms Gillard,
Throughout the media frenzy that has accompanied the launch of the My school website, your  message has been, “We need to identify underperforming schools and seek ways to improve their performance”.

In recent years, a particular primary school won the National Literacy and Numeracy Week Award for $10 000 in recognition of the quality of its literacy program.  Now, just a few years later, according to the My school website, it is scarcely meeting the national average for literacy benchmarks, and in several categories,  it is statistically below the average.

What might explain the change?  Could it be that then the school had a fully qualified teacher librarian, a full-time ESL teacher and a Reading Recovery teacher? Now, under a different leadership, it does not.

Research study after research study, here and overseas,  has shown that one of the most important indicators of academic performance is the quality of a school’s library, particularly if it has a qualified teacher librarian and an integrated information literacy program. Please refer to http://www.asla.org.au/research/ for links to this research.

If your government is truly committed to identifying underperforming schools and putting measures in place to improve that performance, when is it going to take notice of the research and mandate that every student has the right to access a qualified teacher librarian and quarantine that position within the school?

It is frequently stated that “staffing is a state issue” but clearly, given the decline in the number of teacher librarians in primary schools in particular, the state and territories are not committed to best practice for its students. Despite the billions invested in buildings and resources, too many state and territory governments believe that unqualified part-time administrative staff have the skills to provide students with what is required to be information literate and to work collaboratively in teaching.

If the current interest in improving outcomes for students is more than a vote-catcher, given that its target audience is the largest voting demographic, when is the federal government going to show real leadership and follow up its national review of the role and responsibilities of the teacher librarian, and mandate that there be at least one qualified teacher librarian in every school and give today’s students access to the quality education they deserve?

Looking forward to your response,

The Hub





Do we want something from the budget?? You bet!

28 04 2009

post from G Phillips

 

Federal budget time looms around the corner on the 12th of May.

Do we have anything to say about it?

You bet we do. Ask your federal member and senator now (then also ask your state member!):

 

The federal government will still be spending money on building new school libraries.  How about staffing them?

We need to let politicians and the public know how inequitable school library services are in Australia, whether we have nice new “infrastructure” buildings or not. NT remote schools have no TLs.  WA primary schools have no TLs appointed.  Vic and ACT  count TLs as part of teaching staff, may or may not have a teacher deployed in the library and do not require that teacher to be a teacher librarian. Probably one in 10 public primary schools in Vic have TLs. In South Australia in 2002  apart from those very small schools with no teacher librarian entitlement, a third of school libraries around the state were understaffed and/or staffed with unqualified personnel. 

Even in Tas and Qld principals are being forced by inadequate staffing budgets to downgrade staff in school libraries, often to clerical positions. It’s not good enough.

Meanwhile, since the early 70s  NSW primary schools have been staffed with trained teacher librarians.  While too often used for teacher relief planning time, they nevertheless are professionally trained in collection management, literacy support, leadership, collaborative teaching and other unique TL professional standards.  If we are talking about equity, I know we agree that ALL Aus students deserve professional school library services run by professionally trained TLs.

 

What can the federal government do?

National standards can be written for school library facilities and staffing, especially primary libraries.

Dollars can be allocated to increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.

Federal state school funding can be tied to appropriate school library staffing levels.

 

The federal government will still be spending money on computers.  How can we make sure students can use them?

MCEETYA (Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce, 2005) defines ICT literacy as being able to“access, manage  and evaluate information, develop new understandings, and  communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society” (Statements of Learning for ICT, 2006).

The Council of Australian University Librarians defines information literacy almost identically: “an understanding and set of abilities enabling individuals to recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (CAUL, 2005).  Bringing these literacies (an example matrix) together should be a future aim for MCEETYA. A learning statement on information and ICT literacy should be supported by a national statement on the role of teacher librarians, teachers and principals in creating information literate school communities.

 

The federal government will still be spending money on a National Schools Assessment and Data Centre.  Will they be collecting appropriate data on school libraries?

Julia Gillard has stated (see letter attached) that it is likely that COAG will be considering the need for better data on teacher librarians. 

We must make sure that separate data is collected on teacher librarian qualifications, library staffing and scheduling and on library funding across all states and territories and all sectors. (See US example.) This must be part of the government’s “transparency and accountability” policy. 

 

The federal government will still be spending money on improving literacy. The role of teacher librarians and school libraries must be recognized in these efforts.

 

The federal government could fund programs similar to the US Improving Literacy Through School Libraries grants program. 

The government should fund research into the effect of well-staffed, well-funded school libraries on improving literacy. 1997 was one of the last in Australia! This study indicated that  Extensive use of the school library can increase literacy achievement by as many as 27 points. J. Masters and M. Forster. Mapping Literacy Achievement: Results of the 1996 national School English Literacy Survey. ACER, Melbourne, 1997.

International research speaks strongly.  Teacher librarians give students the opportunity to read by providing materials of interest and books appropriate to each student’s reading level. In addition, school library  programs provide ready access to books. According to Stephen Krashen it is unnecessary to urge young people to read more and understand the importance of reading because, given the chance, they do in fact read quite a bit, and they certainly do understand the importance of reading…. More access to reading results in more reading. 

All literacy programs should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in “student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success” (Ontario  Coalition for School Libraries) .


So let our federal members and senators know we expect to see school libraries targeted in the budget! Attach copies of your letters in comment space below. School libraries make a difference!

 

 





Look to Finland, not New York

26 11 2008

Why has Julia Gillard picked Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York Public Schools, as an educational messiah?  Seems to me it would make more sense to look at what makes the top education systems in the world work so well, not New York, but Finland.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an internationally standardised assessment that was jointly developed by participating countries and administered to 15-year-olds in schools. At the 15 September National Curriculum Board NSW Forum in Sydney, which I attended, Dr. Barry McGaw, Chair, National Curriculum Board, introduced statistics on the decline of Australia in the OECD PISA Reading tables from 2002 (4th) to 2006 (7th), mainly in the higher percentile bands. (Yet we do much more for remedial reading than we do for the gifted, in terms of staffing and funding.) In literacy, Australia slipped from equal second to equal sixth from 2000 to 2006 in the ratings. The US hardly rates a mention in science and literacy. Australia is actually higher in science than the US. Finland is tops in both…….

As top performer in science in PISA 2006  Finland was followed by Hong Kong-China, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Japan and New Zealand. U.S. students placed 29 out of 57 countries in science literacy and 35 out of 57 in math literacy.

Trevor Cobbold of Save Our Schools, Canberra, has stated in his recent blog, “Julia Gillard would have done better to invite Dr. Sakari Karjalainen, Director-General of Finland’s Ministry of Education, to advise on effective policies to improve equity in education rather than someone whose policies have been shown to be ineffective.” Read further at the SOS blog about the lack of achievement in New York schools and what Cobbold calls Klein’s skulduggery in hiding the truth.  Chris Bonner has also looked at the lack of evidence for Klein’s so-called achievements.  The Australian Education Union also has analyzed the evidence which reveals a remarkable lack of achievement in Klein’s New York model.

Open your eyes to the facts, Julia.  Highly qualified and rewarded teachers, by Finland’s example, are what gets results, not “skulduggery” and league tables.

PS.  In the interest of openness and transparency, I should also declare my Finnish ancestry:-).





Are we there yet?

3 11 2008

post by Barbara B

 

Minister Gillard appears to like what she sees in the New York City education system under its current administrator, businessman Joel Klein. After a recent interview with Klein on the ABC’s 7.30 report, a couple of Hub members did some research to find out what the implications for teacher librarians and school libraries were if Klein’s ideas are adopted here.

Some responses were disturbing, none were encouraging.

The consistent message was that as more and more responsibility for school administration was given to principals, the more the support for the school library depended on the value the particular principal placed on it. Sound familiar?

In New York City there are few qualified teacher librarians in primary schools – school libraries are generally staffed by teachers or administration staff. Sound familiar?

As principals got more control over the money allocated to their schools, less and less was earmarked to support library programs and purchase resources. Sound familiar?

Every piece of work had to be graded so everything could be put into the melting pot of ‘test scores’ to ‘prove’ that the students were, indeed achieving and improving, and doing better than the neighbouring school. Sound familiar?

The trend in Australia, as Georgia describes in her message, is for education departments to move towards school-based management – in fact Victoria and the ACT are already there and others are not far behind.

So do we already have the NYC experience happening here? Is what they condemn as a huge step backwards already the norm we accept?

Again, the question has to be put … is there a future for teacher librarians?

Who will tell the principals, the parents and the politicians about the power of the school library if we don’t?

Let Australia be the model for New York, not vice versa!


PS

Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald gives further insights into what makes good schools, and it isn’t league tables!  New York schools don’t even rate.





Behind the blog

6 04 2008

I thought it a good time to add a friendly reminder that there is a website behind this blog, which explains why this group was formed last year.  Have a look around our pages. 

Teacher librarianship seems to be a bit of a mystery to the general public, and even some teachers and principals.  We hear stories from so many TLs that they are understaffed and struggling with insufficient budgets, while at the same time read about massive philanthropic programs overseas aimed at building libraries to improve people’s lives (to be featured in next blog entry).  Even ignoring all the evidence (yes, it’s all here under “the research”) that supports our claim that well staffed and funded libraries improve education, isn’t it just common sense?  If you love to read, then don’t you learn forever? 

Teacher librarianship isn’t a simple job to explain.  It’s about encouraging a love of reading by matching the right books to readers, but it’s also about providing access to a wealth of information, and teaching our students HOW to define what it is they want to find out, and the best way to discover the answers.  We don’t feed students, we teach them to fish.

I find this story about our Federal education minister Julia Gillard heartening. 

Gillard says mortgage stress is real

Ms Gillard said on Sunday there were many statistical measures of mortgage stress.

“But the measure I use is I talk to people,” she said.

It’s time we talked to Julia too. We have the research, but let’s get the stories to her too. All schools may have libraries, but too many have locked doors.  

Do you want your story to be personally delivered in the next Hub Hamper?  Then click here and send it to us.  Anonymity guaranteed if requested.   We want the good news and the bad.   What great things have you achieved in your role that you couldn’t do as a classroom teacher?  What has happened to your staffing levels and budget in the past few years?  Tell us in 100 words or 1000.  Let’s get “school libraries” into the federal vocabulary. That’s the aim behind the blog.

All entries will be bound into a lovely book, which we will match with the right reader.