Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Public Librarians Need to Know about CCSS

Today I'm hosting a webcast, sponsored by LJ and SLJ, on what public librarians need to know about common core state standards. Since they've been around a while, they aren't as mysterious as they once were, but myths remain.

The Myths
1. CCSS are a mandate. Not true. The Standards are an initiative. Before they began, it was decided that kids weren't prepared for college or a "real job" after high school. Something needed to be done to push kids to learn more. Learn to write. Learn to think. What if each grade level built on the next? What if reading material got harder and harder? Enter the CCSS. Each state adopted and developed its own state standards. They aren't curriculum. They show the location of the finish line, but they don't tell teachers how to get their students to it. Educators have great flexibility in how they teach the standards, but it's another reason why it's scary.

2. Appendix B is a shopping list of books students must read. Also not true. In fact, if you tried to buy them, you'll find that many are out of print. Some of the science books are old enough to weed from your collection.  Appendix B is a list of example exemplars. They are the type of books that show increased rigor and text complexity needed to support CCSS.

As librarians, we then need to examine our own collections. Are they current? Do we have texts on the same topic but different reading levels? Do we know the reading level? While it's not necessary to mark them on the book, knowing how to find the level is a good support for your patrons. Perhaps you can add it to the MARC record. You can teach your patrons how to search the catalog by reading level. If you have access to teaching guides for texts, be sure your parents and teachers know about them.

3. Fiction is no longer needed. Seriously false. The Standards increase the use of nonfiction, but certainly don't discount the need for quality literature. It's like changing the way you eat to be more well-rounded. Perhaps you add more poultry and fish, but you don't have to completely give up steak.  By the time students are in grade 12, they should be reading 70% nonfiction. When you think about it, that's what the real world is like (unless you're like me and you read for a living).

Informational text is all around us--in our email, on the internet, and in our work. Reading for informational purposes is what adults do. Helping our students digest and think about what they read has always been our goal. Making a conscious decision to use nonfiction allows readers to learn more about their world. It's up to us to make sure they have access to the best.

So in today's webcast, we'll also address how to find the best texts, and look at ways our programming can support CCSS. It's not too late to join me. Sign up at See you at 2:00 Eastern.