Standards: Recipes for Serving Student Achievement
by Jane Prestebak • Library/Media Specialist • Spring Lake Park, MN
MultiMedia Schools  • October 2001 
Start with Library Media Standards.
Standards are agreed-upon recipes for success in which student achievement is the bottom line. This theme from the new standards created by AASL and AECT echoes a national trend that focuses on results rather than inputs. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (IP '98) begins by outlining what students should achieve. Part one, which has been published separately, outlines student information-literacy standards. These standards, indicators, and levels of proficiency are defined in three general areas: information literacy, independent learning, and social responsibility. Examples, including how these standards are linked to content area standards defined by McREL (see below), are useful in demonstrating how your program interconnects with other disciplines.

Unlike previous standards, IP '98 doesn't provide quantitative lists of resources or budget guidelines. The library media program is described in 27 principles in three broad areas: learning and teaching, information access and delivery, and program administration. IP '98 says, "Sufficient funding is fundamental to the success of the library media program." It doesn't define how many books per student or how many dollars should be spent.

But if your experience is like many others', you know that numbers can be powerful. When Minnesota created new state standards in response to IP '98, we recommended a print collection size of 15 to 20 items per student to meet the standard. Research terminals should be provided for 25-50 percent of the largest class and provide access to a computerized catalog and research databases.

IP '88 can still be useful for numbers. Don't throw this version away as you implement the 1998 standards. These standards contain descriptions of high service programs with budget dollar recommendations. If you average out the book recommendations, you get a neat slogan: $25 per student. It's simple, but it works. Miller and Shontz's School Library Journal articles that contain the results of school library surveys are another useful tool. The federal government has also surveyed school libraries nationwide. The latest survey was conducted in 1994 and published in 1998.
Using Standards to Win Friends and Influence People
Standards abound. Everything we use is controlled by standards, from the holes in 3 x 5 cards to educational programs. A graduate school professor told us that card catalogs in the Soviet Union didn't work because hole-punching in 3 x 5 cards had not been standardized. In Minnesota, we created new library media standards so that any student in our state could expect his/her school to have a high-quality library media program. Standards make things work and ensure quality.

For the working school library media specialist, standards help you set goals and win support from school leaders. Standards can help you evaluate your program and connect with other disciplines. Standards can help you reflect on what you do every day and, in desperate times, save your program and your job. Preservice library media specialists, memorize key concepts from the standards that define the profession, Information Power. Learn how to connect Information Power concepts to content standards. Recalling key points and tying these points to interview questions will let you sail through job interviews.

Keep up with the latest professional standards. Study how you can connect your program with content and technology standards respected by influential people in your school. If you haven't talked to your principal, curriculum coordinator, or superintendent about standards, do it now. Find out what standards they rely on.

Use standards to help you define your goals and make your case to leaders and the public. The introduction to the first set of library standards, written in 1920 by a superintendent, says that standards help us define what we want. This superintendent believed that standards lend the authority you need to make a strong case to school leadership. He reminds us that the person who approaches the board of education or the community, "knowing exactly what he wants, with recommendations and reasons for it, is likely to get what he wants." Create a plan that aligns with authoritative standards and demonstrate how your program affects student achievement, and you will get the support you need to implement it. This is as true today as it was when school libraries were first defined by a standards document.

The three chief elements of libraries, "information, education, and recreation," have changed very little since 1918. The school library (media center, instructional materials center, information center) has evolved, but these core services are still fundamental. Surprisingly, what we think of as modern concepts—multiple media formats, teacher and librarian collaboration, real-world connections—were all a part of the earliest standards. Standards from 1918 to 1969 focused on books and print, but from the very beginning included lantern slides, Victrola records—any materials that would support and extend learning. (The first mention of anything "computerized" was 1969.)

In 1925, standards writers sought to make a connection between the library and the outside world. They said, "The modern school is being developed more and more in terms of activities bearing important relations to life outside of the school." By 1945, our leaders saw change as a constant. "It is important that libraries never be considered static, and that frequent surveys be made to discover new needs and a new aspect of modernization."

Partnerships have always been a part of the standards. In 1925, they talked about the library developing the esprit de corps of the school. In 1945, the authors say that teachers and librarians must plan together or, "the library cannot function effectively in the educational program." (A new library media specialist doing a practicum with me this spring believed that this was a recent development.) They also emphasized that through library resources some students will "find self-realization, gain insight into human relationships, have practical illustration of economic efficiency, and take action as responsible citizens." Read these old standards. Read them to find inspiration on a day when the printers jam, the proxy server dies, and you find pages torn from your favorite book on the birds of the world. You are part of a noble tradition of service to the greater good.

Start by studying the most recent standards: Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, the new library media standards, as well as standards for technology, content disciplines, accreditation, and professional licensing. Find out what standards your leaders depend on and demonstrate connections to your program. Memorize catchy phrases and repeat and repeat. You would be surprised at the power of even one voice backed up by the authoritative voice of standards. (And don't forget this standard: You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.)


One quantitative measure that IP '98 does provide is the requirement for at least "one full-time, certified/licensed library media specialist." You are the key to a successful program. It's your energy and creativity that will allow you to realize the vision of an effective, student-centered library media program. The original 1918 standards said, "Enthusiasm and the power to teach and inspire are essential" characteristics of the librarian. The introduction to IP '98 says the library media specialist must assess the dynamics of your situation—local politics, budgets, personnel—and create a program that fits your situation. IP '98 says this requires "creative efforts." Herculean efforts may be more apt. No one person can perform all the possible tasks involved with making sure that every student uses information effectively. That's why these new standards describe collaboration, leadership, and technology as factors underlying all that we do. Make every step you take every day a step toward meeting your goals.

AASL has developed a booklet to help you assess your program. "A Planning Guide for Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning with School Library Media Program Assessment Rubric for the 21st Century" provides a list of target indicators with a description of basic, proficient, and exemplary levels defined. Use it to compare your program with the program elements described in IP '98. To examine your program in terms of achieving student literacy outcomes, see the NSSE guide below.

Add a Heap of Content Standards
Go and ask your leaders, principals, curriculum leaders, department heads, and superintendents what standards they look to for inspiration and evaluation. Then go and do your homework. Study these standards and when you make requests for support, have key phrases from those works imbedded into your presentations. Here are two sources that are foundation works for leaders in my school.

Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education []. This Content Knowledge book and Web document provide a backbone curriculum for all subject areas. McCREL (Mid-continent Regional Educational laboratory) and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) integrated content standards from major subject area associations in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. (Information Power is listed as a reference, not a source, for these standards.) The standards do not include a separate section on information skills. Information gathering is embedded into the language arts and technology areas. Go to the Web site and search for "information." (Technology gets its own section and its own curriculum. Someday this will seem as irrelevant as a section on pencils or blackboards would today.)

Share this book or Web site with all your curriculum committees. If you're not on the curriculum committees, find some way to get a seat at that table. We will not become indispensable until we are essential to someone with a class list, until standards for information literacy are embedded in the curriculum. Keep asking and never, ever give up. Approach the task with a smile on your face and good will in your heart. (And according to a clever little book that came out a few years ago, The Princessa:Machiavelli for Women, wear white.)

Indicators of School Quality: NSSE, NCA accreditation standards. For us Midwesterners, NCA (North Central Association) has long been associated with standards for schools. Each region has its own accreditation agency (see the sidebar "Using Standards to Win Friends and Influence People" on page 34). These agencies belong to a national association, NSSE (National Study of School Evaluation). The association has recently produced a series of works, beginning with Indicators of Schools of Quality. This introductory volume describes goals for students learning that focus on the quality of student work, not checklists of resources. The basic outline of IP '98's student literacy standards are embedded into this document in six general areas.

This purpose of this document is for schools to self-assess and develop school improvement plans. In order to maintain membership, school must maintain resources like staff and resources for library media and technology, but that is not the focus. The checklists of resources are short and require a much lower level of program support than one might like. But this is not a problem; it is a challenge. If your school has a school improvement committee to meet this kind of standard, volunteer. Cheerfully. You will learn a lot.

Our school is seeking accreditation through this new process. One of our high school's NCA school improvement goals is increasing students' ability to read and analyze information. My hand went up fast. What could be more important to a successful library media program? We have decided to implement a sustained silent reading (SSR) program. Input for this program means thousands of dollars will be spent buying books for distributed classroom collections. Research clearly demonstrates that having materials available for students to read is the number-one factor for a successful SSR program. Research also shows that classroom collections actually increase the likelihood that students will have library books at home.

Technology will also play a role in the evaluation of this process. A representative sample of students will be tested using the STAR Reading assessment, a computer-based assessment that provides feedback not only on student performance, but recommends teaching strategies. STAR also connects with the Accelerated Reading Program. We will use the STAR and other assessments to see if our investment of time and resources really improves learning. Always volunteer to serve on such committees. Your program goals and library media standards can be met through many different budget line items.

In addition, NSSE has produced a program evaluation series. These books define an improvement process for each area of the curriculum. Both Program Evaluation: Library Media Services and Technology: Indicators of Quality Information Systems in K-12 Schools are of interest. Both define goals for learning how to learn. The difference is that one focuses more on the tools, one on the ideas, but the overlap is significant, and one cannot help but wonder why there are two. Until you refer back to the near ancient (turn of the last century) split between the audio-visual guys (tools) and the library ladies (stories) that many people thought disappeared with the first standards jointly endorsed by AECT's predecessor, the Department of Audiovisual Instruction of the NEA and AASL in 1969. That's when we all became beautiful media people. Media was the word in the 1975 standards too. We put "library" back in our standards with IP '88. We didn't move back to the books, but away from a focus on format. The emphasis is placed on information and partnerships with less focus on the tools. (IP '98 has been criticized for not placing enough emphasis on the technology that needs to be in place to support collaboration and information. We may think such tools are implied. Others may not.)

Soon after audio-visualists and librarians joined together, computers were networked and became essential for communication. Libraries got computers, and a whole new generation of format-support people, the techies, came into being. For while, we moved on parallel tracks. Book people learned about IP addressing and the techies got an encyclopedia free with their latest toys. But as things got more complex, we focused on information, and IT guys focused on the technologies. Now, the new standards documents emerging in both camps claim information skills and curriculum integration as central.

Each side holds half a clam shell, both claim the meat, ensuring that students become effective users of information. Compare the information-literacy standards outlined in IP '98 and the ISTE standards below. Will dual standards for student information literacy create competition rather than cooperation? Can your school afford both the guys who assign the network passwords that make the machines talk and the people with the stories who can tell them why? Watch for the next round of standards.

Program Evaluation: Library Media Services uses the information literacy standards from Information Power, creating a rubric to identify your school's progress toward meeting student information literacy goals. Part 2 focuses on the instructional and organizational systems in the schools that support student learning. This section includes a one-page checklist that exactly follows the principles outlined in Information Power. Part 3 provides guidelines to develop a school improvement plan. The document includes a rubric, much like the guidelines document created by AASL, but the rubric included here outlines five levels of progress toward the students achieving information literacy, as defined by part one of IP '98. It's a different take. You have only so much time and energy. Do you focus on program elements or information literacy as you evaluate your progress to meet standards?

Technology: Indicators of Quality Information Systems in K-12 Schools follows the same pattern with a vision for student learning in technology that includes tool-basics through technology in life and society. The library media rubric starts out identifying the need for information; the technology performance indicators start out with the parts of the computer. Technology standards talk about spreadsheets and using the Internet for a variety of purposes. In technology standards you get to evaluate and select information resources—as long as they are online or on CD-ROM. In library media programs, students "derive meaning from information presented in a variety of formats." Everyone ends ups using information responsibly to save the world. And why do I have to spend money for two of these guides to get through my day?

Blend in Technology Standards
ISTE NETS. International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), along with an impressive list of partners including AASL, teachers unions, administrators, and school board groups, software publishers, Apple, Microsoft, etc., produced technology standards for students and teachers in 2000. The development of the standards for teachers was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's PT3 ("Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology") program.

National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology includes foundation standards with performance indicators for all students from pre-K to 12th grade. The guide also includes examples in many subject areas with suggested projects that list hardware, software, books, and Web sites.

The National Educational Standards for Teachers reviews the student standards and includes performance indicators in six areas, including technology operation, designing learning environments, curriculum, assessment, productivity/professional, and social/ethical issues. The focus is not only on using technology tools, but on changing teaching and learning environments from teacher- to student-centered, from isolated to collaborative work, from artificial to real-world. In these standards documents, integrating technology is seldom about learning how to word process or creating formulas in spreadsheets. But if you look around your school, things probably look pretty much the same. Technology is everywhere. Now we lecture with PowerPoint and take attendance by clicking pictures. Will the new standards change this pattern? Stay tuned.

Here's one thing that I am going to try as part of an effort to evaluate whether our teachers are reaching the ISTE standards. NRTEC has developed a technology evaluation process [] that asks teachers to look at how they use technology. Many of the questions are not so much about technology as how the classroom is managed and organized. Perhaps the creative wheels will start to turn when teachers are asked how often their students use technology to consult with experts or to produce electronically materials that are shared with a local or global audience.

Alas, there is no special login for library media specialist or integration specialist, a very dangerous term. As if library media specialists have not always done integration of technologies into teaching! Remember the Victrola records? The survey does ask the technology coordinator if teachers in the school have strategies for students developing information and visual literacy. As part of a beta test for revising the questions for teacher, I asked about a survey for library media specialists. The response was that in many parts of the country there are no library media specialists. Well, with surveys like this, whose purpose might be to get people to think about what might be rather than what is, there will soon be fewer library media specialists anywhere.

I'm still looking for ways of assessing whether students are mastering the ISTE standards. If you have a process, write me today.

Add Professional Licensing Standards, and Let Rise
Both in-service and pre-service library media specialists should be concerned with licensing standards. The people who enter the profession are the key to our future. It's essential that their training, in the tools of the trade and in attitudes, further the goals of our profession. Here's a jam we're in here in Minnesota. Our licensure has just been demoted to an undergraduate degree. Hard-working volunteers put together an excellent description of the skills necessary to work on as a library media specialist. []. They didn't realize that the education board saw the content in the same category as a social studies teacher with a major in history. Up until now, library media specialists have been through a master's degree program, a second teaching license. Most working library media specialists feel that a broad subject background is essential to successful candidates. It's hard to fight the politics of this decision. Keep an eye on this in your state. Maybe it will be easier to attract new library media specialists if the position does not require the advanced degree. We are facing a shortage in the field.

Library media specialist preparation is carried out by two different accreditation authorities: the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). I sought out an ALA-accredited school for my training because I wanted the option of transferring to other areas of library work. People with ALA degrees more often see themselves as part of a larger profession that includes public, academic, and special libraries. (We fool ourselves if we think that those librarians see us as equals.) NCATE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the professional accrediting body for teacher preparation. Standards are developed in collaboration with 33 professional organizations, including AASL and AECT. NCATE programs see themselves as more closely tied with teachers—and technology.

New NCATE standards for the media specialist are being developed and approved by AASL for use by the Specialty Area Board (SASB) Accreditation Process. A review draft is available at Please compare these with the standards being developed by ISTE for Educational Technology facilitators. If the integration of resources could include a print collection as well as some "technology-enhanced environment" outside what is known as a classroom (i.e., the library), toss in a little reading motivation, and you have a media specialist, minus the bun and comfortable shoes, of course. Men instead of women with a basis in tools rather than stories. Leave me with only the books to catalog and storyhours and I'm on my way out to manage a coffee shop. Take my stories away from integrating the tools to think and make a living and what's to make the living worthwhile? Send two people into a school with the same job description and you will more likely have competition than collaboration. Two? What school can afford two? In 1969, media standards called for a 1 to 250 student ratio to accomplish the integration of information skills into the curriculum. Maybe we will do it today. Learning to work successfully with integrationists may be the key to meeting our goals. We can't do it all. How do we share the clam? Turn it into a lovely information-rich chowder for all.

NBPTS (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards) are a response to the government report released this year, "A Nation at Risk: The Standard for Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood/Library Media," that reignited educational reform in 1983. The standards define what the media specialist should know and do. They define a series of steps that a candidate may take to become nationally certified. These steps include developing a portfolio that demonstrates teaching practices, collaboration, selection of resources and technologies, impact on student learning, etc. Many states help defray the costs of earning this certification. Your school may also support your efforts. Check out the Web site for more information. There were 4,727 teachers certified in 2000 (9,300 since 1994). The cost is $2,300.

As I noted at the beginning of this article, standards are agreed-upon recipes for success. Ingredients. Directions. Pictures of not only the appetizers, but the main course—what the whole banquet might look like. But a cookbook does not ensure happy guests. Only you can do that. Read the standards that affect your program. Keep up with the latest trends. Communicate with the other chefs in the kitchen (those techies and integrationists who think we wouldn't know a hard drive from Chicken Soup for the Soul). Take the cookbooks, combine the recipes, and serve up a feast that not only ensures that all students are effective users of information, but that they have the tools to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Communications to the author may be addressed to Jane Prestebak, Library/Media Specialist, Spring Lake Park, Minnesota; phone: 763/783-5602; e-mail:

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