Previous by DateNext by Date Date Index
Previous by ThreadNext by Thread Thread Index
LM_NET Archive

Thank you, Sharon. I think you have beautifully articulated concerns with 
the new AASL Standards for the  21st-Century Learner. I find myself not 
wanting to share the these new standards with administrators and teachers 
because they do not compellingly and clearly support the role of the library 
media specialist as it has evolved in my district. I didn't really know why 
I was uncomfortable, since I do hold dear the principled but vague picture 
of idealized learning described and illustrated in the new report. Now I 
realize that there is a disturbing disconnect between the role I have in my 
building to support student achievement, which is valued, and the role 
described in the report, which is both more and less than what I am now 
doing. This thoughtful analysis is providing me with a lot of good food for 

Susan Polos
Mt. Kisco Elementary School
47 W. Hyatt Avenue
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Grimes, Sharon L." <sgrimes@BCPS.ORG>
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 3:00 PM
Subject: Reflection on AASL's new standards

It's been a little over two months since I returned from Reno and the 
unveiling of AASL's Standards for the  21st-Century Learner.  In that time 
I've mulled over the implications of the new standards; compared them to the 
mandates of NCLB; tried to align them with NETS-S and the national 
curriculum standards for science, reading, math and social studies; and 
struggled to translate them into the behavioral objectives required by our 
school system...but still I do not feel that sense of empowerment and 
excitement I felt when I first read Information Power: Building Partnerships 
for Learning.  Instead, I have come to wonder: "Are the new standards a step 
forward to a more holistic and comprehensive view of learners, or a misstep 
that will serve to marginalize our profession?"

I did not begin with these misgivings; instead, I initially felt the faint 
stirrings of excitement when I first read the "Common Beliefs."   For me, 
the nine belief statements that preface the standards encapsulate the ideals 
that both guide and inspire our profession: reading is a window to the 
world; inquiry does provide a framework for learning; and school libraries 
are essential to the development of learning skills.  But doubt crept in 
when I noticed what is missing from the belief statements and what is not 
translated into action in the standards. My misgivings solidified as I 
considered how to teach the skills, dispositions, responsibilities and 
self-assessment strategies.  And I was moved to write, when I realized the 
implications not only for teaching, learning and collaboration, but also for 
how school libraries and by extension school librarians will be perceived.

As AASL President Sara Kelly Johns notes in another context, "In a time of 
budget cuts and confusion about the role of library media specialists," now 
is most emphatically not the time to fail to embed in national standards for 
students' learning the critical importance of equitable access and school 
libraries; nor is it the time to fail to reaffirm the vital role of library 
media specialists.  Unfortunately, only the belief statements state the 
critical role of school libraries and library media specialists to student 
achievement and belief statements are not standards.  Standards drive 
instruction and assessment, not belief statements.

Another problem is that not all of the belief statements have been 
translated into teachable and assessable standards and indicators.  Common 
Belief # 2 states: "Inquiry provides a framework for learning.  To become 
independent learners, students must gain not only the skills but also the 
disposition to use those skills, along with an understanding of their own 
responsibilities and self-assessment strategies."  "The disposition to use 
those skills" is difficult and I would argue in some cases impossible to 
either teach or assess.  For example, Standard 1.2.6 states, "Display 
emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite 
challenges."  How do you teach/assess emotional resilience, especially at 
the middle and high school levels when library media specialists see 
students sporadically and to complete a specific task?

Unfortunately, the problems with the Dispositions in Action do not end with 
the twinned problems of assess-ability and teach-ability.  Other problems 
with Dispositions in Action include that it:

        Prescribes the teaching of character traits

        Usurps the role of parents

        Not only usurps the role of parents, but also may directly 
contradict the cultural values and mores of many of our minority students; 
for example, Indicator 1.2.4 states, "Maintain a critical stance by 
questioning the validity and accuracy of all information," which is most 
distinctly a white American value

        Can not easily or effectively be taught, measured and assessed 
although certainly any teacher worth his/her salt already discusses and 
illustrates the value of persistence, curiosity and teamwork to name but a 
few of the dispositions; the difference is that the second occurs naturally, 
in situ

        Teaches dispositions that are not specific to success in 
information literacy

While possession of the dispositions is certainly desirable, our role is not 
to mold character, but rather to educate minds to employ the higher-order 
critical and creative thinking skills that are not only critical to our 
students' successes, but also to maintaining the stability of our democratic 

In addition to teaching students how to use higher-order critical and 
creative thinking skills, we must also prepare our students to use the 
information literacy skills that are so critical to their success in the 
21st-Century; to do that we need a clear definition that provides guidelines 
for instruction.  Instead, Common Belief  #6 states:  "The definition of 
information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies 
have changed."  Neither the belief statement nor the standards answer the 
question, "What is the more complex definition?"  Based on the promise 
implicit in the title, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, I expected a 
definition that encompassed the 21st-Century Literacies most would agree are 
"crucial skills for this century," but found that the only literacies 
mentioned are visual, textual, digital, and technological - all of which are 
of course essential - but so too are mathematical, scientific, cultural, and 
economic literacies  (to include but a few of the critical knowledge bases 
our students will need to succeed).

Even if you argued - and I of course would not - that mathematical, 
scientific, cultural and economic literacies are not the domain of the 
library media specialist, where is media literacy, not only an area 
traditionally taught by library media specialists, but an ever more 
increasingly important medium for delivering information?  Or is media 
literacy subsumed into digital literacy?  If that is the case, then, we have 
several problems.  The most widely cited definition of digital literacy is 
that provided by Microsoft, yet their definition encompasses only 
entry-level technology skills.  I assume we mean much more than the ability 
to use word processing software.   Should we then create a glossary that 
defines what librarians mean by digital literacy, or should we seek to use a 
common vocabulary with our colleagues in other disciplines?

Let us - just for the sake of argument - dismiss the concerns raised in the 
previous paragraphs as questions related to minor differences in semantics. 
Let us further assume then that the belief statement does include the full 
range of literacies our students will need to succeed.  Even if we make 
these two leaps of faith, we are still left with the same inconvertible 
truths: standards, not belief statements, drive instruction and, 
unfortunately, not all of the belief statements have been converted into 
standards. Two of the most important - at least to ensure the future of 
school libraries - do not appear at all: "Equitable access is a key 
component for education" and "School libraries are essential to the 
development of learning skills" which is more than unfortunate because as 
Christopher Harris notes in School Library Journal, "School libraries are 
becoming marginalized by state and federal regulations. The No Child Left 
Behind Act, for example, does not recognize librarians as teachers. 
Moreover, the '65 percent solution,' an education budget formula being 
enacted by many states, also jeopardizes library funding. Add to this the 
'Google effect,' which has schools questioning the relevancy of libraries in 
an online world, and we are in real trouble" (June 2006).

            Another factor that might serve to marginalize the importance of 
our profession in the eyes of others is the move, clearly evident in 
Standards 1 and 2, from problem-based to inquiry-based learning.  The 
implications and potential outcomes of this shift are many and varied:

* One important distinction between problem-based and inquiry-based learning 
is that inquiry-based learning explores questions in much more depth for a 
greater period of time, possibly an entire semester.  Given the time 
constraints imposed by the test-driven environment created by NCLB, are we 
ignoring reality?
* Inquiry-based learning may or may not result in a product that can be 
evaluated which has clear implications for assessment.  In an era of 
data-driven decision-making, the lack of clearly quantifiable data 
marginalizes what we do in the eyes of administrators and other decision 
* Many of the information seeking process models in wide-spread use, like 
Big6, are problem, not inquiry-based.  As a result, new models will need to 
be created and/or existing models modified to include inquiry-based 
learning.  The question then is who will do this and when will the model(s) 
be available?
* The distinction between inquiry and problem-based learning is not 
clarified in the standards, nor is the level of inquiry-based learning 
(clarification/verification; structured inquiry; guided inquiry; or open 
inquiry) the standards hope to inspire.
* NETS -S is clearly problem-based so the alignment that existed with ISTE's 
standards is now tenuous at best.  NETS-S is also clearly aligned with the 
requirements of NCLB and national curriculum standards.  The alignment 
between AASL's new standards and NCLB, national curriculum standards, and 
NETS-S is only evident at the skill indicator level, not at the standard 

Why not a more realistic statement that it is not an either/or; both 
inquiry-based and problem-based can form the basis of valid 
information-seeking process models?

Another area of concern is that some of the Responsibilities like 2.3.1, 
"Connect understanding to the real world," are skills that need to be 
taught.  The ability to transfer knowledge is not only a higher-level skill, 
but also one that must be carefully considered and incorporated into the 
design of the lesson(s).  The same can be said of many of the 
Self-assessment Strategies, like "Interpret new information based on 
cultural and social context." (4.4.4)  Perhaps, how and when students will 
be taught the prerequisite skills prior to their assumption of these 
Responsibilities and Self-assessment Strategies will be made clear in the 
Scope and Sequence.

Finally, it wasn't until I read the indicators for Standard 4, "Pursue 
personal and aesthetic growth," that I realized that concealed within this 
standard were some of the skills necessary to the development of reading 
comprehension and fluency.  Like Standards 1 & 2 which could have been used 
to build partnerships with technology and content area teachers, this 
standard could have been used to build collaboration with reading teachers 
and specialists.   As I have argued in Reading Is Our Business (2006), for 
too long library media specialists have abdicated our rightful position as 
critical partners in the development of reading comprehension. As a result, 
funds are being diverted from school libraries to purchase classroom 
libraries, library media specialists are being replaced by instructional 
assistants and when certified librarians are employed, they are not viewed 
as instructional leaders or as full partners in the learning process.

While the consequences for our profession are dire, the repercussions for 
our students are even grimmer.    The correlation between poverty and low 
reading achievement is well documented.  Of people with the lowest literacy 
skills, 43% live in poverty, and 70% of prison inmates read at the lowest 
proficiency levels (U.S. Department of Education 2000).  Equally well 
researched is the link between passive readers and poor comprehension 
skills.  Passive readers are not engaged in meaningful ways with the text. 
Disengaged readers will never choose to "Pursue personal and aesthetic 
growth." Nor will they ever discover that "Reading is a window to the world" 
because these less-than-engaged readers do not know how to utilize 
comprehension strategies to increase either understanding or engagement. 
Collaborative partnerships must be forged with reading teachers and 
specialists if we hope to transform passive readers into actively engaged 
members of a community of strategic readers and thinkers, yet only two 
indicators, 4.1.1 and 4.1.2, allude to reading.

In conclusion, much must be done before the promise from the AASL website, 
"'Standards for the 21st-Century Learner' offer vision for teaching and 
learning to both guide and beckon our profession as education leaders. They 
will both shape the library program and serve as a tool for library media 
specialists to use to shape the learning of students in the school," is 

Sharon Grimes
Library Information Services
9611 Pulaski Pk. Dr., Suite 305
Baltimore, MD  21220

Please note: All LM_NET postings are protected by copyright law.
  You can prevent most e-mail filters from deleting LM_NET postings
  by adding LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU to your e-mail address book.
To change your LM_NET status, e-mail to:
In the message write EITHER: 1) SIGNOFF LM_NET  2) SET LM_NET NOMAIL
 3) SET LM_NET MAIL  4) SET LM_NET DIGEST  * Allow for confirmation.
 * LM_NET Help & Information:
 * LM_NET Archive:
 * EL-Announce with LM_NET Select:
 * LM_NET Supporters:
 * LM_NET Wiki:

Please note: All LM_NET postings are protected by copyright law.
  You can prevent most e-mail filters from deleting LM_NET postings
  by adding LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU to your e-mail address book.
To change your LM_NET status, e-mail to:
In the message write EITHER: 1) SIGNOFF LM_NET  2) SET LM_NET NOMAIL
 3) SET LM_NET MAIL  4) SET LM_NET DIGEST  * Allow for confirmation.
 * LM_NET Help & Information:
 * LM_NET Archive:
 * EL-Announce with LM_NET Select:
 * LM_NET Supporters:
 * LM_NET Wiki:

LM_NET Mailing List Home