Public comments submitted by Beth Grabbert to the Board of Regents meeting on 5/19/09 at the Met school in Providence.
Comments written collaboratively by Dwight Barrett and Beth Grabbert.

My name is Beth Grabbert and I am a Library Media Specialist at Cranston High School West.

At previous hearings my colleagues have spoken about the need for qualified Library Media Specialists to teach information literacy skills that, as you yourselves say, are at the heart of every successful school library media program. In order for that heart to keep beating, in order for our students to be able to learn these skills and to become independent lifelong learners, they must be good readers.
Every day, Library Media Specialists foster the development of good reading skills and the love of reading. We provide a nurturing environment that allows students to explore their reading interests. For many of our students, their school library is the only access they have to a library and to a qualified librarian.
LMSs provide guidance in selection of reading matter to all students, of every ability level. We know the books on our shelves because we carefully develop our collections to meet the needs of our students and teachers. We read widely in children’s and young adult literature to stay current. Other teachers do not have the time and cannot be expected to do this. Non-professional library staff cannot do this. Teachers rely on us to suggest suitable books to meet the needs of their students and connect with the curriculum in their classrooms.
Students depend on us to suggest their next book. Students come to me and say “I hate to read, but that book you gave me was great. I need another one just like it” or “you always know the good books…what should I read next?” We don’t help only the reluctant reader and the struggling reader. Students who perform at the highest levels- students like Jing, a sophomore at West – often have wide-ranging reading interests. I have often wished Jing could join our faculty reading group because her requests are so interesting, diverse and mature. She borrows at a high rate from our own library collection and through interlibrary loan. We enjoy helping her, and many like her, and sharing our love of books with our students.
Good reading skills are necessary for students across all content areas. Qualified LMSs help students achieve in all disciplines. It is imperative that staffing of our school libraries with certified LMSs be included in the revised BEP.
Thank you for your time.

Public Comments from Martha Badigian, LMS Peace Dale Elementary School, South Kingstown, RI at the Board of Regents Meeting at Sk High School:
May 14, 2009
Distinguished members of the Board of Regents,
Thank you for the work that you do ensuring the quality and relevance of education across the State of Rhode Island. One of your most important contributions is in defining the standards that we will meet throughout the State in every area, from Curriculum content to staffing requirements and qualifications. To produce a Statement of Standards of this scope is a tremendous task, and we applaud your willingness to reach out to educators, parents and students in the form of these meetings, so that we can work together in setting the highest and best standards possible for our students.
In this spirit, and as a Library Media Specialist, or Teacher-Librarian at the elementary level in South Kingstown, I’d like to address one very important aspect of my work with students, in order to make sure that this work can continue and thrive in the future, because this work is critical to the future of our students. I’m speaking now about information technology. I would like to make a request that you view the following, very powerful 5-minute video called “Did You Know 3.0” by clicking this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8
(If this link does not work, you can easily find the video by going to YouTube and
searching “Did You Know 3.0”).
The video does a great job of communicating the extent of the role of technology in our lives today, and in our future.
When reading the draft of the proposed new BEP, I was delighted to read the following language from BEP Section G
122.1:
The Board of Regents was intentional in its integration of 21st century student skills and outcomes, i.e., the economic, civic, language, cultural, and global competencies Rhode Island students will need to become lifelong learners and global citizens"
In addition to many other areas of the multi-faceted Library Media Specialist work, one of our most important tasks is to teach students how to access and evaluate information, particularly on the internet. I tell my students that they have a harder job of doing research than we ever had as young students, since our sources of information (encyclopedias, books, and journals) were fact-checked, edited and verified. We never had to worry whether the facts we were writing in our papers were true, because they came from reliable sources. Now, at a very young age, our students must now develop the savvy to choose reliable online sources of information. (See the Pacific Northwest Tree-Climbing Octopus website: http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/sightings.html, which is funny at first, but then alarming to see the way that young students completely accept the existence of this animal, because the website is designed to look “real”. What else can they be persuaded to believe?)
They must know how to run down a checklist to determine if the website they are viewing is a credible one. This is the kind of thing that we are teaching now in our school libraries. Students must be equipped with the critical thinking skills to sift through the incredible wealth of information available to them, and more importantly, develop a methodology for evaluating information.

We are using blogs, wikis, and other online tools in our school libraries. We are committed to preparing our students for the uncertain yet without a doubt highly technical workplace and world that awaits them.
In keeping with the stated goals of the Board of Regents, I would like to request that very specific language is included in the new BEP that will require the services of a Certified Library Media Specialist in every school library. While the new BEP draft does mention the importance of a Library Media Program, it does not mention the qualified staff that is needed to create and implement the program. In addition, I would like to request that staffing levels also be addressed so that in high schools with a population of over 1000, more than one Library Media Specialist will be available, and in elementary schools of 500 or more students, there would be one full-time Library Media Specialist on staff.
In our current, very serious climate of budget shortfall in R.I., many are looking for ways to cut corners to find a way through this difficult time. Perhaps I could be forgiven a stock market analogy? With so many institutions and individuals in financial crisis, I believe we should heed the advice of the stockbroker: do not sell now for short term gain, as doing so would mean much greater losses in the future. Another image comes to mind as well- that of eating seeds. Doing this satisfies a short term need, but destroys future potential. Making standards more lax around the qualifications of people running our school libraries will certainly translate into many school libraries operating with unqualified personnel. It may create a short term monetary savings, but it would be a long term price that we would all pay in the quality of education that our students receive.
It is more critical now than ever that our students be literate, savvy, discerning users of information- it is the new currency today. I entrust the Board of Regents to ensure that our standards are not compromised. I hope you will very clear in requiring Certified Library Media Specialists (Teacher Librarians) in our schools, and that they be recommended at specific staffing levels that will allow us to be effective in our missions.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak, and I commend you for your efforts in this challenging time.

Sincerely,
Martha Badigian
Library Media Specialist
Peace Dale Elementary School
109 Kersey Road
Wakefield, RI 02879
Mbadigian@skschools.net



Public Remarks submitted to Board of Regents by David Fontaine on 5/12/09



Good evening, My name is David Fontaine.

In the 21st century, "Knowledge has become the most important fact of economic life. It is the chief ingredient in what we buy and sell. In the ‘Information Age’, Intellectual Capital--will become the most powerful resource a person can control. As education has moved from the 'Agricultural Age' to the 'Industrial Age' and now into the 'Information Age' the job of the school librarian has become even more prevalent and essential.
School Librarians have always guided students through the process of acquiring information. Traditionally, they helped students cull through hard-copy reference material and instructed them on how to identify the reliable from the un-reliable

As the evolution of the Internet has expanded, the needs of our student body have changed. Our students’ natural first step in the research process is a Google search. They have little-to-no prior knowledge about how to distinguish 'quality information' from 'shoddy data' they find there.

The skills needed to make these distinctions are learned through "Information Literacy" instruction. National organizations have identified this problem and established "Information Literacy Standards" that are embedded in all of the instruction that they do.

In the course of one week, Middletown High School's Library and Information Center (which is essentially me) services nearly 500 students and up to 30 different teachers. Our student body is approximately 650, so I service nearly 80% of our students in just one week.(pause) No other subject area specialist works with this many students, nor this many teachers in the course of a week.

As high school students move through the grades and need to fulfill their Capstone requirements, the Library and Information Center has become indispensable and integral to this process. This Capstone Project is the largest, most sophisticated piece of research that these students will work on in their entire K-12 educational career. As more students begin to learn how to use resources in the "Information Age" ===having access to a teacher with a degree in "Information Science" is absolutely mandatory.
As we move through the 21st century, it should be apparent that the role of school librarians' has evolved. They are now more like 'Information Specialists'.

The current BEP proposal says: “A high quality library‐media program includes books, written materials, internet resource materials, multimedia materials, and information technology that support the curriculum.”
Nowhere does it require a trained and certified school librarian---a position that is absolutely essential to fulfill the needs of the faculty and student body. A school librarian is uniquely qualified to give this instruction and without it, students will be at a significant loss, compared with high schools in other states.
In this day and age--should we really be loosening our staffing mandates and thereby cutting our children's "Information Lifeline"? Any ommision of 'minimum staffing requirements' w/i the BEP will give districts the choice of eliminating these positions. Over the last few years superintendents have requested and received waivers to the BEP requirements based on financial constraints. School Librarian cuts have been made in Coventry, South Kingstown, Pawtucket, and Westerly. All of these waivers were approved by the Commissioner based on assurances that services to students would not be reduced, but it should be abundantly clear that no one is more qualified to fulfill the needs of the faculty and 'student body' than a certified school librarian.

Even in these tough economic times, allowing districts to make a choice to eliminate school librarians is more like allowing them to make a sacrifice that will negatively impact the student body and have a 'monumentally negative impact' on our students' futures.
As you internalize and digest all of this information please keep in mind that anything short of mandating minimum staffing of school librarians will decimate Information Literacy programs that have taken decades to fine-tune. This proposed BEP will be the 'death knell' of school librarians. Please consider eliminating the vagueness of this document. These skills cannot be replaced by regular classroom teachers and w/o staffing mandates school librarians will become extinct.

As we enter the 21st century we will be labeled as a state moving backwards---away from the "Information Age". A state that does not value, or respect experts in the information field.
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March 12, 2009

Public Remarks
Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Commissioner McWalters and Distinguished Members of the Board,

My name is Zachary Berger. I am a district librarian for Westerly Public Schools and the president of the Rhode Island Educational Media Association (RIEMA). I am joined here today by RIEMA’s vice president, Jamie Greene – a library media specialist at Hugh Cole Elementary School in Warren. We thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly about the Basic Education Program (BEP).

Deputy Commissioner Abbott has been kind enough to keep RIEMA apprised of the status of the working draft of the BEP, and has invited RIEMA to provide comment. The RIEMA Board is in the process of reviewing the draft and will make recommendations shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you the excitement that RIEMA feels to be a part of this important process.

The BEP’s Comprehensive Education Strategy takes a strong standards-based approach to educating Rhode Island’s students – and rightfully so. RIEMA also shares a strong commitment to this approach. RIEMA is an affiliate organization of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), which has recently released its Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. These standards – which focus on developing critical thinking, fostering independent research and technology skills, sharing new information productively and ethically, and establishing fruitful patterns for lifelong learning and aesthetic growth – naturally align with the BEP’s priorities to “ensur[e] that all students achieve at the high levels needed to lead fulfilling and productive lives, to compete in academic and employment settings, and to contribute to society” (BEP G-12-3.1).

These AASL Standards will guide RIEMA as we review the BEP and make recommendations for future revisions. RIEMA strongly believes that the achievement of the AASL standards, on behalf of the students we educate and the teachers with whom we collaborate, and when pursued under the direction of qualified, certified library media specialists and professional support staff, provides an essential framework for success for the entire school community.

Thank you for your time.

Zach Berger, President
Rhode Island Educational Media Association
zmberger@gmail.com





May 7, 2008

Public Remarks
Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Distinguished Members of the Board,

My name is Zachary Berger. I am a librarian at Westerly High School. I am also the President-elect of the Rhode Island Educational Media Association, or RIEMA. I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

My colleague Jackie Lamoureux, current President of RIEMA, spoke to you recently about research that supports the positive contributions school librarians make in fostering student achievement. Today I’d like to draw your attention to the flip-side of that coin: how might student achievement be affected with the granting of proposed waivers of library staffing levels mandated by the Basic Education Plan (BEP)?

Specifically, I’d like to comment on two things:
• Various instructional and financial challenges, illustrated by current statistics from my own district, but which I know from conversations with colleagues are faced by many districts around the state
• How the granting of waivers of BEP staffing levels would make these challenges impossible to overcome and lead to a severe decline in library services for Rhode Island students

To begin, please consider some statistics from Westerly High School, where I am one of two librarians currently supporting 1,064 students and over [100?] faculty and staff members. During just the first semester of the current school year, students – either individually or with classes – visited my library 10,381 times over the course of 87 instructional days. That’s an average of 119 students per day; or, in our four-by-four block schedule, about 30 students per block. For each one of these 10,381 visits, my co-librarian and I provided some or all of the following library services, to name just a few of any school librarian’s daily responsibilities:
• formal or informal information literacy and research instruction
• technological and/or instructional assistance to both teachers and students
• collaboration with faculty to support curricula or to foster personalized learning through the use of library resources
• pleasure-reading recommendations tailored as closely as possible to individual students’ reading and interest levels
• supervision of ePortfolio access and PBGR artifact documentation

Of course, the above snapshot does not include the “behind-the-scenes” administrative work such as collection development, library staff supervision, and data analysis that must also be accounted for in the course of our workday in order to provide the best possible library services to our schools.

Let’s complicate this matter further by taking a quick look at some more statistics from my district, remembering that other districts face similar circumstances:
• My library’s budget for the 2002-‘03 school year was $30,565.00
• My library’s budget for the current school year is $3,000.00
That’s a budgetary decrease of 90% in just five years. Why does this matter? Consider just one negative consequence: the severe decline in funding for purchasing materials has meant that the average age of print resources in my library is 27 years old. Out-of-date library materials directly impact student learning – especially in the fields of science, health, medicine, and technology – by failing to provide access to accurate information.

Many of today’s school librarians have become used to this grim picture. The reality of economic belt-tightening is something that all Rhode Islanders must face. We librarians acknowledge that and grit our teeth in response, try to find workable solutions, and strive to continue to provide the best library services we possibly can.

Now remove one librarian from this two-librarian picture; or, even worse, imagine that a one-librarian school loses its only qualified library media specialist. If the Board approves recent requests for library staffing waivers, either of these two scenarios will happen in one or more Rhode Island districts. In such a scenario, not only have our students already lost access to accurate, timely materials; they’ll also lose access to highly skilled, well-trained professionals to guide them to reliable alternate resources. In such a scenario, not only have our students already lost………[to be continued]. Under such scenarios, the consequences for student learning will be […..].

I respectfully ask you: Why put our students, schools, and communities through any of these predicaments? I respectfully urge the members of the Board to require that all Rhode Island public schools maintain the library staffing levels mandated by the BEP. In the absence of that ideal, I urge you to please share with RIEMA whether any waiver requests are currently under consideration so that we may provide the professional support and advisement that our colleagues in school libraries all over Rhode Island need and require.

Our goal is simple: to continue to provide the highest possible level of library services to all of our students. Please help us to achieve this goal by not allowing staffing level reductions in our school libraries.

Thank you for your time.

Zach Berger






Public Remarks
Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education
April 23, 2008

Good afternoon. My name is Jacquelyn Lamoureux and I am a
Library Media Specialist and Media Services Coordinator for the
West Warwick School Department

Today I am speaking in my role as president of the Rhode Island Educational Media Association.

Over the past several months, school departments have prepared budgets for the 2008/09 school year. Several departments have cut school library media specialist positions in their proposed budgets. If they do indeed cut the positions these departments would be in violation of the BEP and will need to request a waiver or just ignore the standards.

Since this matter may come before you for consideration I urge you to consider the research on school library media specialists and their contribution to student achievement.

School Libraries Work 2008, the Scholastic Research Foundation Paper, http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/
summarizes 21 studies that show:

An abundance of evidence strongly supports the connection between student
achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school library media specialists. When library media specialists work with teachers to support
learning opportunities with books, computer resources and more, students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their
peers in schools without good libraries.

Researchers at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies released a report in February 2008. Among the findings:


  • Fourth grade students in schools with certified librarians score significantly higher on ELA testing

  • Certified librarians better support the curriculum

  • Certified librarians provide materials that provide more diverse points of view
http://www.ischool.syr.edu (headline # 10)

The connection between student achievement and school library media specialists is so important that Senator Reed introduced, and Senator Whitehouse co-sponsored, a bipartisan piece of legislation know as the SKILLs Act (Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries)

Senator Reed states,


“We know that school libraries are a critical component in improving student literacy skills and academic achievement. This legislation recognizes what makes this success possible: highly-trained librarians,” said Senator Jack Reed. “As technology rapidly changes the way our children learn, it is imperative that we have experienced librarians who can help kids harness these new technologies and access the information they need. The SKILLs Act underscores the value of school libraries by encouraging the hiring of highly-qualified school library media specialists in our nation’s school libraries.

This is just a brief summary of the data. I would be happy to provide more information, whether to the board as a whole or to any of you individually. Please remember, school librarian media specialists make a difference in student achievement. They want to foster a love of reading and learning and teach every student in their schools the skills to make that possible.

Thank you.