Data and Collaboration: Raising Student Achievement (Greater Southern Tier BOCES School Library System)
Best Practices in New York State
(Example illustrating Qualitative Results)
This project was already underway when Ms. Wilson attended OBE training. It is, however, a fine example of how to collect information about the impact of a program and it documents the ultimate in program impact for school libraries, namely, student achievement. From the beginning all activities were aimed at identifying students’ testing weaknesses, collaborating with teachers to design ways to address specific weaknesses and looking at changes in student achievement. It serves as a great template for designing OBE programs to assess the impact of school library media specialists programs on students and teachers. The project is all about impact, which by definition is all about learning outcomes.
[This project] had become my passion. I had examined data gathered from the New York State assessments. I had read the research of Lance and Todd. I began to formulate a plan of action. Strong library media programs partnered with EBP improve student achievement. The data was ready and waiting. I had the eureka experience. My plan became crystal clear. I would invite instructional teams who had previously attended Toni’s two-day project, Collaborating to Meet Standards: Teacher/Librarian Partnerships K-12, to identify subject areas for development of units and then analyze the data relevant to the subject and grade level of their units. Rick Woolever provided the data for years 2002-2005. The next step was to prepare the necessary resources for each team including copies of testing booklets, New York State Learning Standards, charts that tracked scoring trends, and reports identifying areas of student deficiencies. Toni provided handouts detailing levels of instructional partnership, Loertscher’s Taxonomies of Library Media Programs, and a common planning template. Each LMS brought a copy of Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning.
The participants spent the first full morning learning how to read the data and then breaking into teams to begin to identify skills in need of improvement. Teams focused on constructed response results (original student writing in response to a prompt) as a foundation to their unit. Teams then identified two or three sub-skills from the test in need of improvement, such as using graphic organizers, drawing conclusions, identifying main ideas and supporting details, and drawing inferences. The LMSs also familiarized themselves with library-assessment strategies found in Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. The five information literacy strategies for assessment in appendix E include simple checklists, rubrics, conferencing, journaling, and portfolios. Depending on the unit, one or more of these strategies would be used to assess student learning in the library.
Finally, LMSs were charged with developing a process to collect selected student work in order to gather evidence of student learning. Using EBP strategies, the LMSs now had concrete data to answer the question, What are you doing to impact student achievement, and what information do you have to support it? Units created by teams spanned grade levels from Readiness Kindergarten through high school. A secondary LMS/teacher team developed a unit on the causes of the Civil War, focusing on the skill of data interpretation, specifically reading charts and graphs. A third-grade team focused on the skill of identifying main ideas and supporting details in the context of a Mexico-United States comparative-cultures unit, while a Readiness Kindergarten team addressed student deficits in effective use of graphic organizers by developing a variety to include in their author-studies units.
Meanwhile, an elementary school librarian planning units with teachers from two different grade levels focused on identifying main ideas and using graphic organizers in both units, one a fifth-grade sky-watching-and constellations study and the other a first-grade animal-classification research project. Imagine the success those first graders will have when they are fifth graders taking a standardized test asking them to identify main ideas and use graphic organizers! We encouraged teams to launch their units during the remaining school year while the process was still fresh. The teams could then reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Any necessary revisions would be made and the unit would be ready for implementation during the next school year.
With proven success, LMSs could establish other collaborative partnerships. Evaluations completed by participants were extremely positive. Lisa Howell, K-12 LMS in the Jasper Troupsburg Central School District, wrote, “I am now able to read and interpret the data. . . I have a new collaboration tool.” Derek Otto, 9-12 LMS in the Hornell City School District, summed up the workshop, stating, “We teach the skills that students are tested on … (Data also) affects the media program for collection development.” While Toni and I are extremely pleased with the outcomes, we both recognize some of the pitfalls that teams are likely to encounter, including inadequate administrative support, lack of common planning time, and entrenched school culture.
However, sustainability of student achievement is the one major obstacle to be overcome. In their book, Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock report that students must practice a skill 24 times to reach 80 percent competency (with the first four practices yielding the greatest effect). Therefore, in order to boost student achievement, an ongoing teacher/librarian collaborative partnership reinforcing student skills in areas of deficiency is more important than just an isolated lesson in the library. The skills taught must be useful and applicable to the needs of the students. The teacher/librarian team must closely monitor student progress toward mastery of skills and reinforce the desired outcomes. Slow, positive progress will generate desired results. Excerpt from Library Media Connection by Toni Buzzeo and Stephanie Wilson, October 2007.
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