Monday, May 13, 2013

Common Core: College and Career Readiness and School Libraries in the 21st century


Common Core: College and Career Readiness and School Libraries in the 21st century

By Amy Power


The Common Core is coming to an Iowa school near you.  How can teacher librarians maximize their effectiveness during the implementation process? These standards support our belief system of nudging students to become independent learners and investigators of the world.  Essentially we are working with students preparing them for jobs that may have not been invented yet. It is our responsibility to train them so they participate utilizing innovative practices in the 21st century.  This is a challenging undertaking and I have heard back from former students reporting that they were not prepared for college.  

A student who is college and career ready is able to critically read, decide what resources are relevant, and select appropriate information. School library programs are proponents of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital for college and career readiness. With technology changing rapidly, are students passive users of technology or embracing technology to create their own makerspaces? 

There are multiple statements aimed at preparing students for the real world.


  • The purpose of 21st Century College Readiness Center is “to strengthen and improve student educational motivation and academic achievement through the alignment of in-school and out-of-school initiatives.”
  • Position Statement on the Common Core College- and Career-Readiness Standards, “...students have the opportunity to be well-prepared as life-long learners facing the challenges of college and careers.” 
  • American Association of School Libraries had a Congressional Briefing, “the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act  (S.1328) will help to improve student achievement by ensuring more students have access to effective school library programs that will allow them to compete in today’s information age.” 
  • Up to the Challenge: The Role of Career and Technical Education and 21st Century Skills in College and Career Readiness is a “report that highlights the demand for skills in the global economy and the ways in which educators can meet this demand.” 
  • ACT National Curriculum Survey: Every three to five years ACT collects student data through surveys entering college and to measure if they are ready for college courses. The results are used to update the Common Core State Standards.  
  • Career and College Readiness: Oracle Education Foundation: “School libraries are essential learning resources and librarians are the essential ‘guides inside’ our schools, leading everyday teaching and learning toward methods and outcomes that best prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st century.”

As we move forward I encourage you to keep this concept in mind. 

College and career readiness=technology + inquiry

The Common Core Standards align with the goal of graduating “college and career” ready students to meet the needs of 21st century employers. However if youth are left to their own devices does this automatically mean that they are savvy digital citizens? Will their contributions represent thinking deeply and concluding?  

Teacher librarians are team players in a culture of learning. School libraries that focus on content and people create environments where technology and learning is fun as well as educational.  While implementing the Common Core standards we can lead by bringing clarity to issues that arise during the transitional period.  We can provide language and ideas that assist staff with translating the big ideas into educational settings.  For example shifting our ways of helping with research so that students embrace inquiry-based learning and higher level thinking or modeling expected behaviors teaching students not to be afraid of failure.  Overall the intention is to inspire students to have the attitude that they will and can learn.  Motivate them to be comfortable and confident within themselves to find solutions in everyday situations. 

Drawing up a game plan to make the Common Core work raises questions for the entire educational community in terms of equipping students for 21st century life and work.

Are learning activities facilitated with library resources that are rigorous, thought-provoking, and inquiry based? Do learning activities create self-directed, independent learners capable of working in groups and seeking solutions to the problems and demands of a global economy and a 21st century workplace?  Are students participating as responsible digital citizens?  Are students prepared with communication and presentation skills that allow them to adapt to changes in technology? Are technology and digital media being incorporated into the curriculum? 

I sense that we are on the path to form two distinct types of schools libraries.  One that produces factory/service workers and the other that creates 21st century skilled workers. We have a responsibility to create the best physical and virtual library spaces possible.  Teacher librarians are more than ready to meet expectations associated with the Common Core. Collaboration is key, we need teachers and administrators as much as they need us.