Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cedar Rapids Public Schools face Teacher Librarian cuts

You may have heard the troubling news that two schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are cutting their high school librarian positions next year.  These cuts follow similar reductions at the elementary level in the district in which most elementaries share a teacher librarian with at least one other school. 

Cuts like these are not new in Iowa. The Des Moines Public school district recently removed the majority of their teacher librarians, and many small or rural districts already share one teacher librarian across multiple buildings.  However, the timing of these cuts is even more surprising with the support for school libraries being reinforced by ESSA at the national level, and the increased attention on student reading abilities and digital literacy.

Groups around Iowa are working to fight against these cuts. A petition is available from Everylibrary.org. 

From the petition
Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools, which together serve more than 3,000 students in Cedar Rapids, won’t have librarians next school year. To make ends meet, each of the district’s three comprehensive high schools had to cut four full-time staff positions as part of the district’s $2.3 million budget reduction. Kennedy and Jefferson High School administrators chose to eliminate the school librarians. The Washington High School principal didn’t consider cutting the librarian and instead made cuts in other areas.

The loss of school librarians at Kennedy and Jefferson come at a time when the state is emphasizing literacy and reading proficiency in K-12 education. According to 2015 Iowa state report cards, 10 percent of Kennedy’s 1,749 students and 25 percent of Jefferson’s 1,516 students do not meet reading proficiency standards. This is a disastrous and impractical decision that will stunt the education of the students and continue the downward trend of lower reading proficiencies.

The link between strong school library programs and student achievement is well documented. Over the past 20 years, numerous studies have shown that elementary schools with at least one full-time certified teacher-librarian performed better on state tests. In a 2010 study conducted in Colorado, more children scored "proficient" or "advanced" in reading in schools with a full-time, credentialed librarian than those without. In an article published in 2015, the authors reviewed a multitude of studies which consistently show that students who have a full-time librarian in their schools perform better on their reading and writing scores than those who don’t have one.  One study, "Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards", revealed that students with full-time librarians in their schools are almost three times as likely to have “advanced” writing scores, compared to those students without full-time librarians.

There is a board meeting on Monday 4/25 at 5:30 p.m. at the district’s Educational Leadership and Support Center (2500 Edgewood Rd. NW Cedar Rapids, IA 52405). Please attend and speak in support of our school librarians.