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Briana Elliot

04 Sept 2014
Common Core Interview/Analysis
In examining the basic rubrics outlining Common Core State
Standards (CCSS), and interviewing a well-seasoned teacher of ten
years on the challenges and achievements such curriculum changes
can present, there is presumably ample room for school librarians to
serve as hubs for CCSS curriculum support. This is particularly true
when learning that even a dedicated, experienced teacher reports
feeling overwhelmed by the swift curricular change. Presumable
experts on their own school librarys collection across grade and
reading levels, school librarians, when and if available, can begin to
reorganize their present role within their school communities.
Collaboration with teachers, as well as collection development and
reorganization of library materials that explicitly bridge Common Core
Standards for creative classroom curriculum, can be a great start in
building a foundation that supports both the successes of the teachers
as well as their students.
For the purposes of this assignment, and to better understand
Common Cores role in redefining school librarians relationship to their
teacher-communities, I interviewed a friend of mine, Janet LeCates,
who is a 4th grade teacher of the Magnet Program for Gifted
Students. She also serves as a member of the Common Core
Leadership Board for her elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified

School District. Ms. LeCates has been working at the same school for
ten years, and has been in her current Magnet Program for six years
now. Her position as a magnet teacher for gifted 4th grade students,
(students who are high-achieving and tested as accelerated in more
than one subject), offers particularly intriguing insight into the
potential positive impacts CCSS has, and will continue to have, on the
new freedoms she has over her own classrooms curriculum and
instruction for her high-achieving students. Ms. LeCates reports,
Already, I can see Common Core as being common sense in the
classroom,
because it allows for freedom in teaching, not robotics
teaching or reading of the
script as with my previous years. The
robotics teaching, of following and covering material from precise pages in
our teachers instruction manual, seemed scary,
distant, and like I was
grilling my students as well as myself (personal
communication,
September 4, 2014).

This freedom that LeCates names as common sense is precisely


where great collaboration opportunities lie, among the teachers
themselves, as well as a more focused curricular collaboration with a
school librarian.
The openness to how teachers are now expected to build up their
own curriculum is potentially endless, and in this endless openendedness, the task can simply seem daunting to most transitioning
teachers. From here, collaborative opportunities between teachers and
school librarians can arise out of both the daunting tasks of building
perhaps unfamiliar curriculum for certain subjects, as well as the more
creative tasks of building curriculum that feels inspiring to the

educators themselves. Ms. LeCates points out that there are many
positive aspects to implementing CCSS that she personally enjoys,
reflected in her following observation:
[t]he freedom to read novels brings reading to the classroom more
fully. I love it. It
is making things more creative; there is an emphasis on
NF text, which is great for
cross-curricular applications; its rigorous,
content-rich materials and instruction with no limits. My selected material
and content is accessible to the kids; the
strength in Common Core is
that it asks for evidence from the text. As far as I can tell, there is no hidden
agenda or unknown reasons propelling Common Core into the
classroom
(personal communication, September 4, 2014).

Ms. LeCates mentions the freedom to read novels brings reading to


her classroom more fully, which clearly connects to the notion
introduced by Jenkins et. al. (2013), in the emphasis of creating and
cultivating a culture of readers (28) within a classroom setting.
Jenkins et. al. (2013) provides an example of one teacher making
the required silent reading with her students into a more fun and
interactive time where students can openly share and discuss what
they are reading for pleasure, while eating snacks as if in a bookstore
caf. The students are meeting their daily (imposed) requirement of
reading, but the experience of reading for the students plays out more
fully because they are less restricted and are able to enjoy and
develop a very personal, sociable culture surrounding the act of
reading; the same is true in Ms. LeCates classroom, whose students all
love to read and devour books naturally as well as socially. The
openness of CCSS allows Ms. LeCates to select literature and novels
that are creatively teaching various components of each Common Core

Standard, (like determining a theme of a story, drama, or poem from


details in the text, as proposed by the California common core state
standards, 2013). Furthermore, she can do so across disciplines, as she
herself notes, with novels that remain accessible to the students and
their particular background knowledge and cultures in meaningful
ways.
According to the American Association of School Librarians
(AASL) and its Standards for the 21st-century learner (2007), the
definition of information literacy explicitly states that learning always
has a social context. There is a clear emphasis on student learning
taking place in educational environments, such as a classroom and/or
school library, where sharing with peers about personal or group
discoveries actually enhances the learning process. This relates
directly to Harlans (2014) ideation of authentic sharing and
communication within a classroom, where a teacher (and school
librarian) can strive to create a classroom culture of readers who
actually enjoy reading, when the reading is nurtured with a collective
and/or social component. Harlan (2014) notes research that suggests
when reading is not a forced classroom task, when it is not something
that is necessarily graded, that even the most reluctant of readers can
become active readers and communicative participants in authentic
sharing practices. These are important implications that educators and

school librarians alike can take into account when designing CCSS
curriculum and implementing instructional strategies.
Furthermore, Harlans (2014) lecture on Literature in the
classroom, emphasizes that literature should be embedded within the
curriculum, and not limited to English class. Harlan (2014) provides
the example of a classroom of learners discovering the subject of
penguins, which, with innovative CCSS curricular development, might
include a more science-based informational text creatively paired with
the fantastic picture book, And Tango makes three, by Richardson and
Parnell (2005). This ideation of locating and gathering complimentary,
accessible classroom and library materials to make curriculum more
robust, challenging, and yes, enjoyable, exemplifies the power of
collaboration that must take place; Collaboration must take place in
order for teachers, students and their school librarians to thrive under
the freedoms, and openness (i.e. lack of direct teachers instruction
manuals), imposed by the new Common Core State Standards.
From the vantage point presented by Ms. LeCatess love of
selecting rigorous yet accessible novels for her students, it is probable
that some of the other teachers at her school, (and all schools in
general), have strengths and/or interests in various other academic
arenas outside of Language Arts. For those teachers that have a
personal expertise in science curriculum for a certain grade, for
example, would highly benefit in a teacher/school librarian

collaboration on Language Arts, for example, as well as other subjects


that may lie outside of their own interests. Locating library materials
that support and engage active readers on all levels might be very
welcome, as a knowledgeable school librarian could collaborate on an
individual and/or grade-level basis with all teachers needing CCSS
curriculum help. School librarians should strive to locate and select
library materials across genres, including the pairing of nonfiction and
fiction/picture book materials to enhance all subjects with textual
evidence (as required by CCSS, and noted by Ms. LeCates). Harlan
(2014) supports this idea of creating a rich, interdisciplinary, acrossgenres and formats ideal for CCSS teaching materials, because
complex texts exists at all levels.
So, where do school libraries explicitly fit into transition of
adopting CCSS, and where should school librarians insert themselves
into the collaborative processes needed to cultivate truly rich and
rigorous materials across subject areas? Referring to the California
Board of Educations Model school library standards for California
public schools (2010), it states that school libraries should be spaces
that provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the
resources and tools needed to enhance multiple literacies, that may
include visual, textual, digital, and technological components that
clearly strive to go beyond using reference resources to find
information. Ms. LeCates already suggests important ways in which a

school librarian could be proved collaboratively useful, in the mention


of school librarians and educators learning to select rigorous, contentrich materials, including nonfiction texts that are great for crosscurricular applications.
Other collaborative possibilities for school librarians might then
be in striving to provide materials about the same (or differing) subject
area(s) that are in various formats. This might include a creative
combination of supplying a classroom with a digital resource, like an
interactive history website chronicling the Holocaust for students,
paired with an accessible, brilliantly-written WWII historical fiction
novel, like The Book Thief (for older YA readers); or a school librarian
could set up a listening station where students can create their own
mental images from an audiobook recording of Number the Stars (also
a historical novel), or Anne Franks Diary, for example, paired with
historical picture and/or photo-documentary books of WWII for slightly
younger students.
All of the above possibilities speak more to the positive impacts
and collaborative potentials that CCSS may foster at a (presumably)
well-funded, resourceful school. However, there are potentially
negative impacts and aspects of CCSS on a school, in general, as well
as negative potentials on school libraries specifically. Primarily what
came up in my interview with Ms. LeCates stems from the fact the she
herself feels simultaneously liberated from teaching robotically, while

feeling taxed time-wise and newly burdened by having to build up her


own curriculum for virtually every subject for her 4th graders. It is thus
a struggle for her to balance enjoying the new curricular freedoms
while having to create her entire classroom curriculum without any
outside collaboration or support. It is in these situations that we, LIS
professionals, should feel that educators should not have to identify so
much with Atlas, when the possibilities to unload curricular burdens on
the knowledgeable shoulders of the should-be-present school librarians
should be actual possibilities for many teachers with CCSS needs,
particularly in such great transitional times.
The fact that Ms. LeCates has a classroom of gifted fourth
graders actually might heighten some of the positive impacts of
CCSSs openness to creatively construct rich and often literature-based
curriculum (as mentioned previously), seeing as the transition to use
more rigorous and engaging material is something already being
employed to meet the high-achieving needs of her students. However,
unique also to LeCatess positioning within her public school relates to
how she describes the L.A. Unified District, simply as a shitty, abusive
district. Virtually no CCSS support and professional development has
been feasibly offered by her district, as it is clearly not the districts
priority to fully prepare its educators while trying to manage the huge
curricular transition that the CCSS presents.

Pre-existing inequities and lack of funding are just some factors


that may impact how well (or how poorly) the CCSS will be adopted
into some schools, and into some classrooms. It seems that a lot
depends on the resourcefulness, flexibility, and creativity on the part of
many teachers, like Ms. LeCates, who may otherwise lack district
support and/or collaborative opportunities (with teachers and school
librarians) to build successful and engaging CCSS curriculum
themselves. Ms. LeCates gives a startling report of the current state of
her public school in the following passage:
We have no Science teacher, no P.E. teacher; it falls on me to build and
implement curriculum for both of these as well. There is no time to
adequately do so, but I do
my best, building on my years of experience.
I spent a lot of my time over the
summer (unpaid) getting CCSS
curriculum done and gathering materials. I feel
rushed into [Common
Core] in this way, that there was no transitional time, no extra
time for
training or preparation. All the school has given us is this long list of
websites to sift through, which means it is really time-consuming, and
otherwise not
very helpful (personal
communication, September 4,
2014).

The issue with CCSS curriculum being time-consuming (at least in its
pilot years of implementation) can be true for school librarians as well,
and should be taken into account as yet another importance to the
benefits of collaboration opportunities within a school setting.
Potentially, having the professional development time to come
together to learn from each other, as well as introduce and share
curriculum resources and library materials, could lessen the burden for
any one group, as building curriculum and instructional strategies
should be shared among teachers as well as supported by school

librarians. Of course for some educators in some districts, time to


collaborate with a school librarian is simply a dream, as Ms. LeCates
so aptly notes:
The main thing that is stressful about Common Core is the lack of time
to prep and draw out curriculum. I could see a librarian helping in this,
pulling materials to
support CC standards in all areas, not just
Language Arts, but Science and Math for
me as well. Collaboration time
would be great, to share ideas and strategies with other teachers and the
librarian guides us with materials. The problem with my
school is that we
dont even have a librarian! The library is not even open! If we want to
utilize the library, I have to do everything: check out the books, look up the
books in the first place to guide my students, shelf the books when we
are done. I simply have no time for this! Its sad, really (personal
communication, September 4, 2014).

Having such preexisting inequities in school funding across districts


obviously leaves more marginalized public schools and teachers, like
Ms. LeCates, under any number of enormous pressures to create
curriculum and implement CCSS completely on their own.
Lastly, to highlight the irony in Ms. LeCatess school situation, is
the fact that her students have access to iPads for individual CCSS
assessments, yet the entire faculty and student body has no science
teacher, no P.E. instructor, no librarian and no open-access to the
library that they do have. Too much pressure relies on the
resourcefulness, and motivation, of the teachers themselves.
Collaboration among the teachers, and with a school librarian who is
expert on their own school library materials, would be an obvious ideal
situation at a school such as Ms. LeCates. One addition important role
does arise out of this final statement from this interview, that the

school librarian should inhabit a space and skill set that also addresses
CCSS standards and instructional shifts, by providing instruction and/or
co-teaching about the technology used in student assessments. This
can occur either as the school librarian instructing all the teachers on
the student use and skill sets of being assessed using a touch-screen
iPad, or the school librarian and/or teachers co-teaching the students
themselves. Technology and media literacies are an increasingly
important aspect to all school librarianships and their role in helping
bridge new Common Core Standards assessment choices emphasizes
this. One must realize that CCSSs benefits of encouraging a rich,
multi-formatted, multi-genre, open-ended curriculum may not always
fully balance with the negative impacts and additional stresses some
teachers may feel when left to create a new classroom culture that
thrives under its newly imposed CCSS expectations. Particularly, the
role of funding, and providing CCSS professional development and
collaboration opportunities with available school librarians for all
educators, must be considered when we, LIS professionals,
contemplate and discuss Common Core State Standards successes
and challenges, as applicable to a living, breathing school
environment.

References
American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Standards
for the 21st- century learner. Retrieved from
http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandsta
n
dards/learningstandards/AASL_Learning_Standards_2007.pdf.
American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Learning
standards &
common core state standards crosswalk. Retrieved
from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/crosswalk.

California State Board of Education. (2013). Common Core Standards:


English
language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science,
and technical
subjects. Retrieved from
http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.
pdf.
California State Board of Education. (2010). Model school library
standards for
California public schools: Kindergarten through grade
twelve. Retrieved from
http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/librarystandards.pdf.
Harlan, M. A. (2014). Literature in the classroom. [Video lecture].
Retrieved from
http://hanakoa.sjsu.edu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer/Default.aspx?
id=ff3dc66587d0-4493-8c6e-5ed9aee460e1.
Jenkins et. al. (2013). Reading in a participatory culture: Remixing
Moby-Dick in the English classroom. NY, New York: Teachers College
Press.