ALA Washington D.C. Office of Government Relations- Issue Briefs
No Child Left Behind/The SKILLs Act
Rep. Vernon Ehlers Given FOLUSA Award at Leg Day Reception
At the annual reception that brings Leg Day events to a close, Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) Executive Director Sally Reed presented Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) with the FOLUSA Public Service Award, an award that honors a legislator who has been especially supportive of libraries. The FOLUSA Public Service Award was given to Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) in 2005. Rep. Ehlers is one of the sponsors of the SKILLs Act.
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI-3) have introduced a bill to address the school library crisis facing the Nation: the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. The inclusion of the SKILLs Act in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is vital to school libraries. It is the single most important piece of legislation concerning school libraries that will come before Congress this year.
The SKILLS Act requires school districts, to the extent feasible, to ensure that every school within the district employs at least one state-certified library media specialist in each school library.
Across the United States, numerous studies have shown that students in schools with strong school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries. A recent study reported nearly 100% of Ohio students stated that the school library helps them get better grades on projects and assignments.
Education is not exclusive to the classroom; it extends into school libraries. Long regarded as the cornerstone of the school community, school libraries are no longer just for books. Instead, they have become sophisticated 21st century learning environments offering a full range of print and electronic resources that provide equal learning opportunities to all students, regardless of the socio-economic or education levels of the community.
Some of the major skills that library media specialists teach are the techniques and methods for locating and answering curriculum needs through critical thinking. Using the library’s many and varied resources, school librarians also teach students how to work collaboratively, which, combined with the information literacy skills, is ideal for ensuring college readiness.
The skills needed to function successfully in a 21st century global workforce have gone beyond reading. Business leaders are concerned that people are now entering the workforce without information literacy skills – those skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze and use information – which equip people with the ability to think critically and work proficiently. Who better to teach information literacy than librarians, the information experts?
In order to be hired as a school library media specialist in all 50 States, a school library media specialist must have a State teaching certificate. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards considers “library media specialists” a teaching position and provides certification in library media for school library media specialists who teach students ages 3-18 and demonstrate expertise in information literacy (which helps students to evaluate and use information from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats), instructional collaboration and technology integration.
Several studies and reports have documented the significant shortages of school library media specialists. According to the Department's annual “Teacher Shortage Areas Nationwide Listing” (OMB No. 1840-095, March 2008), 18 States reported teacher shortages in library media. In addition, public libraries and schools across the nation are experiencing a dire shortage of librarians with approximately 25 percent of America’s school libraries operating without a state certified school library media specialist on staff. An alarming number of librarians are reaching the age of retirement with more than three in five age 45 or older who will become eligible for retirement in the next 10 years.