New campaign: NJ school libraries need more attention from the state
How often does your child use the school library?
It's that big room with all the books and computers.
According to a new campaign, designed to get the state more focused on school libraries and their programs, a lack of investment has been directly impacting student achievement in New Jersey.
The campaign from the New Jersey Library Association, titled Unlock Student Potential, calls on the state to support effective school library programs, an element included in the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama late last year. The act points to school librarians, and their programs, as an essential component in education.
Pat Tumulty, NJLA executive director, said there's a "real crisis in education" right now, highlighted by recent findings from the group.
Their study pointed to a 20-percent drop in the number of School Library Media Specialists, or certified teacher-librarians, in the state since 2007-2008. In addition, more than 20 percent of New Jersey high schools have no such faculty member on staff. Unlike many states, the Garden State does not require a SLMS in every school.
"We believe that this is losing opportunities for children to really learn the kind of skills that they're going to need to be successful in the 21st century," Tumulty told New Jersey 101.5. "We believe that developing an information literacy curriculum, which is centered with the school librarian, starting from the earliest ages, is critical to help students really understand the world of information and how to use information effectively."
The group's report detailed research into the positive impact of certified teacher-librarians in schools, including increased graduation rates and higher standardized test scores.
Nearly 90 percent of respondents in their report cited flat, decreased or no funding for their school libraries.
In conversations with academic libraries throughout New Jersey, Tumulty said she's heard reports of many students coming into college without the necessary skills to conduct routine research.
"Students need to be able to evaluate and know what's original information, how to source information," she said. "They're not going to go through the world, becoming good students, if all they're going to do is Google."
According to Tumulty, her group has been in contact with the New Jersey Department of Education and there are meetings in the works to discuss the issue. A spokesman for the department could not confirm.
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