In a recent post, Lindsey described the strain online testing puts on building technology and it reminded me of the first time I realized my comfortable library world was going to change. About five years ago, our staff attended a district training for an assessment program we’d be implementing soon. As the training progressed, it became clear the this assessment would be administered to every student in both math and reading three times a year. It would use all three of our school’s desktop labs including the one housed in the library.
It’s the only time I have ever cried at work.
When I had gulped back the tears and composed myself a bit, I approached the presenter during a break to ask if anyone at the district level had talked with the school librarians or had even noticed the impact online assessments would have on school library programs. The presenter was honestly surprised. No, no one had talked to the librarians, but now that I mentioned it , the presenter could see that dedicating the computers housed in libraries to standardized testing might present some challenges for librarians. She assured me that the test would truly help our students and was unquestionably worth the sacrifice of library time.
That was just the start. Last year our school library was closed 23% of the time for standardized testing.
Pollyanna was an early literary influence so I was determined to be the Glad Girl and make the best of it. Here are some of the positive outcomes from posting that closed sign on the library door during the many weeks of testing.
1. I had to begin to think of library services outside the four walls of the library. I created a peppy brochure touting “The Library Goes on the Road” with a menu of options. I could do book talks in classrooms with instant checkout, teach a mini lesson on in text citation to a writers workshop, model how to create an infographic using Keynote, show students how to document their energy transfer inventions using iMovie, and more.
2. Collaboration became even more important; I listened closely to what teachers were doing to be sure I could add value when I was invited into their classrooms.
3. With the physical library not available, what resources could I point to or create online? Databases got more of a workout, and I began to put together non-fiction text sets that could be accessed from the library web page to support science and social studies units. The library doors were closed, but more students knew about more online resources open around the clock.
However, there were still the teachers who dropped units we had co-taught previously because of lack of access to computers. There were kids who begged to come in during passing period, they would be really quiet, honest, they just needed to check out the next book in the Divergent series. Students who had bonded to the library gave me surly looks when they weren’t allowed to come in and play chess at lunch.
It wasn’t ideal but I couldn’t see any way out until I visited a fellow library teacher who had just transferred to a different school. As she showed me around her library, she pointed to some desktop computers and said offhandedly, “I need to get those out of here. They’re just testing magnets.”
It was a blinding realization. The benefits of 32 desktop computers in the library were now outweighed by their unbreakable bond with online testing. It’s taken a year of brainstorming, grant writing, tech planning, and administrative support but soon all the desktops will be moved out of the library, their testing burden will shift to a set of laptops on a cart, and thirty iPads (which currently can’t be used for testing) will be available for students to use in the library.
I hope that district staff developer was right, and that this next generation of online tests measuring student progress toward meeting the CCSS will motivate and encourage just the sort of learning that will prepare our kids for the world of college and careers. Meanwhile I’m just happy to take the “Closed” sign off the library door.
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