The Common Core State Standards are bringing some changes to curricula across the country—but not just in the classroom. School librarians are preparing for the shift and its new emphasis on 21st-century skills including information literacy, primary resources, independent thinking and complex texts. The New York City Department of Education—the nation's largest school system—is relying on its library staff to implement these standards in the coming years.
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has taken the first step toward helping librarians by offering the Common Core Standards Crosswalk, a diagram that outlines how the AA SL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Common Core State Standards align. The organization is also reaching out to state affiliates to create an online database of lessons to share best practices for implementing these newly emphasized skills.
This fall, some New York City librarians will begin supporting text complexity, which is one language arts element of the Common Core standards. "The Common Core has a different way of assessing texts," says Barbara Stripling, director of library services for the New York City School Library System. "Normally, we're used to assessing quantitative readings based on how many words are in a sentence or in a passage. The qualitative measure focuses on ideas and concepts."
During the 2010-2011 school year, three pilots were conducted in New York City schools that focused on curriculum mapping and assessments for the Common Core. Schools in the district will adopt additional components of the standards each year until the schools are ready for full implementation by 2014.
Resources in the libraries are changing as well, as 50 percent of texts will be informational, even in elementary schools. "I see us using a lot of primary resources and digital access to really help teachers find those texts," says Stripling.
According to Meghann Walk, library director for Bard High School Early College of Manhattan of the New York City public school system, it's vital for librarians and all members of a school to be on board for the transition to the Common Core. "We are supportive teachers, not just resource providers," says Walk. "We need to be aware of what each department is doing."