Saturday, January 30, 2010

Evaluating for Authorisation - Rant!

Our school is in the midst of being authorised by the IBO. This is fairly stringent evaluation of the programs and curriculum being run by the school to ensure it is meeting the IBO standards. It is pretty thorough in all areas except two - Library and Digital literacies. I am going to focus on the Library aspect in this post, but I think alot of what happens there also relates to the ICT and digital literacies evaluation.

As authorisation approaches I am handed papers to fill out to find out what the collection is comprised of - the list goes like this; Fiction, Non Fiction, Reference, CD ROMS, in language A (english for us) and Language B (Chinese). And then a question : What are the library / resources centre loan arrangements?. That is it. That is the paperwork for authorisation for the library for the PYP. For the MYP it was pretty much the same - asking about numbers on the collection citing outdated technology and access policy for the students. The actual interview was conducted by someone who had very little idea on what he was looking for to see if the library was supporting the program. The questions he asked were so superficial, and just not really trying to find out what the guts of what I do are. (I lay this problem at the feet of the IBO not the interveiwer) (I will not go into detail how I had a 35 minute interview time slot that was shared with the digital literacies co-ordinator..). I am feeling somewhat insulted that more attention is not paid to how the library is supporting learning in practical and meaningful ways beyond collection development and borrowing rules.

This got me thinking - if I was in charge of finding out if a school library was a good one, what would I be asking to see and be explained.... the following is what I have come up with. They are in order of how they spilled from my brain ...

I would examine
1. the collection development policy, discuss with the TL how the resources are selected, and if there are challenges - what happens. I would also ask about censorship.
2. the diary of the librarian / teacher librarian to see what has been and is being scheduled in regard to collaborative teaching, flexible or fixed scheduling.
3. The information literacy policy and discuss how it translates into real learning experiences.
4. the plan for the library - term, yearly and long term.
5. the annual report from the previous years.
6. the online resources available and how the are marketed in the school - also see the usage statistics for the previous months and year.
7. Borrowing statistics, and trends.
8. The OPAC - how easy is it for users, what features does it have. How are the records?
9. The role description of the L/TL - discuss what is happening in reality.
10.The credentials of the librarian / Teacher librarian - where they were trained, how long ago, current professional development, personal learning network.
11. What extra programs does the library offer - author visits, book week - how are these rationalised amd supported and how do they support the school and library mission statement?
12. The types of resources on offer - age, condition, variety, internationalism, languages, currency, appropriatness, - does it include visual, audio, print, electronic, digital, online?
13. The library mission statement and philosophy.
14. The budget and how it is being spent.
15. Minutes of library staff meetings.
16. Policy and procedures manual.

I would interview
1. other teachers about the library and how it supports them and the curriculum.
2. students about their feelings about the library, what they like about it.
3. The L/TL and let them tell me what they do best. Ask them about what else they do in the school. What would they like to see happen in the library if they had unlimited money and staff? What are the problems / barriers they encounter?
4. The Principal and ask them what is going on with the library programme. How does he/she support the program?

I would observe

1. The lunchtime crowd - what are they doing?
2. How the library is organised - easy to find resources? displays? signage? posters? noticeboards? How is the collection organised, discuss how independent the students are in locating their requirements? Height of the shelves, disabled access etc Access to the resources including library hours & borrowing.
3. ICT in the library - who is using it, and how?
4. How the Library staff reacts/works with the students.
5, How the Library staff reacts / works with other school staff.

Am I being too tough? I think all of this would take about 90 minutes and give a fairly good overview of the library and how well it is being used in the school. It is a huge facility in the school, a good library has shown to improve student learning, so why are the evaluations so superficial and conducted by people who have no idea - or not given an idea of the standards that should be there and questions that need to be asked?

Is there anything I missed that should be included? How can we improve the standard and authorisation process so we are not passed over by such a superficial and outdated inquest?


MrsE said...

You're frustration is more than justified. A librarian's job is still so open to interpretation and unless a person has experienced an exemplary library program when they were in school or teach in a school with one now few people could define what it is we do.
I might add questions that ask the librarian to demonstrate what they are learning at the moment, how they employ web 2.0 in their own practice and how they use it with students.

Anne Robinson said...

Very timely post. We are having a school inspection next week and it will be interesting to see if the inspectors come and see me and what they ask. I have been through this several times before - on one occasion the inspector told me that I had educated him thoroughly on the work of a school library and librarian!

Stacey Tayor said...

It will be interesting to see how the IBo experience compares to our NSW Board of Studies evaluation compares when we do that this year.

John Royce said...

Hi, Dianne,

You have my sympathies, and support!

You have certainly suggested some very telling evaluation indicators in the blog, what one might expect as minimum requirements.

But, to be fair, the various authorization documents do ask for more information than a simple statement of resources and the library's opening hours.

The Guide to school application (Middle Years Programme) states that "The school management and the library/resource centre staff must ensure that:..." followed by eleven features of the library programme (as it is now or will be by the time the programme is implemented) (page 13). The school is also requested to submit documentation on at least four points of the library programme, including "Description of the role of the library/ICT in the implementation of the programme" (page 18).

Meanwhile the School guide to the authorization visit spells out 15 areas of the library programme that the visiting authorization team should be looking into, including "Does the library adequately serve the requirements of the MYP and encourage both student and staff use?", "How will librarians work with MYP teachers and students?", and "Are library staff involved in planning for the needs of the programme?"

If you were only asked inane and superficial questions during your authorization visit, then you have been poorly served - and you are right in your rant to blame IB rather than the actual interviewer. It might just be that the visiting team was so impressed by what you were and are clearly achieving in your programme, maybe confirmed by interviews with your teachers and administration that, pressed for time as these teams always are, they may have felt the need to investigate more carefully in other areas of the school. But if so, a word of congratulation might have been in order, instead of leaving you with the feeling that you had been short-changed and that the library is worth only cursory investigation.

This is not a blanket endorsement for the IB, they could do far better by libraries and librarians in many many areas, but I'm not sure your rant is justified. (You of course are in far better position to judge!) BUT - could I suggest, if you have not already done so, you could do us all a great service if you bring your rant on "Library Grits" to the attention of the powers-that-be in Cardiff and in Geneva?

Good luck - and thanks,

(Cross-posted to iSkoodle)

Mrs. C. said...

So interesting Dianne,
we have our authorisation for PYP and DP coming up at the end of March so it will be very interesting to see what happens. So far I have only been asked to submit the Appendices with collection details.
Let's see what happens.

Julia Beck said...

I understand your frustrations completely; but you must realize that hundreds of your teacher-librarian colleagues, from around the world, have attempted to persuade the IBO to place more emphasis on the LIC as the hub of the school, the centre of learning, with the TL as a partner in the education process -- and all this since at least 1996, but to no avail. The IBO is a huge and unwieldy machine that grinds slowly ... and only at the rate of its most conservative cog.
Julia Beck, (Retired) Director of Library Information Services, Toronto French School, Ontario, Canada

Anne Weaver said...

Dianne,I really enjoyed this post adn will use it as a timely reflection for the beginning of the year.The role of teacher-librarians is increasingly difficult with limitations in staff and financial resources. Many leading teacher-librarians, whose libraries epitomize good practice, work extremeley long hours to achieve this. I am constantly amazed and greatful for the sharing of expertise online which helps all teacher-librarians. Unfortunately, not only is this excellence often not appreciated, but in times of increasing financial pressures, we are also increasingly seeing the role as being viewed as dispensible.Research repeatedly shows good library programs promote academic excellence, and identifying and publicizing what expemplary practice involves, especially to school management, is essential for the survival of the profession.The other area that is needed is more flexibility in the operation of the role, to gain closer connection and stronger relationships with school leadership, which requires minimization of time spent in Library administration and maximisation of time spent with classes and staff implementing reading and research programs that improve learning outcomes. Thank you for sharing your library journey, Anne