Highly Effective School Library Program honors two Summit School District media centers
Ryan Summerlin March 23, 2014
The Summit Cove Elementary library Twitter account, @SummitCoveMedia, includes information about book fairs, reading goals and student projects. It’s just one of the many tools Summit School District libraries are using to serve as effective hubs of modern learning.
The Colorado Department of Education’s Highly Effective School Library Program recognizes outstanding school libraries while supporting schools as they work to improve student achievement and prepare students for 21st Century success. This is the first year the district has been evaluated for the program, and both the Summit Cove Elementary and Summit Middle School libraries received the distinction — two of the 22 schools named across the state.
Susan Arrance started working for the district in 1986, and has been at the middle school since 1999. As the library information specialist, she is at the helm of this ever-changing, always growing program.
“There’s been a big push to take libraries out of just checking out a book, we still do that, but we are moving toward a focus on how important information is in our lives now, and those necessary technology skills,” she said.
“If they aren’t already, the library should be the heartbeat of every school.”
Library paraprofessional at the middle school
School libraries have seen a number of changes during the last decade or so, Arrance said, including a common name change to “media center” with the embrace of more technology. The Highly Effective model of standards focuses on yearly growth, collaboration between library staff and teachers, as well as leadership within the school and the overall environment.
Summit Cove was commended on its evidence of collaboration with classroom teachers, as well as specific goals aligned with content curriculum. Summit Middle School received praise for the comprehensiveness of the application, and annual growth plan.
Molly Kelly, a seventh-grade language arts and humanities teacher at the middle school, said her students look to Arrance as a second teacher. Her comments were included with the release of the recipients.
“I often learn from her while teaching alongside her,” Kelly said. “Her well thought out differentiated instruction and best practices reach every one of our diverse learners.”
While Arrance said she doesn’t see print materials ever disappearing altogether, the district has worked hard to embrace new technology; besides rows of computers, her school also has carts of iPads and Kindles available for students to check out.
“Our schools have come a long way,” she said. “We’ve really improved in lots of ways, and we’ve had excellent support.”
The mission of the Summit school libraries is to “empower students and faculty to be successful finders and users of information and technology, and to enjoy reading and life-long learning.” The district strives to promote inquiry-based learning, and ethical use of information as well.
Schools retain the “Highly Effective” designation for three years, if the school librarian remains the same. Collaboration is key for the Summit library staff members, working together with teachers on research projects such as National History Day to learn about citations and finding credible sources.
“It’s all about critical thinking and information literacy and technology,” Arrance said. “There’s a lot of push out there to get kids really working at a higher level of thinking skills.”
Now that students have more opportunities and options for learning, Arrance said, their idea of what libraries should offer has also changed.
“Kids come to school with an expectation they didn’t have before,” she said. “For years and years, if you didn’t go to school you couldn’t get information. Libraries are looking different.”
Jeanie Church, library paraprofessional at the middle school, said she believes the library and all it holds is central to student learning and achievement.
“If they aren’t already, the library should be the heartbeat of every school,” she said.