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Closing Libraries Is Not a Solution

To the Editor:

Thank you for the excellent report on the dire straits of school libraries in Philadelphia and elsewhere ("Era of Neglect in Evidence at Libraries," Dec. 1, 1999). I would like to point out that the answer may be closer and cheaper than some might think.

In fact, the people of Philadelphia don't have to look beyond their own back yard to find highly successful school-library-media programs. In 1994, the Dewitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund invested $1.2 million in public-private partnerships to improve library services in Philadelphia's elementary and middle schools. Called "Library Power," the program currently reaches more than 27,000 students in 36 Philadelphia schools, which now fund their own programs. Library Power is also succeeding in cities and towns large and small, from Cleveland and Denver to Lincoln, Neb., and Berea, Ky.

In Library Power schools, school-library-media specialists are an integral part of the learning process. They work closely with teachers to support the curriculum and help students learn not only to find, but also to analyze and evaluate information—a concept known as "information literacy." Library collections are current and support classroom learning. They also reflect the diversity of the students they serve.

The combination of full-time, certified librarians available to the school community and attractive, well-stocked facilities reaped concrete results in a short period, according to the Philadelphia Education Fund. Students in Library Power schools score higher on reading tests. One mother says that her son now prefers research to recess. A teacher sums up the collaborative effort this way: "It's great—like having another arm, and the kids get more attention. The librarian knows the skills I'm working on and has the materials. The materials are connected to the themes, and the students are learning more because of it. I see the kids' skills increasing. The extra attention has been critical."

In Philadelphia, this success comes at a cost of only $35,000 per year for improving collections and staffing.

For those who despair when faced with inadequate answers, it's important to remember that closing school libraries is not a solution. Finding ways to support a school library program that integrates learning and encourages 21st-century information-literacy skills is.

Ellen Jay
American Association of School Librarians
Chicago, Ill.

Clarifying Internet's Early-Grades Value

To the Editor:

I would like to clarify information in your Jan. 12, 2000 article, "Early-Childhood Professionals Ponder Value of Internet Access," that did not accurately represent my views.

I believe that the National Association for the Education of Young Children has taken great strides in its thinking about technology, especially the use of the Internet. This is evidenced by the fact that technology is a key component in the association's reorganization plan. These changes are very much supported by the organization's Tech Caucus, of which I am the president.

But I am quoted in the article as saying, "It scares me that we are training people to be caregivers over the Web." In fact, I am a major proponent of using the Internet as a tool to support early-childhood professional development. I believe strongly that online training, combined with face-to-face interaction, can be an excellent way to give access to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity for professional development.

I also believe the World Wide Web can be a wonderful online forum for discussion and sharing, and I invite readers to visit the Web site of the NAEYC Technology and Young Children Caucus, as well as to join our listserv, where we have ongoing discussions about technology and young children: www.ume.maine.edu/curriculum/littlekids.

I hope this letter clarifies my position and provides additional resources for your readers.

Dara Feldman
Early Childhood Instructional Technology Specialist
Montgomery County Public Schools
Montgomery County, Md.

Quality Caveats: Grading the Graders

To the Editor:

The salary comparisons in your special edition, Quality Counts 2000, Jan. 13, 2000, broke new ground. But two technical details would have helped readers make sense of the figures comparing teachers' salaries with nonteaching salaries. Most readers probably didn't notice, for example, that you included private school teachers in your teacher-salary averages. At last count, private schools were paying their teachers only about two-thirds of what public schools do. Thus, public school teachers earn more than your averages suggest, though only about 4 percent more.

Readers also need to know that the analysis made no adjustment for teachers' shortened work year. The New York Times, which reported on your findings, also failed to notice this.

Including such details as these will do a lot to prevent misinterpretation and confusion.

Andrew Wayne
College Park, Md.

To the Editor:

Please excuse me if I sound a bit defensive, but I find your grade of D-plus for "Improving Teacher Quality" in Wisconsin to be at odds with our results.

Wisconsin leads or ties for the lead in ACT scores among the 50 states. It is usually in the top five states for academic-achievement-test results in all of the major academic areas tested (reading, mathematics, social studies, science, and language arts). And, in addition, Wisconsin students traditionally have scored among the world's best in math and science.

Couple this information with dropout rates that are among the lowest in the nation, and I believe the old maxim "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" is appropriate.

You, on the other hand, might try taking a critical look at your criteria for rating the states. They appear to be seriously flawed.

Mark Holbrook
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

To the Editor:

I am a board of education member in the most sparsely populated county in West Virginia. When I saw that Quality Counts 2000 gave West Virginia a grade of C-minus in "allocation of resources," I felt I had to object. I would have given the state an F.

West Virginia allocates most resources based on the number of students. This mean that rural counties like mine have a hard time providing a good education.

It costs more money, for example, to bus students on mountain roads where the population density is one student per square mile. Some counties have, say, 60 students per square mile—but maybe only have to bus 50 percent of their students. We bus over 90 percent of ours, but have less money to do it, and a longer distance to cover. Does your report even deal with this subject?

Many states—New Mexico, for example—have formulas that increase funding for sparsely populated counties. West Virginia does not. The result is that, in one of the state's highly populated counties, school bus drivers make three round trips a day, while in our county, drivers bus all the students at one time. This forces our youngest students to endure unconscionably long trips to and from school.

I mention bus drivers, but the allocation problems for small, rural counties extend to other service personnel, too.

J. Bruce McKean
Vice President
Pocahontas County Board of Education
Green Bank, W.Va.

Vol. 19, Issue 21, Page 44

Published in Print: February 2, 2000, as Letters

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