Open Letter to Representative Tim Kelly

Michigan Reading Association
668 Three Mile Road NW Suite A
Grand Rapids, MI 49544

June 20, 2018

Representative Tim Kelly
N-1198 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Representative Kelly,

The Michigan Reading Association (MRA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower all Michigan students and educators through literacy. MRA was incorporated in 1956 making it one of the oldest literacy organizations in the country. Since its inception, MRA has been a leader in providing educators, parents, future teachers, and leaders with knowledge related to literacy practices that significantly impact student achievement.

MRA supports the Michigan House Bills 5909, 5910, and 5911. Each of these bills moves toward restoring what the majority of schools have lost; a school library that is staffed by a certified media specialist and a designated individual to supervise students when a certified media specialist is not present.

All Michigan’s students deserve equal access to effective school library programs staffed by certified school library media specialists*. There are studies in more than 20 states, including Michigan, that show students with access to such programs have higher student achievement including higher reading scores. In particular, students who are economically disadvantaged, black, Hispanic, or have disabilities benefit proportionally more than general education students from the presence of a full-time certified school library media specialist. For details on these studies, please see the document found at: .

Unfortunately, currently only 8% of Michigan schools employ a full-time certified school library media specialist and only an additional 10% employ a part-time certified school library media specialist. Michigan is ranked 47th in the nation in the ratio of students to school library media specialists. Not coincidentally, Michigan is also ranked very low nationally on reading scores. On the 2017 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), Michigan fourth-graders ranked 35th; far below its ranking of 28th in 2003. Between 2003-2015, Michigan was 1 of only 5 states to show a negative improvement on NAEP 4th-grade reading. Not coincidentally, Michigan lost more than 60% of its school library media specialists during this time.

In addition, only 44.1% of Michigan’s third-graders were proficient on the state’s 2016-2017 English Language Arts (Reading) M-STEP test. Based on Michigan’s current reading proficiency rate, more than half of our students are now at risk of retention under the new Third Grade Reading law. Ensuring that all students avoid retention by attaining grade level proficiency in reading will require supportive services for parents and teachers that can be provided by well-equipped and properly staffed school libraries. School library media specialists are a necessary component of the new reading program mandated for all schools.

A secondary role of the school library media specialist is to support technology at their schools. They provide support for teachers and students to integrate technology in meaningful ways into the approved district curriculum. As we prepare students for the 21st century, the meaningful integration of technology is an important consideration and one that can be fulfilled by the school library media specialist.

Finally, in today’s age of widespread use of social media and “Fake News”; certified school library media specialists teach students critical digital citizenship and information literacy skills that will prepare our students for college and career as well as becoming informed citizens within our democracy.

School libraries staffed by certified school library media specialist positively affect student achievement and provide necessary resources to their school community. Thus, MRA respectfully requests that as the chair of the Education Reform Committee, you support Michigan House Bills 5909, 5910, and 5911 and guarantee full funding within the school aid budget.

The Michigan Reading Association is a willing partner to help improve literacy across the state. We are an invaluable resource for information including evidence-based practices and literacy research. Please do not hesitate to contact us as you move forward in shaping the future of education in Michigan.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Gates, President

Grace B. Velchansky, PhD, Legislative Chair

 

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