Putting Education Reform To The Test

What Common Core Standards Mean For Media Specialists

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Walker Middle School media specialist Sara LaBarbera says she teaching her students research and analysis skills she didn't learn until college. New education standards taking effect in 2014 will require students use those skills.

Sara LaBarbera is teaching 6th graders at Walker Middle School near Tampa how to research poets using an online library.

One student, working on a series of questions about a Lewis Carroll poem, asks LaBarbera for help. He has the pieces, but doesn’t quite know how to put them together.

LaBarbera knows how to ask the right questions.

“Alice seems, like, sad or depressed and the White Knight tries to cheer her up by singing her a song,” the student says of the poem.

“OK, so is it a poem that is telling you a story?” LaBarbera asks.

“Sort of,” he responds.

“Do you already know the name for that type of poem?” LaBarbera prompts.


“Well when you write an essay that tells a story, what type of essay is it?” she asks.

“Narrative.” Then he pauses as the light goes off: “Ooooohhhhh…”

LaBarbera is a media specialist – in another time they’d be called librarians.

Media specialists have evolved as the world has grown more high-tech.

New education standards, known as Common Core, are set to take effect in 2014 will mean more changes. The standards, known as Common Core, require more reading and ask students to back up their answers with research.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Sara LaBarbera's Common Core State Standards handbook -- flagged with notes.

For LaBarbera, that means teaching students research and analysis skills she said she didn’t learn until college. She carries around a handbook on the new standards layered with sticky notes.

“Your role changes to helping the students become information users,” she says, “helping them to see as much information is at their fingertips comes with a great responsibility.”

And by 2015 a state law requires half of classroom instruction is delivered digitally – electronic textbooks or interactive websites.

Media specialists can play a key role for schools, helping colleagues identify books, texts and other sources to use in classrooms. Many make sure that iPads, computers and other technology are ready to use in the classroom.

Listen to the story, and learn why one school district is considering converting media specialists into classroom teachers.


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