The evolution of libraries: Los Angeles Public Library to offer high school diplomas

11 Jan

The American Library Association (ALA) has the imitative, Libraries Transforming Communities:

The American Library Association’s The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities is a groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative. ALA has partnered with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to provide librarians with the tools and training they need to lead community engagement and innovation.
The Harwood Institute has a clearly articulated vision of “turning outward,” supported by a tested practice rooted in community conversation and ownership that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.
ALA receives grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance library-led community engagement
“Building on a deep reservoir of trust, public libraries are in an excellent position to lead their communities toward a shared vision and a foundation for growth and innovation,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, libraries and librarians will be better able to engage deeply with their constituents and support community aspirations.” During the grant period, ALA will work with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to provide training opportunities and learning resources. Libraries interested in the in-person training and coaching will be recruited through an open application process that will be announced in January 2014. To receive an alert when the application period for Libraries Transforming Communities opens, interested libraries should sign up for the ALA Public Programs Office’s PPO Grants electronic discussion list at
Tools for Community Engagement and Innovation:
The following tools have been customized for library use. Links to tools will download PDF files.
• Turn Outward (PDF): Are you mostly “turned inward or outward”? Librarians may use this tool to assess the focus of their efforts in the community as they further shift their orientation from internal to external.
• Aspirations (PDF): This tool helps librarians to focus on their community’s aspirations, identify next steps for creating change, and to create an aspirations-based story for their community as a starting point for library action.
• Intentionality (PDF): Librarians may use this tool to test the external orientation and mindfulness of their community engagement choices and decisions.
• Sustaining Yourself (PDF): This tool helps librarians to personally map the components that feed their motivation and commitment for community work.
• How Librarians and Libraries Can Lead Community Conversations for Change (PDF): This conversation guide, inspired by The Work of Hope by Richard C. Harwood, provides a step-by-step plan for librarians to convene small group community conversations about shared aspirations and to share their findings with the community.
More on the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities project:
This project aligns with ALA’s 2015 strategic plan to provide leadership in the transformation of libraries and library services in a dynamic and increasingly global digital information environment. The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities is the first step in building a sustainable, scalable national plan for library-led community engagement. This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Moi wrote in The GED as a door to the future:
There are a variety of reasons why people fail to complete high school and fail complete their high school education, According to the July 24, 2011 NPR report, School Dropout Rates Add To Fiscal Burden by Claudio Sanchez and Linda Wertheimer, “Nearly 1 million kids who start high school every year don’t make it to graduation.”

There are many reasons why kids drop out of school. Kate Convissor lists the following reasons in the EduGuide article, Why Kids Drop Out of School:

While the reasons kids drop out vary, the following are six important risk factors:
1.Academic difficulty and failure. Struggling in school and failing classes is one of the main reasons teens drop out, and this pattern often shows up early. Students who fail eighth grade English or math, for example, are seventy-five percent more likely to drop out of high school.
2.Poor attendance. Teens who struggle in school are also absent a lot, and along with academic failure, absenteeism is an important future predictor for dropping out. As with the previous example, students who are absent for twenty percent of their eighth grade year (one day per week) are also highly likely to drop out in high school.
3.Being held back (retention). Linked to academic difficulty, students who are held back and who are older than the kids in their grade also tend to drop out.
4.Disengagement from school. Many kids who drop out say that school was boring and teachers did little to connect learning to real life. They didn’t feel invested in their school and they didn’t feel that adults seemed interested in them or their high school experience.
5.Transition to a new school. A poor transition from the smaller, more protected environment of middle school to the anonymity of a high school can cause a teen to have difficulty catching up-and some kids never do.
6.Other life factors. Pregnancy, family problems, and financial difficulties are all factors that distract a student from schoolwork and make keeping up more challenging.

Because many entry level jobs require at a minimum a high school diploma, the General Education Development Test or GED is often substituted for the high school diploma to show that an individual has reached a basic level of education achievement.

An example of the type of community project contemplated by the ALA initiative is the Los Angeles Public Library’s plan to offer diplomas. Julie Watson of AP reported in the article, Los Angeles Library To Offer High School Diplomas:

A Los Angeles library plans to take its role as a place of learning a step farther and will start offering residents the opportunity to get an accredited high school diploma.
The Los Angeles Public Library announced Thursday that it is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut the program for high school dropouts, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
It’s the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution, said the library’s director, John Szabo.
Since taking over the helm in 2012, Szabo has pledged to reconnect the library system to the community and has introduced a number of new initiatives to that end, including offering 850 online courses for continuing education and running a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.
The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000, Szabo said. Many public libraries offer programs to prepare students and in some cases administer the General Educational Development test, which for decades was the brand name for the high school equivalency exam.
But Szabo believes this is the first time a public library will be offering an accredited high school diploma to adult students, who will take courses online but will meet at the library for assistance and to interact with fellow adult learners.
High school course work is not required for a GED diploma, which can be obtained by passing an extensive test. The online high school program, however, will require its students to take courses to earn high school credits. The program is slated to begin this month.
“I believe with every cell in my body that public libraries absolutely change lives and change lives in very big ways,” Szabo said….

Unless, children are given a meaningful education which provides them with basic skills to adapt to a changing environment, the education system is producing a permanent underclass which will not be able to participate in the next “new, new thing.”

The real issue is reducing the number of high school dropouts. The Los Angeles Public Library is giving many the chance to go forward and have a future.


Parent homework: Make friends with your local library

More research about the importance of reading

The University of Wisconsin ‘Flexible Option’ program: A college GED?

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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