screening criteria for national library inclusion (criteria sample)

Modified on Fri, 24 Mar 2023 at 03:29 PM


Following are the core criteria America Learns’ strategy experts use to screen strategies for inclusion in the national database.  Additional considerations are made depending on the content the strategy covers. 

Core Criteria

  • The strategy includes a detailed description of the challenge hurdled or the situation in which it was implemented.
  • The strategy lays out the specific steps the person took to achieve success.  
  • The strategy provides explicit models or examples for volunteers to demonstrate to students, and there are opportunities for students to apply and practice that same strategy.
  • The strategy is easy to understand from the perspective of a volunteer who has never volunteered before.  
  • The strategy guides the student to success – facilitating understanding and learning or promoting good behavior rather than dictating answers and yelling or forcing compliance.
  • The strategy is engaging as well as instructional.
  • The strategy does not involve bribing the student to do anything.
  • The strategy does not contain religious references or undertones. 

Nitty Gritty

 Strategy Posting Levels: Rejected vs. Local vs. National 

  • National strategies: 
    1. All strategies in the National database meet the following criteria:  
      • Include a clear description of when the strategy should be used in the “Situation” box:  
        • E.g., “I used this strategy when my student has difficulty understanding what “carrying the one” actually means when performing double-digit addition problems.   He knew the algorithm but had no idea what he was doing to the numbers (i.e., creating a new ten).” 
      • The strategy lays out the specific steps the volunteer took to achieve success and can likely be replicated by another volunteer with little to no expertise in the subject area 
        • Compare this criterion to a recipe.  Good recipes for making sandwiches don’t just say, “Take out the bread and put the turkey on it,” They say, “First, open up the bread bag and take out two slices of bread and lay them face up on a plate.  Next, take two slices of two-ounce turkey and place them on one slice of bread….” 
      • The strategy offers the volunteer a way to monitor the student’s learning/development.  
      • The strategy involves/promotes guiding the student to success – facilitating understanding and learning rather than dictating answers or offering simple shortcuts or algorithms.  
        • If the strategy involves academic content, the strategy promotes scaffolding. It provides explicit models or examples for volunteers to demonstrate to students, and there are models for students to apply and practice that same strategy.  
      • The strategy is engaging as well as instructional.  
      • The strategy references any materials it adapts content or ideas from.  
      • If the strategy requires using paper-based materials (e.g., flashcards, game boards, game pieces, coins, dollar bills, PowerPoint presentations, award certificates), those materials have already been posted to the strategy or can be created and then posted by staff.  
      • With rare exceptions, the strategy does not rely on a specific book or materials that a volunteer may not be able to get a hold of.  
      • The strategy does not involve physically touching the student in any way.  
      • The strategy does not involve bribing the student.  
      • The strategy does not contain religious references or undertones.
    2. A strategy promoted to the National Strategy Database meets these additional criteria:  
      • It addresses an issue that still needs to be addressed in the National Strategy Database or an existing issue in a new way.  
      • It can be edited so that it meets all of the National Strategy Database criteria above.  Examples:  
        • A volunteer may have submitted an amazing strategy, but it wasn’t written with sufficient detail so that a novice volunteer could easily replicate the strategy.  
        • The strategy offers a great way to help students learn a concept but doesn’t offer sufficient details to ensure that the students understand everything.  
        • The strategy mentions the use of paper-based materials.  We’ll either e-mail the volunteer to ask for them or create them on our own.  
        • The strategy is great, but needs to be written better.  Depending on how much rewriting needs to occur, we’ll either edit it or create a new strategy and reference that volunteer as the main source.  

Additional Edits We’ll Make to Strategies We Promote


  • If a strategy requires the use of food, add a note at the bottom of the “Situation” box that the volunteer should first check with a supervisor to see if it’s okay to use the food.

Activity Location 

  • If a strategy requires that volunteers take the students away from the regular volunteering area, please let the volunteer know to first get permission from the supervisor. 


  • Completely Rewriting Local Strategies for the National Database  
    1. Sometimes, a Local Strategy will need to be completely rewritten for it to be promoted to the National level.    
      • Possible scenarios:  
        • One step of the five-step strategy is a gem and should be made into its own resource.  
        • The strategy is phenomenal but is written so poorly that editing it for the National level would require taking it completely out of the volunteer’s voice.  
        • An academic strategy is game-based and meets National-level criteria, except that it requires “winners” and “losers”; however, it can be rewritten so that it doesn’t have that aspect to it.  (While some organizations we serve are okay with those types of resources, we don’t promote them regarding academic learning.) 
    2. When we do this, we list the name of the volunteer and the organization she’s associated with as the source of the strategy.
  • Local Strategies  
    1. Aside from not meeting the standards for National strategies, the criteria used for keeping strategies at the local level include the following:  
      • Strategies with “winners” and “losers” among one-on-one or group student games reinforce academic skills.  
      • Strategies that already cover topics at the National level in a similar way. (It’s up to local programs to decide if they want duplicate strategies in their database.)  
      • Strategies that meet some, but not all, National Strategy Database criteria, but on the whole, are “just fine.”  
      • Strategies that we wouldn’t use to help our children succeed/learn but have enough validity not to be rejected.
  • Rejected strategies 
    1. Rejected strategies meet one or more of the following criteria:  
      • Do not meet the National or Local Strategy Database criteria laid out above  
      • Do not offer clear guidance to volunteers who have never volunteered before and may not even have a firm grasp of the topic themselves.  
      • Use academic work as punishment (e.g., “I made my student do math problems since he was behaving poorly.”)
      • Most importantly, strategies are rejected if they make us say, “We’d never want this to be used with our own or any other child on the planet, period.”  

Additional Editing Guidelines

  • Adding footnotes / “America Learns Notes” 
    • Sometimes, we’ll want to add a footnote to a strategy we’re editing that will stay at the Local or be promoted to the National level.  To do this, write:  
      • America Learns Note:.

  • Referring to “Students” and “Volunteers” 
    • If you’re editing a strategy that refers to students as “students”, do the same in your edits.  If the strategy calls the students “mentees”, do the same.  
    • The same rule applies for “volunteers”.

  • One-on-One vs. Group Strategies 
    • If the strategy applies to both one-on-one situations and group situations, use either the singular "student" or plural "students" throughout the entire strategy. Only switch back and forth, and only write student(s) if it's necessary to do so.  
      • Example of when this rule should be broken:

  • Gender References (He/She's) 
    • Don't use he/she, her/him, or s/he.  Pick a single gender for the strategy at issue and stick to it. 



  • General rules that most strategies we create follow  
    • For the most part, the first sentence of each step is bolded and guides the volunteer about what she’ll find when reading the rest of that step.  For example:
      • Step 2:
        Now, you’ll guide your student to identify the nouns in the sentences.

         To do this,...

Linking to Other Strategies  

  • Reference other strategies volunteers can use to build upon the one you’re working on.  
  • You may also reference other strategies when you feel that skills or knowledge covered in existing strategies need to be covered before the strategy you’re working on is implemented.


  Creating Attachments 

  • Font choice 
    • General rules 
      • Be sure that if students will be using the attachments, the font is large enough and that the spacing is wide enough for young students to work with.
      • For attachments used by PreK - 3rd students, please use the font CENTURY GOTHIC as its lowercase letters are in the shapes most children learn to write.

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