by Jan Ison LTLS Executive Director
Over the past 16 years research conducted throughout the US demonstrates that school libraries add value to student learning and achievement. The first landmark study was done in 1993 by Keith Curry Lance. The finding of this original study was that school library expenditures were a key predictor of academic achievement. Achievement was measured at that time by the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. The first study also concluded that library staffing, collection size and the amount of time that school librarians spend in instruction also predict achievement of students. Since 1993 similar studies have been conducted in 18 states and 1 province in Canada. The studies consistently show that a major predictor of student achievement on standardized tests is having a school librarian who is a qualified, state certified school library media specialist.
The study conducted in Illinois in 2003 and published in 2005 concurred with study results from other states. In Illinois the key finding in the study was that Illinois school libraries positively impact student achievement.
“The study confirms that the strongest library predictor of high student achievement scores is a staff that includes at least one trained librarian, as well as support staff,” “Reading, writing, and ACT scores rise when students have larger, more current book collections and computers connected to library databases and catalogs.”
The report, which sampled 661 Illinois public elementary and secondary schools, compared Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) scores with the presence of school libraries and librarians. Other key research findings of the study include:
1. Schools with better-staffed libraries have more students who succeed on tests.
The entire study entitled “Powerful Libraries make Powerful Learners” is available from the Illinois School Library Media Association’s web site http://www.islma.org/resources.htm.
2. High schools with computers that connect to library catalogs and databases average 6.2% improvement on ACT scores.
3. Students that visit the library more frequently receive improved reading and writing scores.
4. Students with access to larger, more current book collections achieve higher reading, writing, and ACT scores.
These studies influenced the National Commission on Library and Information Services to approve a resolution in July of 2007 to advise Congress that “schools be provided with adequate resources to provide up-to-date print and non-print materials in all school library/media centers; school library media specialists be added to the “highly qualified” classification; every school library be staffed by a highly qualified, state certified school library media specialist.”
The challenge to maintain great school libraries with “highly qualified” staff remains particularly challenging in this economic climate. However, the investment that local, state and national organizations and governments make in this essential resource will bring measurable student achievement and greater literacy to the US. The metrics of a school library and a qualified staff demonstrate that there is a very positive impact on our students.
For further information on the school studies view the webliography of the April features.