Curriculum

Study Shows Rise in Test Scores Tied to School Library Resources

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — March 22, 2000 2 min read

Students in schools with appropriate and sufficient library collections and qualified library personnel tend to perform better on standardized tests, especially in reading, according to studies of school library programs in Alaska, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

Making the school library an integral learning center and encouraging teachers and librarians to collaborate on lesson plans and classroom assignments could help raise student achievement, the report suggests.

“The bottom line across the three states is that once again, we’ve shown a positive and statistically significant correlation between the size of the school library and library media staff and test scores,” said Keith Curry Lance, the director of the Library Service Center of the Colorado State Library, which conducted the studies due out next month.

The results mirror those found in the center’s 1993 study on school libraries and student achievement in Colorado.

Mr. Lance and his colleagues reviewed surveys from hundreds of schools in each of the states to gauge staffing levels, how often students and teachers have access to library resources and librarians, whether school policies promote usage, and the technology available in the libraries.

They then compared those responses to state test results, community demographics, and such school characteristics as teacher-pupil ratios and teacher qualifications. The researchers took into account other possible factors influencing achievement on tests and were able to isolate an added advantage for those with good library programs.

The reports conclude that test scores increase as school librarians spend more time collaborating with and providing training to teachers, providing input into curricula, and managing information technology for the school.

The full results will be reported in next month’s School Library Journal.

Jump in Test Scores

In Colorado, where a representative sample of 200 of 1,178 elementary and middle schools responded, the study found that state test scores for students in elementary schools with updated libraries were up to 14 percent higher than for students at schools with older collections.

Among all the states—in which nearly 850 schools were surveyed altogether—scores on state tests improved by 10 points to 15 points in schools with strong library programs and enough qualified staff members.

Officials in all three states hope the results will help convince school administrators that strong libraries are an important investment.

“This is something our schools can use as ammunition,” said Lois Petersen, the school library coordinator for the Alaska State Library. “When someone comes in and asks if we can do without the library, [the librarians] have some research that proves how important it is.”

Added Linda Carvell, the president of the Pennsylvania association for school librarians: “Linking heightened scores with library services and information literacy gives some status to our profession in the education community.”

Like many states, Alaska and Pennsylvania do not require that schools hire library personnel. But advocates have been pushing for mandates for staffing and stocking school libraries.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2000 edition of Education Week as Study Shows Rise in Test Scores Tied to School Library Resources

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