Remember about a year ago when the school library community was working to get the 25,000 signatures on the White House petition? Many school librarians, educators, and supporters enlisted friends and family to sign the petition to “ensure that every child in American has access to an effective school library program.” Like many of you, I recruited my family to sign, and now more than ever, their eyes and ears are tuned to school library stories in the news.
So my parents sent me this story yesterday from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Study: Pennsylvania Students with Access to Fulltime Librarians Do Better.” The article describes the PA study led by researcher Keith Curry Lance, which had “78 percent of school districts and 73 percent of school libraries participating,” and how the school librarian and school library program affect the test scores of Pennsylvania students, including subgroups such as students representing racial minorities and students in special education programs. From the article,
“Mary Kay Biagini, director of the school library certification program at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and an analyst for the study, said that 56 percent of public schools in the state didn’t have access to a full-time school librarian in 2011-12.
With the economic conditions and resulting library cuts of the past two years, she said, ‘Students are getting even less of a chance to have access to library resources and information literacy curriculum.’
She believes school libraries will be even more important as schools implement the new Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math that call for the curriculum to go deeper in fewer areas rather than skimming the surface in many.
‘They are more rigorous and they go hand in hand with the various kinds of content and processes that school librarians are teaching, which is in the area of information literacy, evaluating diverse media, selecting informational text, drawing evidence from primary and secondary sources, developing research questions, synthesizing information.
‘All of these are areas the school librarian is an expert in and works collaboratively with teachers.’”
The article provides a brief synopsis of the study; from the project website at http://paschoollibraryproject.org/research, these points describe further the objectives of the study.
- An analysis of available data about Pennsylvania school libraries and their relationships to the 2011 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) Reading and Writing scores
- An analysis of survey data about the perceptions of school library programs of administrators, teachers, and librarians and the relationships between those perceptions and their assessments of library program teaching of 21st Century Learner and PA/Common Core standards, and, in turn, the relationships between educators’ assessments of library program teaching of those two sets of standards and PSSA scores
- Estimated investments needed to fund those components of a 21st century school library infrastructure that would have the greatest impact on student achievement in Pennsylvania
When you visit the Post-Gazette link, take a look at the comments. A fairly vigorous discussion has been taking place, including some unfortunately common perceptions of school librarians and their value, as well as defense of school librarians and teachers. I know the dangers of getting too worried about negative online commentary, but I also think it’s helpful to know what opinions are floating about when it comes to school libraries and education.
Hat tip to my mom and dad for sending this article!