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Syracuse researchers link higher test scores with certified librarians in schools
Syracuse researchers link higher test scores with certified librarians in schoolsFebruary 05, 2008Margaret Costello Spillettmcostell@syr.edu
New York state schools with certified librarians have higher scores on average on the fourth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) test than those who don’t, according to the findings of researchers at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool).
Preliminary findings of research conducted by iSchool professor Ruth Small and graduate students in the Center for Digital Literacy (CDL) show a statistically significant increase in the ELA test scores — almost a 10 point difference — among fourth-grade students whose schools had certified librarians over students in schools without certified librarians.
“We believe these findings are important to consider, not only because of the higher ELA test scores. These certified librarians are having a larger impact on students’ overall learning as well,” says Small, who directs the school library media program at the iSchool and was recently appointed to the Governor’s New York State Council for Universal Broadband’s Digital Literacy Committee. “Although we’re still analyzing the data, our preliminary results show that certified librarians are also more likely to provide students with materials that present more diverse points of view and that better support the curriculum than non-certified librarians.”
Certified librarians are currently not mandated at the elementary level in New York state, but they are at the secondary level.
“This preliminary report reaffirms what 19 other state studies have shown, that school libraries staffed by certified librarians and equipped with current books and technology can have a positive impact on student academic achievement,” says Michael J. Borges, executive director of the New York Library Association.
The research, which is being funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Studies, included survey responses from 1,612 schools, proportionately representing New York City; large upstate cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester; other high-needs schools from urban and rural districts; average-need schools; and low-need schools. Even when the need levels of schools were taken into consideration, there was still a 2.2 point difference in average test scores.
“These initial findings support our efforts to require school library media specialists in grades K-6, especially in those school districts that are not meeting state and federal standards,” says Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers.
The researchers are now currently analyzing more in-depth information gathered from surveys and focus groups involving school library media specialists, students, principals, teachers and parents from 48 elementary, middle and high schools across New York state. They will analyze these various groups’ perceptions of school library specialists and their effect on education.
“The New York State Assembly values libraries and believes they are an important part of our educational system. This preliminary report reinforces the need to continue to invest in our schools, especially those lacking a quality school library program,” says Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, chair of the Assembly Libraries and Educational Technology Committee.
Small hopes to better understand the impact these trained library media specialists have on motivating students to learn, influencing the adoption and use of technology and servicing students with disabilities and special needs.
“Our preliminary results support what school librarians already knew,” says Small. “Best intentions only go so far. We need people educated in school librarianship and dedicated to motivating students to read and learn in our schools.”
The New York Library Association is supporting an increase in library materials aid from $6.25 per pupil to $10 per pupil as recommended by the New York State Board of Regents. Library materials aid is used by schools to purchase books and other reading materials for their libraries. NYLA is also asking the governor and the legislature to amend the Contracts for Excellence initiative to allow the extra funds that high-need school districts receive to be spent on hiring school library media specialists and equipping libraries with up-to-date books and technology.
“This study confirms the direct impact of certified school librarians on the educational success of our children,” says state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Libraries. “That is why I am sponsoring legislation (S.1686) to ensure that every school in the state has a library and a school librarian. In recent years, the Senate has successfully proposed record increases in state aid to public libraries, and I will continue to promote support for school libraries. The New York State Senate has successfully proposed increases for libraries over the past two years, and we will continue to make library funding a priority.”
The School of Information Studies at SU is ranked fourth in the nation in school media, second in digital libraries, and number one in the nation for information systems. It is a nationally ranked center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology and information services. The school offers an undergraduate degree, certificates of advanced studies, three professional master’s degree programs, and a Ph.D. The School of Information Studies was established in 1896 as the School of Library Science and is accredited by the American Library Association. For more information, visit the school’s website at http://ischool.syr.edu.