Last week, I sent the following letter to the superintendent and board of Jefferson County Public Schools here in Colorado. ¬†Feel free to adapt this language for your own letter, or be in touch if you’d like a version of it over my signature.
JEFFERSON COUNTY LETTER:
Dear Dr Stevenson and members of the Jefferson County School Board:
I understand there is a recommendation before you to cut elementary librarian positions from full- to half-time and to cut middle school librarian positions completely. ¬†¬†¬†I am writing, both as a Jefferson county resident and as a researcher.
Please do not adopt this ill-advised recommendation. ¬†More than two decades of research about the impact of school libraries and librarians on students’ test scores–including the most recent national and Colorado studies–testify to what a damaging move this would likely be for most Jeffco students.
Just yesterday, the Library Research Service at the Colorado State Library (part of the Colorado Department of Education) released the latest study about school library impact. ¬†This new study examined the relationship between changes in school librarian staffing and changes in CSAP reading scores between 2005 (pre-recession) and 2011 (post-recession). ¬†The findings confirm and expand upon those of a national study published in School Library Journal last September: ¬†when school librarian positions are cut, students’ gains over time in reading tend to be reduced or even, in some cases, lost. ¬†The national study demonstrated that the link between librarian staffing and test score changes is almost entirely independent of the impact of general staffing changes. ¬†And, like many of the earlier studies, the latest Colorado study found that the link between librarian staffing and test scores is independent of the socio-economic status of students and their families.
Link to School Library Journal article: ¬†http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/891612-312/something_to_shout_about_new.html.csp
Link to latest Colorado study: ¬†http://www.lrs.org/documents/closer_look/CO4_2012_Closer_Look_Report.pdf
These most recent studies are supported by almost two dozen studies conducted across the U.S. and in Canada since 2000. ¬†Their findings are remarkably consistent: ¬†students at schools with fully credentialed librarians and strong school library programs tend to have better state test scores in reading and/or related subjects (writing, language arts, etc.). While students’ socio-economic status is by far the strongest determinant of their scores for which data are available, the school library is the next most consistent factor, outweighing other community and school conditions, such as students’ race/ethnicity, educational attainment of adults in the community, the student-teacher ratio, and per pupil spending. ¬†For the best summary of this whole body of research, visit the Mansfield University (PA) School Library Impact Studies Project at¬†http://library.mansfield.edu/impact.asp.
To be sure, you are in a very unenviable position, having to make such dramatic budget cuts; but, I ask you to consider if there is somewhere else to make cuts where there is not such widespread, consistent, and recent evidence of the very likely damage that would result. ¬†The proposed cuts to librarian positions would be Draconian both in their scope and their likely consequences. ¬†For the sake of your students, please preserve full-time school librarian positions in Jeffco’s elementary and middle schools.
Thank you for your consideration of these issues, and thank you for your service to public education at this difficult time.