4th Colorado School Library Study Cited in EDUCATION WEEK

On May 21, 2015, Jim Duncan and David H. Rothman published an article in Education Week entitled We Need a National Digital Library Endowment.  They cited the fourth Colorado school library impact study, which is titled Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011.  It was published as part of the Library Research Service’s Closer Look series.

Duncan and Rothman said:

Yes, qualified school librarians can significantly boost student achievement. Check out studies, especially a January 2012 one from the Library Research Service. It allows for the fact that affluent school districts with well-read parents can more easily afford to hire enough librarians.

In fact, that study not only confirmed what many earlier studies have found–that the presence of qualified school librarians is associated with higher state test scores–but also demonstrated for the first time that change in state test results mirrors change in librarian staffing.  In other words, schools with the poorest test results were those where there had never been a qualified librarian or where one had been lost, while schools with the best test results were those where there had always been a qualified librarian or where one had been gained.  And, as Duncan and Rothman noted, these findings could not be explained away by general socio-economic differences.  A similar national study reported in School Library Journal also found that such findings could not be explained away by overall staffing trends in schools during the period examined.

Notably, the design of this study, focusing on trends over time–in the case of the fourth Colorado study, before and after the Great Recession–has not been replicated in any other states.  If there are school library advocates out there in other states where school librarian positions have been lost, a replication of this study in your state would most likely create the evidence needed to demonstrate that cutting librarian positions in your state’s schools has also been associated with poorer state test results.  If you are interested in exploring having such a study conducted in your state, be in touch with me at keithlance@comcast.net.

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