Bronwyn's Library Blog

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Better grades? Thank a librarian

The following article appeared in the Toronto Sun, Friday, April 7th,2006.

Libraries tied to student achievement

Study makes case for training, funding

"...first Canadian study linking school libraries to student achievement indicates that better libraries improve student testscores and add to kids' reading enjoyment. The Ontario School Library Association says the research, released yesterday, is the evidence it needs to make a case for more trained school librarians and better-stocked shelves.

"There's such a clear link between libraries and student achievement. I don't know how the minister (of education) can ignore it," said association president Michael Rosettis.

The study by Queen's University professor Don Klinger was based on provincial test scores and attitudinal information collected by the province's Education Quality and Accountability Office. That information was married with data on the state of elementary school libraries gathered by the provincial parent group, People for Education. Klinger's study of 800 elementary schools and about 50,000 students showed that schools without trained teacher-librarians were more likely to score lower on grades 3 and 6 reading tests. Schools with teacher-librarians had proportionally more students who scored the highest levels on Grade 6 tests. The study found the biggest difference teacher-librarians made appeared to be in how much students enjoyed reading, said Klinger.

The research showed that the presence of a teacher-librarian accounted for a small shift in students' attitude to reading. It was a tiny variable, but given that researchers haven't been able to identify most of the factors affecting student achievement, it is significant, he said.

"If all school libraries were adequately staffed and sufficiently funded, just imagine the impact on student achievement," said Rosettis, a teacher-librarian at St. Augustine Catholic High School in Markham. Teacher-librarians are qualified teachers who've taken more courses to become librarians. They focus on integrating information technology with the curriculum, and work with teachers to design research units.

The $40,000 study was funded by the Ontario School Library Association, but conducted independently, Rosettis said.

U.S. studies have shown a link between student achievement and well-staffed, well-stocked school libraries. The librarians and People for Education say the Ontario government has made small steps to stem a 20-year decline in school libraries with a $17 million book grant last year and another $15 million last month. Rosettis said he hopes new education minister Sandra Pupatello will find the study compelling enough to consider designating dedicated funds to teacher-librarians and books. School boards get one librarian for every 769 students, but many schools don't have that many students and even when they do get a library allocation, some principals spend the money on other staffing and specialty teachers in physical education or music.

People for Education research shows that only 54 per cent of Ontario elementary schools had a full- or part-time teacher-librarian last year, compared with 80 per cent in 1997-'98. At Church Street Public School, full-time teacher-librarian Nancy Woodruff said she works with other teachers, looking for alternative curriculum materials to suit student needs, including those who haven't yet learned English and others with learning disabilities. "These children will have to know how libraries function to the end of their school days," she said, but every year she wonders if the school will be able to keep her in the library position. Principal Judy Gillis said she gets between $6,000 to $7,000 a year to stock the library but it's a struggle with so many competing priorities. Pupatello was not available for comment yesterday.



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