School Libraries Impact Student Achievement in Texasby: Peggy Rudd, Texas State Library
Neither school libraries nor school librarians are mandated in Texas, a fact that has often placed them in a tenuous position in the 1,040 school districts serving over 4 million students. But Texas school librarians have a new weapon to use in demonstrating their importance and their positive impact on the learning experience.
In 2001 the Texas State Library and Archives Commission supported a Library Services and Technology Act funded study of the extent to which school libraries and school librarians impact student achievement as measured on the state’s standardized test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). The study had three objectives: 1) to evaluate school library resources, services, and use against existing state standards; 2) to determine the impact that school libraries had on student performance on TAAS; and 3) to highlight best practices in the highest performing schools.
EGS Research and Consulting of Austin, Texas, collected data from a random sample of 600 Texas school libraries. The survey data were supplemented with data on school characteristics, student TAAS performance data from the Texas Education Agency, and community economic data taken from the Federal Reserve Board’s Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.
The study’s results demonstrated higher TAAS performance at all educational levels in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians. Over ten percent more students in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations in reading. On average, 89.3 percent of students in schools with librarians, compared with 78.4 percent in schools without librarians, met minimum TAAS expectations in reading.
Clearly good, well-funded school libraries make a difference in the learning environment, and school librarians and the presence of assistance in the form of school library aides makes a difference in student performance. Emphasis on the school libraries reaps rewards that are fundamental to the mission of public schools.
The full report, Texas School Libraries: Standards, Resources, Services, and Students’ Performance, is available online.