Two New Reports Highlight Importance and Impact of School Librarians on Educational Ecosystem
The last several years have been a tumultuous time for school libraries. Just how tumultuous has been outlined in two reports recently released by EveryLibrary Institute.
This month marks 20 years since President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law. NCLB created a new framework for education which has remade public education in ways that still impact teaching and learning today. Prior to 2002, standardized testing was less prevalent at all grade levels and there was no standardized report card to measure successful or failing schools across the nation. It is worth remembering that after NCLB came into effect, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of school librarians at work for students in many states.
In the report Anticipating the Post-COVID Pivot for School Librarians, author Beth Thomas reviews recent research and data about the role, impact, and importance of school librarians and school library programs to create a detailed, actionable set of recommendations for education policy-makers concerned with sustaining successful schools and turning-around failing ones. "For almost thirty years, dozens of national studies have shown a direct correlation between access to a strong school library program and student achievement," writes Thomas. "Despite this evidence, the number of school librarians in the U.S. has continued to decline. As we are forced to reckon with the consequences of widespread misinformation and disinformation, now is the time to reinvest in school library programs."
Access to a certified school librarian is, at its core, an equity issue. School districts that spend the most per pupil were most likely to have high levels of librarian staffing while districts with higher rates of poverty, more minority students were less likely to have school librarians in their schools. The policy recommendations in Anticipating the Post-COVID Pivot for School Librarians are relevant for school district leaders, state education agencies, state legislators, and the school library organizations that lobby for change in education policy.
In a second report from EveryLibrary Institute, Could School Librarians Be the Secret to Increasing Literacy Scores?, author Nijma Esad shares the results of her research in Washington, D.C. public schools where she has found a connection between gains in the literacy-based component of standardized tests and student’s access to school librarians. School librarians in Washington, D.C., Public Schools (DCPS) have worked diligently to increase literacy in every school over the past several years. "Increasingly, students are becoming data points instead of young people with names, personalities, and talents. It is disheartening to watch, especially as a librarian who fosters a love of reading, creativity, and critical thinking skills development," Esad writes. "In an educational system that attaches value to students based on their standardized test scores, school districts and educators find themselves scrambling to identify new tools and techniques to help increase students’ math and reading scores."
This report shows that lack of access to school libraries and librarians can have real, lasting consequences. Students who have little or no access to librarians and the services they provide are disadvantaged in ways that can affect them for the rest of their lives. While further research is needed to determine the impact certified librarians have in boosting literacy scores across the nation, we see these results as a clear reason to invest in quality library programs and the certified school librarians who teach there.
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