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The impact of school libraries on educational outcomes: identifying the evidence base


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Presentation prepared for SLIC School Library Strategy National Advisory Group (SLSNAG), 26 February 2018

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The impact of school libraries on educational outcomes: identifying the evidence base

  1. 1. The impact of school libraries on educational outcomes: identifying the evidence base Dr Lauren Smith Knowledge Manager Iriss (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services)
  2. 2. ● Impact of literacy on life course ● Relevance of school libraries ● School libraries and attainment ● Ensuring library impact ● Implications for research and policy
  3. 3. Literacy and life course Individuals who improve their basic skills: ● Improve their chances in the labour market, moving up the occupational status scale and resisting unemployment; ● Suffer less from poor physical and mental health; ● Are less likely to have children experiencing difficulty at school; ● Are more likely to be active citizens, as shown by voting vote and expressing interest in politics; ● Are more liberal and less discriminatory in their attitudes. Bynner et al. (2001) Improving adult basic skills benefits to the individual and to society. Department for Education and Employment.
  4. 4. Literacy and life expectancy ● A boy born in Stockton Town Centre (low literacy) has a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy born in North Oxford (high literacy) ● A girl born in Queensgate, Burnley (low literacy), has a life expectancy 20.9 years shorter than a girl born in Mayfield, Wealdon (high literacy) National Literacy Trust (2018) Literacy and life expectancy
  5. 5. Books and reading outcomes ● One in 11 (9.4%) children and young people said they do not have a book of their own at home ● One in eight (13.1%) children from disadvantaged backgrounds ● Boys who receive free school meals are the most likely to say they have no books of their own at home ● Children who say they own a book are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age than their peers who say they don’t own a book (28.8% vs 1.9%) ● Those who say they don’t own a book are four times less likely to read below the expected level (12.9% vs 48.1%) National Literacy Trust (2017) Book ownership and reading outcomes
  6. 6. What works in improving literacy ● It has been firmly established that more access to books results in more reading and that more reading leads to better literacy development (Krashen, 2004) ● Research literature consistently indicates that rewards for reading are not effective (Krashen, 2003; 2004; McQuillan, 1997), but that read-alouds and conferencing do help ● In order for these approaches to work, the books need to be there Krashen, S et al 2012
  7. 7. Narrowing the attainment gap ● Literacy teaching works: ○ PISA surveys show that increasing reading engagement could mitigate 30 per cent of the attainment gap. ○ Reading also has long-term effects on vocabulary and achievement in other curricular areas. ● Integrated academically focused activities, such as study support, have a significant impact on attainment Sosu, E and Ellis, S (2014) Closing the attainment gap in Scottish education. Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  8. 8. Relevance of school libraries
  9. 9. Cost benefit analysis / return on investment ● Aabø (2009) Meta‐analysis - quantitative analysis of findings of 38 studies of library RoI (mostly public) ● Tentative conclusion: for each dollar invested in public libraries they return, on average, approximately four times more ● Case to be made for school libraries as cost effective means of resource distribution
  10. 10. Williams, D (2013) Impact of school libraries on learning: critical review of evidence to inform the Scottish education community. Scottish Library and Information Council Considerable body of international evidence showing that school libraries impact on: ● Higher test or exam scores equating to academic attainment: this includes academic attainment in the form of higher standardised test scores in reading, language arts, history and maths, and better grades in curriculum assignments or exams; ● Successful curriculum or learning outcomes, including information literacy: this includes higher quality project work, the development and practice of information literacy, increased knowledge and reading development; ● Positive attitudes towards learning: including increased motivation, improved attitude towards learning tasks, self-esteem, and wider reading for pleasure.
  11. 11. Brettle, A and Maden, M (2016) What evidence is there to support the employment of trained and professionally registered library, information and knowledge workers? A systematic scoping review of the evidence. CILIP ● Improved student achievement ● Improved reading skills ● Facilitating student learning ● Positive pupil engagement Findings from the pilot phase supported the hypothesis that a correlation may be traced between good library provision and positive pupil engagement with reading and information skills (Gildersleeves 2012, p.303)
  12. 12. Krashen et al. (2012) Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1), pp.26-36 ● Three multivariate analyses controlling for the effects of poverty ● Indicate the importance of the library - more access means better reading ● In all of the multivariate studies considered, the library emerges as a consistent predictor of reading scores ● Even after controlling for the effect of poverty, access to print was a significant and strong predictor of performance on the NAEP reading test: those with more access did better ● “Children of poverty typically have little access to books (Krashen, 2004). It seems that libraries can provide this access.”
  13. 13. School libraries and attainment ● Study using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to document the impact of librarian layoffs on fourth-grade reading scores between 2004 to 2009. ● Fewer librarians translated to lower performance - or a slower rise in scores - on standardized tests ● English language learner (ELL) students particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of losing school librarians. Lance, KC and Hofschire, L (2011) Something to Shout About: New research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores
  14. 14. Lance, KC et al. (2014) How Libraries Transform Schools by Contributing to Student Success: Evidence Linking South Carolina School Libraries and PASS & HSAP Results Student successGood collection Teaching information literacy Circulations Librarian + assistant
  15. 15. Ensuring school library impact
  16. 16. Investment and educational outcomes ● Higher spending on school library programs has been linked to better results on achievement tests ● Higher total library spending was associated with more students showing strengths and fewer showing weaknesses on the PASS writing standards, both overall and on content and organization ● Higher spending on school libraries was also associated with more students having exemplary results on PASS ELA standards, and fewer students not meeting those standards Gavigan, K and Lance, KC (2016) SC Study Shows Link Between School Librarians and Higher Test Scores. School Library Journal, 14 March.
  17. 17. Sacco Judge, C (2012) Developing a model for school librarians in Scotland Model represents an ideal set of circumstances for school libraries in Scotland, highlighting interconnected web of influences that affect success of a school library Professional support03 ● Professional associations ● Local professional support School environment02 ● Management ● Culture ● Resources School librarian01 ● Dispositions ● Strategic vision
  18. 18. Implications for research and policy
  19. 19. Limitations of current evidence base ● Significant lack of UK studies (Brettle and Maden 2016) ○ US-centric ○ Different inputs (Sacco-Judge 2012) ○ Different social context (standardised assessments) ● Non-experimental ● Variables not isolatable ● Unclear whether impacts due to causality or correlation ● Studies are needed on the impact of librarians at primary level (Brettle and Maden 2016)
  20. 20. Williams, D (2013) Impact of school libraries on learning: critical review of evidence to inform the Scottish education community The major gaps in evidence and implications for further research were found to be: ● Limited published evidence from Scotland; ● Lack of evidence about the links or impact between school libraries and the community; ● Lack of appropriate data to identify causal links between libraries and educational attainment; ● Lack of systematic collation and reporting of practitioner knowledge and good practice; ● Lack of understanding of how school management can be encouraged to invest in school libraries. Without this systematic collection of evidence, it is likely that schools and their libraries will be missing opportunities to raise the standard of secondary students’ learning in Scotland.
  21. 21. Data gap Lack of accurate, up to date information about school libraries in Scotland. Official data not available. 251 members of school library staff (in qualified and unqualified roles) working in state-funded secondary schools (Scottish Government Supplementary data for the teacher census 2015 tables 8.11 and 9.9). Independent school library provision not known. FoI requests (McEnany 2017): ● 40% of Scotland’s primary schools have no libraries; 99% have no librarians. ● 47 secondary schools spread across 9 local authorities have no librarian (all 26 schools in both Argyll and Bute and Dumfries and Galloway have no librarian). ● In some areas, such as Renfrewshire, Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, almost all school librarians are part-time. Quality and quantity of attainment data for primary and early secondary school pupils vary widely (Sosu and Ellis 2014)
  22. 22. Evaluation Range of approaches to evaluation to demonstrate impact of libraries: Bober, T et al. (2015) Connecting resources, goals, statistics, and stories: exploring logic models as a means of valuation in youth library services McNicol, S (2003) Developing a self-evaluation model for English school libraries. School Libraries Worldwide, 9(1) pp.16-32 Urquhart, C and Turner, J (2016) Reflections on the value and impact of library and information services: Part 2: impact assessment, Performance Measurement and Metrics, 17(1), pp.5-28
  23. 23. Impact gap: logic modelling When used properly, logic models provide clean, simplistic, illustrative and effective roadmaps for change. They also show the value of an organization and can be used to measure services and effectiveness (Bober et al. 2015) ● Clear deliverables ● Potential comparison across services ● Acknowledges qualitative as well as quantitative measures ● Can help identify what makes a difference (and what does not) ● Provides space for stories and qualitative impact evaluation
  24. 24. Situation/need Inputs Activities Outputs ST outcomes LT outcomes Impact ‘Scottish secondary school pupils ‘not reading challenging enough books’’ Librarians Library assistants Adult volunteers Student volunteers Teachers Access to library books and other resources Displays Increased use of library books Improved comprehension of informational text Improved literacy levels Improved employability ‘Only half of pre-school children being read to daily’ Pupil Equity Funding Library budgets Recommended reading, encouragement, support Increased reading for pleasure and study Increased agency, positive attitude toward reading and learning Lifelong readers Increased positive destinations National Improvement Framework Curriculum for Excellence Getting it Right for Every Child Fiction Nonfiction Magazines Newspapers Journals Computers Digital tech Information/ digital literacy education in conjunction with content curriculum Cross-curricular education Higher quality project work Improved academic attainment Increased public health and wellbeing How Good is Our School/How Good is Our School Library Professional associations Extra-curricular activities and clubs Children reading books better suited to reading ability Increased knowledge and reading development Improved mental health and wellbeing Active citizens
  25. 25. Future research ● Needs to draw on comprehensive data ● Needs to relate to the Scottish context ● Must clarify the causality/correlation between attainment and library provision ● Should clearly define terms and measurements ● Evidence of impact would require close mapping, at the individual pupil level, of performance and engagement with the library (Gildersleeves 2012) A systematic review could rigorously bring together evidence and would provide baseline of available evidence and highlight gaps. ● SR should be focused around specific questions e.g. Do school librarians improve reading ability? Do librarians contribute to student engagement? (Brettle and Maden 2016)