What is the impact of a school’s teacher-librarian on student achievement? Is it possible to quantify the impact?
There are a few studies which attempt to provide empirical evidence of the impact of the teacher-librarian in student success, many of which are American. Since teacher-librarians do not always work directly with the same students on a daily basis, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the direct impact of the teacher-librarian on student achievement. In many cases, standardized tests (like EQAO in Ontario, or the OECD internationally), are used to gauge student achievement. Most teachers, administrators, parents, and even students would acknowledge that the role of the teacher-librarian is essential in student success, especially in terms of research skills, critical thinking, reading comprehension, and reading enjoyment.
In her review of research, “Effective school libraries: evidence of impact on student achievement”, author Lynn Barrett examined studies from Australia, Canada, and the USA (2010). Barrett found that there are “four factors that are key to achieving an effective school library: professional librarian with educational expertise, information literacy teaching, integration into the curriculum through librarian / teacher collaboration, [and] support of heads and policy makers” (Barrett, 2010). More significantly, “in the 2006 Ontario study, the presence of a teacher-librarian was the single strongest predictor of reading enjoyment. At all levels, the research showed that the presence of a teacher-librarian correlated with improved student achievement in reading scores (Barrett, 2010). In Ontario secondary schools, EQAO Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) scores are frequently cited to demonstrate the success of the school.
In Ontario, over the last decade, the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA) has been raising the red flag about the cuts to staffing libraries with trained teacher-librarians and the direct impact on student achievement:
“The decline in funding for libraries is having far-reaching impacts on student performance and outcomes, including math and science grades, EQAO test scores, literacy & research skills, digital literacy, and post-secondary readiness. The results are dramatic: alongside the slow decline in board-level support for school libraries, the percentage of Ontario students who enjoy reading has fallen from 76% in 1997 to only 47% in 2018.”-as quoted by OSLA from Ministry of Children & Youth Services. Gearing Up: A Strategic Framework to Help Ontario Middle Years Children Thrive. Toronto: Government of Ontario, 2017. & People for Education. Reading for Joy. Toronto: People for Education, 2011.
Given the significant role of the teacher-librarian in supporting student achievement in schools, funding for teacher-librarians is imperative; schools need to have full-time staffing commitments in both elementary and secondary schools. Additionally, teacher-librarians need to be a central part of the school’s Literacy Team in order to have a direct impact on student achievement as measured by external, standardized tests like the OSSLT and pass rates. Compelling data showing the correlation between teacher-librarians and school test scores indicates that teacher-librarians need to be engaged in literacy activities as well as reading engagement programs. As a teacher-librarian, I intend to rejoin my school’s Literacy Team as well as participate in and expand our library’s reading programs. For a few years, I have taken a step back and focused on my classroom, but as a teacher-librarian, I believe that part of the role is engaging in school-wide literacy initiatives.
Barrett, L. (2010). Effective School Libraries: Evidence of Impact on Student Achievement. The School Librarian, 58(3), 136–139. http://search.proquest.com/docview/805469819/
OSLA. “School Library Issues.” (2020). Ontario Library Association. Retrieved 02 July 2020, from http://www.accessola.org/web/OLA/OSLA/School_Library_Advocacy/OLA/Issues_Advocacy/School_Library_Issues.aspx?hkey=127e3999-3f15-4ae0-872f-1234476e077a