Achieving Academic Standards through the School Library Program: Administrator Perceptions and Student Test Scores

Article excerpt

As part of a larger school library impact study recently conducted in Pennsylvania, survey responses of almost three hundred school administrators were examined regarding key library practices and how well school library programs help students master academic standards.

The instructional role of the school library program proved to be essential in teaching both the American Association of School Librarian's (AASL's) Standards for the 21st Century Learner and the Common Core (CC) state standards. This article explores the perspectives shared by administrators--principals, superintendents, and others--about library practices and student achievement. Having this new evidence and learning what administrators value will help the profession strengthen advocacy efforts with school decision makers.

In 2011-2012, a group of Pennsylvania organizations--HSLC (a statewide library cooperative), the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA), and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania--received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to conduct a statewide study of the impact of school libraries and librarians on student achievement. In Phase 1 of the study, the 2011 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reading and writing scores were correlated with existing library infrastructure--staffing, budget, collections, digital resources, and library access. In Phase 2, some of which is presented in this article, surveys of school administrators, teachers, and school librarians were examined relating to the achievement of academic standards and what administrators valued or what library-related activities they engaged in (librarians and teachers). In the absence of test data specifically assessing student attainment of the AASL and CC standards as adopted in Pennsylvania (hereafter referred to as PA/CC standards), the survey responses were compared to the schools' PSSA reading and writing test scores to verify the survey data.

LIBRARY PRACTICES AND ACHIEVEMENT OF 21ST CENTURY LEARNER STANDARDS

Administrators were asked how much they value the following key library practices. Their response options were "Essential," "Highly desirable," "Desirable," "Not desirable," or "Don't know." They were also asked to rank the instructional impact of the school library in teaching academic standards with response options of "Excellent," "Good," "Fair," "Poor," or "Don't know/not applicable."

KEY LIBRARY PRACTICES

* Flexibly scheduled library access

* Librarians and teachers coteaching units of instruction

* Librarians providing in-service professional development opportunities

* Librarians being appointed to school committees

* Librarians meeting regularly with their principals

* Librarian--teacher collaboration being addressed in teacher evaluations

Three trends emerged in school administrator responses:

* Majorities of administrators who consider key library practices as "Essential" also gave "Excellent" ratings to the library program's instructional role in teaching AASL standards. This trend is consistent with at least the past two decades of research about the impact of school libraries and librarians.

* For all four AASL standards, librarians were most likely to get "Excellent" ratings from administrators who consider it essential to address librarian-teacher collaboration in teacher evaluation. This finding suggests that when collaboration with the librarian is something on which teachers are evaluated individually, it is more likely to happen and produce positive results.

* Consistently, administrators who rated each of the key library practices as "Essential" are more likely to give "Excellent" teaching ratings for Standard 1: Inquiry-Based Learning than any other AASL standard. This trend is consistent with the growing body of research about the role of inquiry in learning, especially via library programs. …