Connecting British Columbia (Canada) School Libraries and Student Achievement: A Comparison of Higher and Lower Performing Schools with Similar Overall Funding

By Haycock, Ken | School Libraries Worldwide, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Connecting British Columbia (Canada) School Libraries and Student Achievement: A Comparison of Higher and Lower Performing Schools with Similar Overall Funding


Haycock, Ken, School Libraries Worldwide


Research over time has established associations between components of the school library and student achievement. This study was designed to investigate these associations in schools in British Columbia (Canada) where the government provides equitable funding of public schools while allowing individual school districts and schools to determine individual funding priorities. Findings replicated what numerous previous studies have shown: higher student standardized test scores were associated with a school library that is more accessible, better funded, professionally staffed, managed, stocked, integrated and used. Findings moreover pointed to higher student achievement in those schools where greater resources, from the same limited allocation were assigned to school libraries. Results of this study are of practical interest to policy makers, school and library administrators, and educators with a vested interest in student achievement and the future of school libraries.

Introduction and Background

There have been numerous studies examining the connection between student achievement and various components of the school library's resources or services. The results of these studies have been summarized and synthesized in reports based in Australia, Canada and the United States, among others. (See, e.g., Haycock, 2003; Lance & Loertscher, 2003; Lonsdale, 2003.) This study builds on these earlier reports by examining higher and lower performing schools in a jurisdiction where funding is equitably allocated by the provincial/state government to local jurisdictions and where program funding decisions are based on local priorities. The question emerges then whether student achievement is higher in those schools where greater resources, from the same limited allocation, have been assigned to school libraries.

Research into Student Achievement

There has been extensive research examining the relationship between and among literacy, student achievement, and the school library program. Between 1990 and 1991, for example, the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Reading Literacy Study (Elley, 1994; Froese, 1997) examined the types of resources available at the primary/elementary-school levels of 27 participating countries. The study explored the connections between resources and achievement, focusing on school and classroom libraries, their descriptions and uses, and on classroom teachers' practices as they relate to library use. Findings suggested that students in classrooms with access to libraries achieved higher than those who did not; students who have many books at home achieved at higher levels than those who did not.

Other studies demonstrated the association between school libraries and student achievement as well. Research in Texas found that library variables explained about four percent of the variance in test performance at the elementary and junior high levels, and just over eight percent at the high school level (Smith, 2001). Studies in Colorado (Lance, n.d.; Lance, Welborn, & Hamilton-Pennell, 1993; Lance, Rodney, & Hamilton-Pennell, 2000a) also revealed that among predictors of academic achievement, the size of the school library staff and collection was second only to the absence of at-risk conditions in terms of poverty and low adult educational attainment. Findings from this study pointed to the importance of school library resources, enabling technologies and the role and presence of the teacher-librarian. Well-stocked and well-equipped school libraries went hand in hand with qualified and motivated professional staff leading students who were capable, avid readers and who were information literate (Haycock, 2003). Standardized test scores tended to be 10-20% higher than in schools without this investment (Lance & Loertscher, 2003).

More than 20 studies in the United States and Canada (see Klinger et al., 2009; Lance, Hamilton-Pennell, Rodney, Petersen & Sitter, 1999; Lance, Rodney & Hamilton-Pennell, 2000b, 2002; Smith, 2001) examined the role and presence of the teacher-librarian in high-performing schools, concluding that teacher-librarian time, schedules and collaboration with teaching colleagues were associated with higher test score outcomes. …

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