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School Media Programs and Student Achievement. Attention Elementary School Principals.

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“Library media centers are critical to meet schools’ instructional goals and objectives. They promote literacy by developing and encouraging reading. But how do you know whether your library media center program is effective? What is a realistic vision for the library media center of the twenty-first century?” (Young, 2005)


Because little research about school media programs is published in Educational Administrators journals, administrators may ask, “(If) there is compelling evidence that libraries can make a significant difference why hasn\'t this information been made widely available to others in education, instead of appearing almost exclusively in librarian research journals, in practitioner publications, or posted on library Internet sites” (Hartzell, 2012)?


“Most of what administrators know about school library media specialists they learn from personal experience, not through any systematic education or exposure to the literature”

(Kaplan, 2008).


The following information is research based and will provide valid information on the effectiveness of an outstanding media program.


The following findings are based on the Baughman Study of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and apply to all grade levels:

MCAS were higher with the following factors:

  • schools with library programs
  • a higher per pupil book count
  • increased student use of the media center
  • School libraries with more open hours

The following (also based on MCAS) applies to the elementary level:

Scores were higher when:

  • there is a library instruction program
  • students are served by a full time school librarian
  • library staff assistance (nonprofessional help) is available
  • when the library is aligned with the state curriculum frameworks.
      • This fact is especially true in schools that have a high percentage of free school lunches.

Achieving good (MCAS) scores depends on:

  • good working combination of successful administrative leadership
  • team building for the implementation of the curriculum frameworks
  • excellence in teaching
  • strong school library resources in every school.

Based on the Lance study:

  • fewer librarians translated to lower performance—or a slower rise in scores—on standardized tests.”
  • “..states that gained librarians showed significantly greater improvements in fourth-grade reading scores than states that lost librarians”
  • “the increase in scores of states that gained librarians was two times that of states that lost librarians.”

What does this mean for our Economically Disadvantaged students?

“the average reading scores for poor students in states that gained librarians increased by 2 percent—almost twice as much as the percentage change for that group in all states (1.2 percent) and four times the percent change for states that lost librarians (0.5 percent).”


What does this mean for high achievers?

  • “Schools that either maintained or gained an endorsed librarian between 2005 and 2011 tended to have more students scoring advanced in reading…”
  • “schools that either lost a librarian during that period or never had one tended to have fewer students scoring advanced in 2011 and to have seen lesser gains”

(Lance and Hofschire, 2012).


Endorsed librarian vs. a non-endorsed librarian vs. a non-endorsed library clerk

  • “schools with at least one FTE endorsed librarian averaged significantly higher advanced CSAP reading scores and significantly lower unsatisfactory scores than schools with less than one FTE endorsed librarian.” (Lance and Hofschire, 2012)

According to Scholastic’s School Libraries Work!, school library programs influence learning outcomes and student achievement when the LMS…

  • collaborates with classroom teachers to teach and integrates literature and information skills into the curriculum
  • partners with classroom teachers on projects that help students use a variety of resources, conduct research, and present their findings.
  • are supported fiscally and programmatically by the educational community to achieve the mission of the school.

Scholastic also found that at the elementary level, schools averaged better test results when..

  • library media specialists are seen as:
      • school leaders
      • curriculum designers
      • fellow administrators
      • and fellow teachers
      • teachers who reported collaborating with the library media specialist more frequently at their own initiative, and who believed that they teach to information literacy standards better when they engage in such collaboration
a smart library equals student achievement
A SMART library equals student achievement
  • Staff, stock, and fund your library to support your curriculum
  • Meet regularly with your librarian.
  • Acknowledge your librarian as a school leader and master teacher.
  • Reward your librarian and teachers for planning and teaching cooperatively.
  • Take credit for making your library the keystone of your school’s success and for empowering your librarian to do the job she was trained to do.

(Lance, 2000)


“research indicates that these lower reading scores can’t be blamed on cuts to other school staff. Regardless of whether there were fewer classroom teachers schoolwide, students in states that lost librarians tended to have lower reading scores—or had a slower rise on standardized tests—than those in states that gained librarians” (Lance, 2011).


In summation, research supports that when a media specialist follows the Guidelines for School Library Programs set by the American Association of School Libraries where collaboration, inquiry, instruction, and achievement are top priority, student achievement will show positive gains.

"Media programs are no longer measured by the number of books in the media center, but by the information literacy level of the students. Student learning is achieved through the collaborative and proactive leadership roles of the school media specialist, not merely by cataloging and organizing materials” (Anderson, 1999)


American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (2009). Empowering learners; Guidelines for School Library Media Programs. Chicago: American Library Association.

Anderson, M. (1999). Information Power: Because Student Achievement Is the Bottom Line. Multimedia Schools, 6(2), 22-23. Retrieved from c5a6447b27bf%40sessionmgr111&hid=8&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c 2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=eric&AN=EJ586239

Baughman, J. (2000, October) School Libraries and MCAS Scores. Retreived March 3, 2013 from

Boehm P. The New AASL Program Guidelines for School Library Programs. School Library Monthly [serial online]. September 2009;26(1):50-52. Available from: Professional Development Collection, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 7, 2013. Retrieved from 8870-c5a6447b27bf%40sessionmgr111&hid=15

Curry, K. (2000). How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards The Second Colorado Study. Library Research Service. Retrieved March 8, 2013, from

Dickinson, G. K. (2009). What Do We Do with the Guidelines?. Library Media Connection, 28(1), 14-16. Retrieved from c5a6447b27bf%40sessionmgr111&vid=3&hid=15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2N vcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=lfh&AN=44316184

Francis, B. (2011). The Impact of Library Media Specialists on Students and How It Is Valued by Administrators and Teachers: Findings from the Latest Studies in Colorado and Idaho. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 63-70.

references continued
References continued

Hartzell, G. (2012). WHY DOESN\'T SCHOOL LIBRARY IMPACT RESEARCH HAVE MORE INFLUENCE ON SCHOOL LEADERS?. Library Media Connection,31(2), 18-19. 9ed1-74dea3d26430%40sessionmgr115&hid=102

Kaplan, A. G. (2008). Is Your School Librarian \'Highly Qualified\'?. Education Digest, 73(7), 17-20. 9ed1- 74dea3d26430%40sessionmgr115&hid=7

Lance, K., & Hofschire, L. (2012). Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011.Denver, CO: Colorado State Library, Library Research Service. Retrieved on March 4, 2013 from

Lance, K., & Hofschire, L. (2011, September 1). Something to Shout About: New research shows that more librarians mean higher reading scores. School Library Journal. Retrieved on March 4, 2013 from 312/something_to_shout_about_new.html.csp

Morris, B. J. (2005). The Emerging School Library Media Center From the Past into the Future. Knowledge Quest, 33(5), 22-26.

Scholastic. (2007). School Libraries Work! Scholastic: Research and Results. Retrieved February 27, 2013 from

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011, September). One Common Goal: Student Learning Executive Summary of Findings and Recommendations of the New Jersey School Library Survey Phase 2. New Jersey Association of School Librarians. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from

Young Jr., T.E. (2005). BETTER DATA…BETTER DECISIONS. Library Media Connections, 23(4), 14- 19. 4b75-9ed1- 74dea3d26430%40sessionmgr115&hid=101

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