TEXAS SCHOOL LIBRARIES: STANDARDS, RESOURCES, SERVICES, AND STUDENTS’ PERFORMANCE
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1 Study Objectives and Data
The Texas Study (Texas School Libraries: Standards Resources, Services and Students' Performance) had three objectives. (1) Examine school library resources, services, and use, on the basis of the School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas and determine the need for updating these standards and guidelines so that they better serve communities across the State. (2) Determine the impact that school libraries have on student performance as measured by the percent of students who met minimum expectations on the reading portion of the statewide standardized test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS.) (3) Highlight library practices in the best performing schools.
Data were collected from a random sample of 600 Texas school libraries. The survey data were supplemented with data from the 1999-00 Texas Education Agency’s Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) on school characteristics and student TAAS performance and with community economic data extracted from the Federal Reserve Boards’ Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) web site. The study employed more than 200 school, library, and community variables in examining the relationship between libraries and TAAS performance.
1.2 Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations
The Texas Study demonstrated higher TAAS performance at all educational levels in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians. Over 10 percent more students in schools with librarians than in schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations in reading. On average, 89.3 percent of students in schools with librarians compared with 78.4 percent in schools without librarians met minimum TAAS expectations in reading.
The Texas Study also showed that socio-economic variables such as the percentage of white students, Hispanic students, and economically disadvantaged students explain most of the variance in TAAS performance at all educational levels. At the elementary school level, socio-economic variables explained 26 percent of the variance; at the middle/junior high school level they explained 44 percent; and at the high school level they explained 55 percent.
Library variables explained a smaller but still very significant portion of the variance in TAAS performance. They explained approximately four percent of the variance in TAAS performance at the elementary and middle/junior high school levels and 8.2 percent at the high school level. Also, library variables were generally more important to explaining the variance in TAAS than school variables such as the number of school computers per student, teacher experience, and teacher turnover ratio.
TAAS performance was associated with different library factors at each educational level. Library variables found to be important were:
- Library volumes purchased in 1999-00 per 100 students
- Library operational expenditures per student
- Library computers connected to a modem per 100 students
- Library software packages per 100 students
Middle/Junior High School:
- Identifying materials for instructional units developed by teachers
- Providing information skills instruction to individuals or groups
- Library staff per 100 students
- Library staff hours per 100 students
- Library hours of operation per 100 students
- Volumes per students
- Current subscriptions to magazines and newspapers per 100 students
- Planning instructional units with teachers
- Providing staff development to teachers
While these library variables, in addition to the socio-economic variables, play a primary role in explaining the variance in TAAS performance, the association between TAAS performance and library resources and activities can not be inferred as a causal relationship solely on the basis of statistical analysis, although a causal relationship is highly plausible. Moreover, the statistical relationship between library resources and activities and students’ TAAS performance may even be underestimated due to the nature of TAAS as a measure of performance.
This study also compared the 25 schools with the highest percent of students who met minimum expectations on TAAS with the 25 lowest performing schools. A number of differences were found between these two groups that centered around library staffing levels, collection size, cooperative activities with teachers, library technology, and school technology. Significant differences were found between these two groups of schools in the ethnic/racial composition and economic status of the students and their respective communities. The lower performing schools had significantly higher levels of minority students and economically disadvantaged students than the high performing schools.
While economic status is a strong predictor of student accomplishment, library variables, nonetheless, play a smaller but still very significant role in TAAS performance. This study indicates that library staffing levels, collection sizes, librarian interaction with teachers and students, and library technology levels have a positive association with TAAS performance at the elementary, middle/junior high, and high school levels. While causal relationships cannot be unequivocally proven through correlational studies such as this one, nevertheless, recommendations may be made by combining these statistical results with the experiences of librarians in order to chart the best possible course for the future of libraries and the future of the students. In addition to working to raise all of the variables mentioned above to acceptable levels, the study demonstrated that libraries can play a very special role in providing enrichment to those students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and who need additional help to develop the skills they will need to succeed.
The data provided in the survey of libraries were analyzed relative to the School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas. The analysis revealed the following.
Library Program Management: Funding
There are significant gaps between recommended library funding levels and actual funding levels in elementary, middle/junior high, and high school libraries. Libraries’ operating budget is strongly associated with collection size, the currency of the collection, and libraries’ staffing resources. Libraries with larger operating budgets have larger and more current collections and more staffing resources to support student needs. There is a wide variation in library operating budgets statewide. For example, the average operating budget per student in elementary school libraries is $22.14. Library operating budgets range from $16.52 in the lowest performing elementary schools to $36.02 per student in the highest performing elementary schools.
Library Program Management: Staffing
There are significant gaps between recommended staffing levels and actual staffing levels. Libraries in schools with more than 350 students are generally understaffed. Currently, 38.5 percent of elementary school libraries, 35 percent of middle/junior high school libraries, and 22.5 percent of high school libraries have only one staff member. Lower than recommended staffing levels and especially the absence of library aides significantly curtail the range and type of services that librarians can provide. In libraries staffed by both a librarian and an aide, librarians are more likely to offer services identified in the standards and guidelines as high priority. These high priority services consist of collaboratively planning and teaching with teachers, providing staff development to teachers, facilitating information skills instruction, managing technology, communicating with school administrators, and providing reading incentive activities. Furthermore, the number of librarians and librarian hours of service per 100 students significantly impact library use. Libraries with higher librarian staffing levels and hours accommodate greater use of the library and its resources, allow more students to visit the library, and enable more materials to be checked out. Libraries that are more adequately staffed also have larger and more current collections and larger technology and financial resources. The staffing levels recommended by the School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas must be followed to ensure that key library services are offered and that the collection size and its currency are adequate, and to encourage more frequent use of the library by students.
There is a growing presence of technology resources in the library and in the school with access to networked library resources. The training role of librarians must be emphasized. This study indicates that current subscriptions, computers with modems, and library software programs contribute to student achievement. It is plausible that the full potential of technology resources such as those provided through statewide initiatives will be achieved when training of staff and students enable wider integration of these resources into the curriculum. Adequate staff must be available to support library and school technology based on the size of student enrollment and the level of technology in use in the school and library program.
The study indicates that professional librarians expend the greatest portion of their time on basic library services that may be performed by library aides (paraprofessionals) if libraries are staffed in accordance with school library standards and guidelines. School library staff spend a minor portion of their time engaging in collaborative (curriculum integration) activities such as planning with teachers and training teachers, including training on electronic resources such as those available through the statewide initiatives, the Texas Library Connection. These activities are requirements in the Texas Administrative Code Title 19, Part 7, Chapter 239, Subchapter B, Rule 239.55, the State Board for Educator Certification Standards for School Librarians Certificate. If funds spent on technology and statewide resource sharing initiatives is to maximally benefit students, training in curriculum integration should be addressed through Continuing Professional Development for librarians in accordance with this Code.
School library collections contain an array of electronic resources that can both replace and supplement print materials; thereby altering the definitions of "current" information and collection size. The standards and guidelines should be updated to reflect the change in the need to subscribe to print copies of newspapers, magazines, and encyclopedias that are currently available online.
The infusion of technology into the library and the school has increased the presence, role and impact of technology, especially in the library. The increased availability of online resources, as exemplified by the Texas Library Connection, has forever altered the definition of collection size. Online databases make it unnecessary, for example, to subscribe to as many print copies of newspapers and magazines and to purchase encyclopedias or other reference books that can be accessed online.
The availability of online resources has also increased the value of "current" information. This study indicates that currency and size of the library collection are factors in student achievement. Due to the availability of electronic resources in libraries, collection size should be determined as a balance of information provided through technology and print resources. The standards and guidelines should address the issue of information currency and point to areas where currency is important. In areas where current information is more important than the volume of materials available in a library, measuring the size of the collection should be altered to measuring the volume of current information. The goal is for students to be information literate. School library standards and guidelines should indicate a variety of output measures that describe the effectiveness of the library program beyond the size of the physical collection. The expanded definition of library collections should include measures that describe the outcome of collaboration and instruction in information literacy.
The ability to access networked library (electronic) resources remotely from library computers, classroom computers, and the school and homes of students and teachers has expanded resource utilization beyond traditional library boundaries. Library standards must provide greater and more detailed recognition to the role of technology in library operations and to the access of resources from the library, the classroom, school offices, and the home. School librarians must encourage utilization via remote access by staff and students and the standards and guidelines must include measures which describe remote utilization such as the number of hits via local and wide area networks and the Internet.