Saturday, March 6, 2010

Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's Schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic Publishing are good friends of education and libraries, so it is a disappointment that the Primary Sources report on America's Teachers on American Schools overlooked a very important finding. See Question 1505 on independent reading. Dr. Stephen Krashen alerted school librarians to the omission (see below).

"I just finished reading "Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's Schools" which was published by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation. This report has been discussed in newspapers all over the country. Not mentioned in any of the media reports, and not mentioned in the summary section of the report is an interesting result about where students get their books for their own independent reading. This result was not discussed in the text but is buried deep in the appendix.

Q1505 Where do your students get books for their independent reading most often? Select all that apply.

1. school library: all levels: 83%. high school 80%
2. my classroom library: all levels: 68%, high school: 31%; elementary school 87%
3. public library: all levels: 38% high school: 46%
4. retailers: all levels: 20%, high school: 35%

"This is similar to what has been reported before in the professional literature, as I reported in The Power of Reading, but shows the impact of the school library far more clearly than ever before. If independent reading is a major source of our competence in literacy, this confirms that school and classroom libraries are very very important."

"Unfortunately, the study did not look at differences in level of poverty."

Primary Sources: America's Teachers On America's Schools
Scholastic, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The California School Library Association wrote and reminded media representatives of the two organizations that research shows a strong relationship between strong school libraries and student achievement, regardless of the income level of the community. Here are two recent reports and one somewhat dated but very relevant research:
  1. Achterman Study on “Haves, Halves and Have-Nots: School Libraries and Student Achievement
  2. School Libraries Work by Scholastic.
  3. Differences in Print Environment by Courtney Smith and Rebecca Constantino (1997) - Changed my life and made me an advocate for strong school libraries.
In California, students are having their school libraries and teacher librarians reduced or eliminated. "Pink Slips" go out on March 15th. It is both tragic and counter-productive. Building and funding strong school libraries is an investment strategy the Gates/Scholastic study should be recommending, but given the overwhelming ratio of classroom teachers to teacher librarians, that recommendation will never see the light of day without assistance from important organizations. Here's hoping the Gates/Scholastic researchers and others will take another look at the research findings and address Q1505 in more detail.

Today's school teacher librarians teach online research and cybersafety skills, in addition to carefully selecting and sharing good books for students to grow on! Today's leaders need to better understand and actively promote the key role of school libraries.

1 comment:

msannakoval said...

thanks for sharing this, jackie. i would not have known about it otherwise. it was something i'm sure i'll be able to point to and quote from. way to go scholastic and bill & melinda gates.