Opinion | Want to improve literacy in Michigan? Restore school librarians
The Education Trust-Midwest report “2018 State of Michigan Report: Top Ten for Education: Not By Chance” provides a set of recommendations to improve education and literacy in Michigan. There is one significant recommendation missing from this report: Michigan must support effective school libraries staffed by certified school librarians to improve literacy.
There are multiple studies in over 20 states including Michigan which show that access to school libraries with a full-time certified teaching school librarian improves student achievement, regardless of socio-economic or educational levels of the community. In fact, at-risk students benefit proportionally more from the presence of a full-time certified school librarian.
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A Michigan study found that schools with certified school librarians had 35 percent more fourth graders who scored proficient or above on the state reading assessment than schools without certified school librarians. Information about these studies including other detailed findings can be found here.
Yet, Michigan ranks 47th in the nation in the ratio of students to certified school librarians. Michigan schools have one certified librarian for every 3,077 students.
As pointed out in the Education Trust-Midwest report, Michigan also ranks 41st in fourth-grade reading based on the average scale score on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The Education Trust-Midwest report also points out that Michigan reading scores fell between 2003-2015. During this same time frame, Michigan lost more than 60% of its school librarians (media specialists)
As of December 2016, only 8 percent of Michigan schools employed a full-time school librarian and only 18 percent employed a full or part-time school librarian.
To become a top 10 state for education, Michigan needs strong effective school library programs led by certified school librarians; these professionals develop a culture of reading, support third grade reading efforts, and have a positive impact on student achievement.
In addition, school librarians help lead technology initiatives in their schools and help develop students that are college and career ready by teaching information literacy skills to all students.
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Related: Michigan spent $80 million to improve early reading. Scores went down.
Schools with a well-stocked and consistently funded library that is staffed by certified school librarians should be a reality for every child in Michigan, not a luxury reserved for a privileged few. As a society, we prioritize what we value, and when we prioritize school libraries, we are saying that we value literacy and we value our students.
Policy makers and education advocates must recommend that Michigan provide equitable access to effective school library programs staffed by certified school librarians for all students in our state as they discuss and advocate for improving education in Michigan.
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