Children Who Visit Museums Have Higher Achievement in Reading, Math, and Science

By Deanne W. Swan, Senior Statistician, IMLS

Earlier this month I had the honor of representing IMLS in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Researchers, policymakers, and practitioners gathered to share cutting-edge research that will shape the future of education. The theme of the meeting was The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.

At the meeting, I presented some of the research we have been working on examining the influence of libraries and museums on early learning. This analysis provides insight into the differences between children who visit museums and those who don’t, including academic achievement. The analysis was based on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten cohort (ECLS-K), collected by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Using these data, I examined the influence of children’s museum visitation in kindergarten on academic achievement in third grade.

Almost one-third (30.1%) of parents indicated that their kindergarten-aged child had visited an art gallery, museum, or historical site within the past month. However, there were differences in visitation by race and socio-economic status (SES), as shown in Figure 1. Children living in households of low SES, characterized by low levels of income and parental education, are less likely to go to museums than their more affluent peers. Children of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity were also less likely to visit.

Figure 1: Children’s Visitation to Art Galleries, Museums, or Historical Sites by Socioeconomic Status and Race/Ethnicity

Figure 1: Children’s Visitation to Art Galleries, Museums, or Historical Sites by Socioeconomic Status and Race/Ethnicity

Because of these differences in visitation, I separated the children into subgroups matched by key characteristics, including income, race, and parental education. This approach allowed me to take a closer look at a specific group of children – those who were at risk for deficiencies in cognitive or social development that contribute to gaps in achievement. This also reduced the chance that differences in achievement scores could be due to other factors, such as the lack of resources found in low-income environments.

I found that children who visited a museum during kindergarten had higher achievement scores in reading, mathematics, and science than children who did not (Figure 2). These effects were small but significant. This is an exciting finding for early learning programs in museums. It is particularly compelling because we see this effect in the subgroup of children who are most at risk for deficits and delays in achievement.

Figure 2: Academic Achievement in 3rd Grade by Museum Visitation at Kindergarden Matched Group (Stratum 1: low income, at-risk)

Figure 2: Academic Achievement in 3rd Grade by Museum Visitation at Kindergarten Matched Group (Stratum 1: low income, at-risk)

IMLS recognizes the importance of learning during the first years of a child’s life. Early learning is a funding priority for IMLS, with $4,329,567 directed toward early learning in fiscal year 2013. We support programs and research for library and museum programming for young children and their families. Libraries and museums are places in the community that provide high-quality, evidence-based programs that support the development of young children, often at little or no cost to families. This recent research reiterates the increasing relevance of these critical community assets for children who need early support the most.


These findings were presented as part of the following paper: Swan, D. W. (2014, April). The Effect of Informal Learning Environments on Academic Achievement During Elementary School. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Education Support, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Research, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | 1 Comment

NTIA Releases 3 Case Studies Examining Impact of Broadband Grants Program on Connecting Libraries

Cross-posted with permission from the NTIA Blog

“Without broadband, they can’t get jobs, and it’s as simple as that.” – Georgetown Job Center Coordinator (Delaware Department of Libraries BTOP PCC Project)

In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $200 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers (PCCs) throughout the United States.  More than 2,000 of those centers are operated by public libraries, from Maine to Arizona.  These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments that have allowed BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 1,300 libraries nationally with ultra-fast broadband, providing a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.

Today we are releasing the first three of 15 PCC and broadband adoption case studies.  These focus on the impact of grants in Delaware, Texas and Michigan.  The release coincides with an important hearing on libraries and broadband, sponsored by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS.   The case studies were conducted for NTIA by an independent research firm, ASR Analytics, which analyzed the impact these PCCs are having in their local communities.

What kinds of impact are these expanded libraries having in their communities?  The case studies, based on site visits, interviews, and publicly available data from the awardees’ quarterly reports to NTIA, tell a story of increased demand for library services that have helped the country continue to turn the corner on the economic recovery.  The libraries are meeting an urgent need by giving people access to information and job skills they need to be competitive in a 21st century workplace.

In Delaware, the Delaware Division of Libraries established four Job Centers in low-income areas where unemployment rates were high.  Staffed with expert advisors, the Centers were able to help 420 people obtain job offers.  Other Center patrons used the available online learning systems to obtain needed credentials, such as a high school equivalency diploma, to help make them more marketable and give them an edge in the job market.  As the Delaware case study notes, there are also benefits to employers in having a better-prepared and broader applicant pool from which to draw candidates:

Employers in areas served by the Jobs Center receive higher-quality resumés and more job applications than they would have received without the Job Centers. This enables employers to choose among a wider pool of qualified candidates and thereby increase successful matches.

In Texas, grantee Technology for All (TFA), a nonprofit based in Houston, worked with a variety of social service organizations and libraries to extend public computer access and training to rural, low-income, and minority populations throughout the state.  TFA focused on groups that are typically harder to serve because of language barriers, poverty, homelessness, and other societal challenges.  With a relentless focus on helping people meet their needs for housing, education and employment, TFA was able to surpass its goals, by providing more than 1.9 million hours of training to nearly 1.3 million participants.

Rural Texas libraries upgraded their public access computers, trained staff, and opened additional hours as a result of the grant.  Librarians provided expert assistance to job seekers, showing people how to search for jobs, navigate the web, and prepare a resume.

Volunteers and staff at a local PCC helped DanielVolunteers and staff at a local PCC helped Daniel set up an email account, update his resume, and apply for jobs online. Daniel credits the free computer access and support with helping him prepare for and find his new job.

In Michigan, Michigan State University used a formal needs assessment to create a plan for upgrading Michigan libraries and other public access centers.  Ultimately, more than 3,200 computers were installed in more than 200 PCCs, and broadband and wireless capacity was expanded.  In their analysis, ASR found that the new facilities saved users more than 160,000 hours of wait time per year for library computers – supporting demand when it was heaviest, at the period of highest unemployment in Michigan.  In addition, 673 community college students helped install the new equipment, gaining on-the-ground experience to add to their resumes.

All of the ASR Analytics case studies report on five key impact areas of broadband adoption and use:  Workforce and Economic Development; Education and Training; Healthcare; Quality of Life/Civic Engagement; and Digital Literacy.  In addition to quantitative summaries of relevant data on training and participation in BTOP activities, the studies are extensively documented and include research references.

The remaining reports and case studies will be released in the months to come.  Together they will provide the research and policy communities with critical information, as we continue to learn and apply the lessons of BTOP.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Broadband, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | Leave a comment

New Data: More than 90% of U.S. Public Libraries Have Used E-rate

By Carlos Manjarrez, Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation,
and Justin Grimes, Statistician, IMLS

With more than $36 billion dollars of discounts provided to date, the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as “E-rate,” helps schools and libraries acquire Internet access and telecommunication products and services at affordable rates. Over the years, the E-rate program has provided critical support to public libraries that lack adequate infrastructure, helping them maintain their role as essential information hubs in communities across the country.

While the program has been in existence for about 15 years, it has been difficult to determine just how many libraries have participated. Currently, the data that the Universal Services Administrative Company, the nonprofit corporation designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to administer the E-rate program, makes available on its public data tool lists the applicants but not the awardees associated with each application. E-rate applications are often submitted on behalf of many individual libraries and school.

However, a new data-sharing partnership between IMLS and the FCC has made it possible to identify each library connected to an E-rate application. This data, which comes from the Block 4 section of the E-rate Form application, lists all schools and libraries receiving services by name and identification number. We’ve just started digging into this data and will be producing more detailed analysis in the coming months, but we wanted to share some quick stats from our initial investigation. For this blog post we focused on 11 years of program data, from FY 2002 to FY 2012. These are years for which we have complete records.

Over this 11-year time span, 15,551 libraries participated in E-rate program. This is a much larger number than most people had previously thought. As a point of comparison there were 16,536 public libraries in the most recent IMLS Public Libraries in the United States national survey (FY2012), which is a census of US libraries. But it would be wrong to assume that these 15,000+ libraries participated in the program every single year. There are a number of reasons why a library or school may participate one year and not the next. Though some libraries apply year after year, others apply only when specific telecommunications resources and services were needed. When we looked over the 11-year period, the average number of years that an individual library participated in the E-rate program was about 7.8.

To get a better sense of the size and variation in library E-rate program participation, we compared the number of libraries awarded the E-rate discount in each of the 11 years to the number of public libraries reported in the IMLS public library survey. In the chart below you can see that this proxy “participation rate” doesn’t vary that much from year to year; the annual participation rate ranged from 67 to 73 percent of all libraries. The program years with the lowest program participation occurred just before the peak period of the Great Recession, 2005-2008. Since 2008, participation in the program has edged up slightly.

Figure 1. Comparison of the Number of PLS Libraries Compared to E-rate Participation Library by program year, FY 2002-2011

histogram comparing participation rates to total number of libraries

When we look more closely at the data, digging beneath the national averages, we can see that there is a lot more variation in program participation at the state level. The map below displays the percentage of libraries that participate in the program for each state and the District of Columbia. The states with the lowest participation rate are New Hampshire (13%), South Dakota (21%), and Texas (51%). The states with the highest participation rate are Arizona, Maine, and South Carolina, all of which have participation at or above 100%.[1]

Figure 2. Comparison of E-rate Participation to Libraries Reporting in the IMLS Pubic Library Survey by State, FY 2002-2012
map displaying E-Rate participation by state

Here are some key takeaways from this quick look at library participation in the E-rate program. By examining program data over multiple years, we can see that:

Library participation in the E-rate program is very high over the life of the program, with more than 15,000 public libraries participating in the 11-year time period reviewed for this blog. More than 90 percent of the known public libraries applied for and received E-rate discounts.

With an average program participation rate of 7.8 years, we can see that most libraries stay engaged in the program over a significant period of time.

Participation rates vary widely by state, even in the middle of the country, in areas where telecommunications services are less plentiful and access more limited, suggesting that much more can be done to boost participation in states with telecommunications service needs.

This first look at the E-rate Block 4 data is great start for learning more about how the E-rate program is working for US libraries. Click here to see the number of libraries in your state (XLSX, 16KB) that participated in the program from 2002-2012. Click here to see the entire list (XLSX, 1.4MB) of 15,000+ participating libraries to see which years they participated in the E-rate program.

The next step in our analysis is to look at the services libraries are purchasing under the program and to examine how much support they are receiving in a given year or over a series of years. We will also be linking the E-rate program data with the IMLS Public Library Survey data to see how the E-rate program is affecting the character of public library services at the local level. So stay tuned.

[1] In this analysis a proxy participation rate was developed by comparing the number of unique E-rate program participants to the number of public libraries reported in the IMLS Public Library Survey. This proxy rate can exceed 100% because the thresholds for participation in the E-rate program are not identical to the threshold for inclusion in the IMLS Public Library in the United States survey.

Posted in Broadband, Research | Leave a comment