Responsibilities of today’s principals run the gamut from coping with the results of school levies to integrating the latest in online learning. As school chief administrators, they hear parental objections to parking restrictions and teacher worries about outdated technology. The backdrop of day-to-day concerns includes a constant worry about school security, changing state and national standards and trends in student assessment.
None of it’s easy, especially when the primary concerns – helping students learn and getting them ready to make wise decisions for college, career and life in a democracy – can almost get lost in the shuffle.
With so many issues facing today’s administrators, why worry about maintaining a journalism program or supporting student media? Production could be costly, and investigative reporters may uncover situations that make the school look less than perfect.
Students who work on high school media learn critical thinking, researching, interviewing, writing and editing for an audience while working together as a team. In schools with strong journalism programs, students also learn how a free and responsible press can improve their school communities by informing, entertaining and influencing their audience. They model civics in action.
Those with student media experience get better high school grades overall, outscore others on ACT tests, and earn higher grades in college, according to Jack Dvorak, Ph.D., Indiana University, author of the NAA Foundation’s “High School Journalism Matters” (2008) and portions of “Journalism Kids Do Better” (1994).
Not only do students who participate in school media improve their basic academic skills, but they also understand more than other students about their rights and responsibilities in a democracy. “Future of the First Amendment,” national surveys by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, show an alarming lack of knowledge and concern about basic freedoms in the 100,000 teens surveyed. But those who took journalism courses or participated in their school newspapers or other media understood those freedoms better and were more willing to let others express opposing views.
The National Council of Teachers of English also reaffirmed the value of journalism courses when it passed a resolution to support “maintaining, reinstating or creating journalism programs and courses; and (promoting) the value of journalism programs that, under the guidance of a qualified journalism educator, give students a voice and allow them to exercise their constitutional right of free speech.”
Administrators should support scholastic journalism courses because they fulfill the requirements of today’s educational initiatives, including Common Core State Standards, Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Career Technical Education.
Common Core State Standards
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, which most states adopted, are not the threat to high school journalism some feared. In fact, some of the components may work better in journalism classes than in traditional literature or composition classes. As David Coleman of Student Achievement Partners and one of the authors of the Common Core State Standards says, a student must “read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.”
Partnership for 21st Century Skills
To define 21st-century readiness, a group of educators and business/technology leaders developed a skills framework in 2002 that has become known as the P21 Rainbow.
Good journalism education fits well with the P21 model, but the strongest connection lies in the learning and innovation skills – the 4C’s – (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication), plus another P21 piece: Information, Media and Technology Skills.
Career Technical Education
Although journalism is often an offshoot of the English department in many high schools, in some it may fit better under the umbrella of CTE pathways. Print publications (newspapers, magazines and yearbooks), radio and video broadcast programs, photojournalism and online news content count in some districts under the federally identified Arts, A/V Technology & Communications cluster. Almost all states recognize broadcast video production, and many schools implement their video programs with a focus on broadcast journalism.
The Journalism Education Association is working to establish an even better “fit” for journalism under the federal career cluster definition by examining how JEA’s established certification process may become an acceptable path to state CTE teacher certification and by developing a student branch that CTE federal mandates require.
Clearly, scholastic journalism is a value-added program that aligns with all these initiatives. These programs are invaluable to students as they become better writers and thinkers, and to the community as these students learn to value democracy and civic engagement. Administrators who support scholastic journalism programs and encourage participation in training opportunities help build the foundation for tomorrow’s journalists, media consumers and concerned citizens.
Career Technical Education (CTE)
Common Core Standards
Partnerships in the 21st Century skills
Journalism Educator Standards
Hiring the qualified adviser
The value of empowering student decision-making
Six principles behind news literacy
Media literate consumers
Civic engagement and journalism