Resolution on the Importance of Journalism Courses and Programs in English Curricula
2004 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana
Many school districts have recently cut or eliminated journalism courses and student media. Budget cuts, emphasis on state curriculum standards, and remedial classes, as well as attempts to restrict students’ speech and press rights, have contributed to the decline in the number and the quality of journalism programs.
Their loss is a blow to English curricula; journalism classes, including publications classes, are valuable courses.
According to Applying NCTE/IRA Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects (published by NCTE and JEA), “journalism courses and the often extracurricular media they produce [are] excellent ways to teach a vast range of high school, junior high/middle school, and even elementary school content” (Bowen and Tantillo). As school districts across the country become standards-based, it is imperative that journalism courses be recognized for their ability to meet the NCTE/IRA standards.
More than that, journalism helps “students become better thinkers, better communicators, and, as a result, better citizens” (Bowen and Tantillo).
The Journalism Education Association maintains its relationship with NCTE through the Assembly for Advisers of Student Publications. This assembly, which includes all members of the Journalism Education Association, serves advisers of student media by supporting free and responsible scholastic journalism; by providing resources and educational opportunities; by promoting professionalism; by encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement; and by fostering an atmosphere that encompasses diversity yet builds unity.
Publication is an essential part of the writing process. Ensio and Boxeth comment on the enormous value of publishing to any writing program: “Not only does publication encourage students to write by creating purpose and vision, but it also serves to improve writing skills.” Writing is vital to all publications, whether print, broadcast, or digital media.
In its Writing Framework and Specification for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the National Assessment Governing Board recognizes the benefits of student publishing:
Developing student writers are expected to achieve an increasingly broad and deep knowledge and understanding of the value of writing in their lives, of their own individual writing processes, of the range of writing strategies available to them, and of the benefits of sharing and publishing their writing for a wider audience.
Furthermore, “Publications work is authentic assessment at its best: a synthesis of analysis and critical thinking, planning, and relating to an audience beyond the classroom, and performance-based outcomes. Student work leads naturally to a portfolio of specific completed tasks, and publications skills positively support school-to-career progress” (Graff).
It is important to note that a body of research provides data showing that students who participate in journalism programs do better on testing and college language arts courses. In Journalism Kids Do Better (Dvorak, Lain, Dickson), research shows students who take journalistic writing courses score higher on the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition exam than students who take only AP or honors English courses.
They also score higher on college entrance exams such as the ACT. “We’ve done a number of research studies that show that high school journalism is equal to or exceeds standard English [courses], Dvorak said. “Journalism students’ writing skills, their sensitivity to audience, their use of grammar, punctuation, spelling, their concern with accuracy, their use of sources -- all of these things tended to be significantly higher in their performances.”
It has been twenty years since the NCTE passed a resolution on accepting journalism courses in English curricula. In the intervening years, journalism programs have responded to the changing nature of publishing and have diversified into a variety of media, including on-line, print, and broadcasting despite recent pressures seeking their extinction. Now is the time for the NCTE to recognize and promote journalism as a vital part of the discipline of English.
Bowen, Candace Perkins, and Susan Hathaway Tantillo. NCTE/IRA Standards in Classroom Journalism Projects. (NCTE and JEA: Urbana, Ill.), 2002.
Dvorak, Jack, Larry Lain and Tom Dickson. Journalism Kids Do Better: What Research Tells Us About High School Journalism. (ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication: Bloomington, Ind), 1994.
Ensio, Tobi C., and Krystal R. Boxeth. “The Effects of Publishing on Student Attitude toward Writing.” (ERIC Research Report: University of Virginia), 2000.
Graff, Patricia. “Standards in the Journalism Classroom.” State of Scholastic Journalism: Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism. (Quill and Scroll Foundation: University of Iowa), 2003.
Writing Framework and Specification for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress. (National Assessment Governing Board: U.S. Department of Education), 1998.
Be it therefore
Resolved, in light of recent cuts to journalism programs and challenges to the value of journalism and student media courses, that the National Council of Teachers of English develop a policy statement that
• reaffirms the value of journalism courses as part of the English language arts curriculum;
• supports maintaining, reinstating, or creating journalism programs and courses; and
• promotes 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.
Be it further resolved, that NCTE
• working through the Assembly for Advisers of Student Publications, strengthen its relationship with the Journalism Education Association to provide leadership that supports journalism courses and programs at all levels of education; and
highlight and support the professional contributions and continuing development of journalism educators through NCTE publications and other means.