A new report issued by a cross-sector coalition of civic and education organizations calls for New York State to take immediate and decisive steps to require media literacy education in K-12 schools throughout the state.

The report, titled Developing Digital Citizens: Media Literacy Education for all Students, asserts that the state has been remiss in failing to equip schools to help students meet existing media literacy education standards, particularly in districts that predominantly serve low-income students and students of color. Stressing that “the internet has become the new public square” and that “to be democracy ready, all students must be media literate,” it recommends:  

  • All schools be staffed with school library media specialists, whose licensing requires extensive media literacy training.
  • All districts be required to provide access to professional development for teachers around media literacy.
  • The New York Board of Regents consider adding a dedicated one-semester course in media literacy for all ninth-graders as part of its review of graduation requirements.
  • The state education department conduct a detailed survey to learn the current state of media literacy education and media literacy education resources in all schools.

[Read the full text of Developing Digital Citizens: Media Literacy Education for all Students.”]

Prepared by Teachers College’s Center for Educational Equity (CEE), the report was issued by DemocracyReady NY, a statewide, nonpartisan, intergenerational coalition that works collectively to advance the right of all New York students to graduate from high school prepared for civic participation.  

The current crisis underscores the importance of media literacy and the urgency of effective media literacy education.

— Jessica Wolff, Policy Director, TC's Center for Educational Equity

While the report was prepared well in advance of the coronavirus pandemic and designed to be implemented in the context of traditional, in-classroom schooling, many of its recommendations are easily adaptable to a remote learning environment. If anything, “the current crisis underscores the importance of media literacy and the urgency of effective media literacy education,” said CEE Policy Director Jessica Wolff, who coauthored the report with CEE Executive Director Michael Rebell and TC doctoral student Ann LoBue.

Jessica R. Wolff
GIVING THE COALITION A VOICE Wolff, with CEE colleague Michaell Rebell and doctoral student Ann LoBue, coauthored the new report. (Photo: TC Archives)

“The current crisis has demonstrated that the ability to identify reliable news and information is not only a staple for civic health, but can literally mean the difference between life and death,” added Howard Schneider, Executive Director of the Center for News Literacy at the SUNY Stony Brook School of Journalism.

[Read a story on the importance of media literacy that ran on TC’s website. Read about the development by TC faculty and students of LAMBOOZLED!, a media literacy teaching game.]

Noting that many well-regarded media literacy lessons and curricula already are available (often at no charge), the report recommends a five-part media literacy education framework oriented toward equity:

  1. Clear, inclusive P-12 state standards for media literacy, compiled drawing from the many key media literacy skills and competencies in existing state standards.
  2. Qualified personnel for teaching media literacy, and professional development for all teachers in teaching media literacy.
  3. Suitable media literacy education curricula and course offerings, both across the curriculum and as a stand-alone subject.  
  4. Up-to-date facilities, instructional materials, and technology, including a well-equipped, up-to-date library media center for each school, as required under existing state law.
  5. Transparent monitoring and reporting of media literacy education resources and results, including a statewide survey to create a baseline from which progress can be measured.

Leading educators and experts on media literacy hailed the report.

“In our digital culture, media literacy is literacy for the real world,” said Faith Rogow, co-author, The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy: Critical Thinking in a Multimedia World. “To ensure all students have access to this essential new literacy, DemocracyReady NY’s Developing Digital Citizens report provides a practical and compelling roadmap for New York State.”

The ability to identify reliable news and information is not only a staple for civic health, but can literally mean the difference between life and death. 

— Howard Schneider, Executive Director, Center for News Literacy, SUNY Stony Brook School of Journalism

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, said that Developing Digital Citizens: Media Literacy Education for ALL Students “presents an effective and necessary plan to bring media literacy education to New York State classrooms and ensure students are prepared and ready to participate fully in the world they will soon lead.”

"Now more than ever media literacy needs to become infused in basic education offerings and available to all students,” said TC alumna Lorna Lewis (Ed.D. ’92), Superintendent of Schools, Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District. “This timely report offers useful recommendations for ensuring every school is prepared to deliver media literacy education to support students in navigating a changing world." 

Jen Cannell, President of the New York Library Association (NYLA) Council said, “It has been a longstanding position of NYLA that all children deserve a comprehensive education – which includes media literacy curricula as taught by teachers and library media specialists. I applaud the work of DemocracyReady NY, and look forward to working together on this important issue in the future.”

Erin McNeill, President of Media Literacy Now, said, “The DemocracyReady NY report makes clear the connection between media literacy, civic participation, and equity in our society. To ensure equal participation in the policy decisions that affect our health, our opportunities–every aspect of our lives–it is essential all schools can provide access to an education that is adequate and relevant in today’s world. Media Literacy Now congratulates the Coalition for confronting the systemic barriers to effective civic participation and for presenting a roadmap for New York and other states to follow.”

The report was also endorsed by Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean at Syracuse University, and former President of the American Library Association, who said, “Media literacy is a cornerstone of the critical and creative thinking skills that all students must develop to become active and productive contributors to our democratic society. Developing Digital Citizens recognizes the imperative that every student must continuously build the skills and competencies of media literacy throughout the years of schooling. The five-part framework recommended in this report to embed media literacy into New York’s educational system is insightful, clear, evidence-based, and essential. State education officials at all levels should read the report and start to implement all five recommendations. New York’s students cannot wait.”

And Ted McConnell, Senior Policy Advisor for the CivXNow Coalition, called the report “a superb guide that meets the need of school districts and states for policies and practices that promote safe and accurately informed digital citizenship.”

The DemocracyReady NY Coalition is convened by TC’s Center for Educational Equity. Its members are educators, researchers, academics, students, parents, advocates, youth-development specialists, legal experts, and civic leaders.  Under the Coalition’s banner, a broad and diverse group works together to strengthen the state’s education policy and practice to ensure all New York’s schools are fully equipped and supported to meet their students’ civic-learning needs.