High schools can elect to weight journalism


By Karen T. Braeckel
HSPA Foundation

High school students could use a little help from their friends (even though they may not know the decades-old, popular Beatles’ song).

The HSPA Foundation board of directors passed a resolution March 7 asking publishers and editors to join a circle of supporters for high school journalism. (You can find the text of the statement at the bottom of this page.)

Your actions can make a big difference in recruiting top-notch future journalists now that the Indiana Department of Education classifies the granting of credits for honors diplomas as a matter of local control. School boards do not need State Board of Education approval.

In December I wrote about the dilemma Samantha Strong, a freshman at IU, faced when she chose journalism over an honors class in high school. The decision probably cost her the rank of valedictorian of her class.

She wrote in an article for the Indiana High School Press Association, “While the (Advanced Placement) program is great in terms of encouraging students to challenge themselves in the classroom and take more advanced courses, it is not great for subjects such as the arts and journalism.

“Many students neglect such courses because they are not weighted and would bring down their GPAs, making students less competitive when it comes to class ranking.”

For the past year IHSPA Executive Director Diana Hadley worked to get the policy changed for journalism.

As a journalism teacher for 33 years, she knows firsthand how writing, design, photography, critical thinking and self-management challenge students. Yet the subject matter never seemed to earn enough respect to receive honors recognition.

In recent years the tide began to turn.

At least four high schools – Munster, Carmel, Floyd Central and Bishop Chatard – now recognize journalism as a weighted class.

With the new information released by the Indiana Department of Education March 5 at IHSPA’s First Amendment Symposium at the Statehouse, all schools can add journalism to the list of honors classes.

The (state of) Washington Journalism Education Association blog says in 2008 the Newspaper Associ­ation of America reaffirmed the findings of a 1987 study that found students with journalism experience had better grades and standardized college entrance test scores than students without it.

The study sampled slightly more than 31,000 college students – with roughly 20 percent having experience on their high school newspaper and/or yearbook.

The findings showed statistically higher scores in high school grade point average, ACT composite score, ACT English score, college freshman English grades and college freshman grade point average.

The study also shows conclusively that high school journalism experience translates into better college performance in several key areas – ability to express oneself clearly and reason incisively.

“If nothing else, we can conclude that high school newspaper and yearbook staff involvement is an excellent outlet for talented, active and involved students,” the study concludes. “It also gives them a chance to apply their natural leadership abilities while also exercising their critical thinking, designing and writing skills.”

Trish Whitcomb Sipes, DOE senior adviser to the superintendent, spoke to students, advisers and parents at the symposium on Glenda Ritz’s behalf.

“A well-informed citizenry is the best defender of freedom, and it is only when you students take the challenge of encouraging participation, preserving democracy and advocating what is best for all citizens that the promise of America can be delivered,” Sipes said.

Just as I found publishers and editors unaware of the situation, local school board members also may not know.

The HSPA Foundation urges you to reach out to superintendents and/or school boards in your community to elevate journalism classes to academic honors status.

Publishing editorials in support of the move could motivate parents and others to back the change as well.

Not making the change discourages the brightest students from taking the courses that could affect their GPAs negatively.

As the Beatles sang, “We can work it out.”

Internship update

This time of year I hear the same question numerous times – Did I get an intern?

I answer, “I don’t know yet.”

The Pulliam Intern Selection Committee met for over five hours last week to choose this year’s group. It will take about two weeks to assign them. We will let you know by the end of the month where you fared.

Students could apply for the new advertising internships through Friday, March 14.

We will announce both in the next issue of The Publisher.

Karen T. Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation.