Journalism teachers learn new media skills at a Michigan Interscholastic Press Association workshop at the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

Journalism teachers learn new media skills at a Michigan Interscholastic Press Association workshop at the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

MIPA recently was alerted to a plan by the Michigan Department of Education to phase out journalism as an endorsement area for teachers in our state. If that happens, we’ve been told journalism would likely be folded into an English endorsement – but there is no plan yet for how that would happen.

The journalism education community was not consulted as MDE drafted this plan. We believe we have a very short window of time to convince MDE that this plan is a mistake. They plan to take an additional action by the end of this month that would continue to move this plan forward.

MIPA is asking for your help to educate MDE staff about the importance of journalism education and the unique needs of student media advisers.

Michigan certification standards now allow teachers with endorsements in a variety of areas to teach journalism-related classes. This gives schools flexibility in filling positions (which can be important), and we all know great student media advisers who are not endorsed in journalism.

But we also know that there is no other subject area endorsement that addresses the unique needs of student media advisers, and MIPA regularly sees how challenging the transition into a student media classroom can be for teachers who have no journalism education training.

That’s why MIPA and national journalism education groups advocate for the journalism endorsement as a best practice for student media advisers.

What you can do to help

Write a letter (email is OK) to Michigan Department of Education. (Information on who to write is below.)

  1. Briefly introduce yourself (Example: I am a journalism teacher at Ridgemont High School …; etc.)
  2. Ask that the Department of Education reverse its plan to phase out the journalism endorsement for Michigan teachers.
  3. Briefly talk about ONE or TWO reasons why the journalism endorsement is important to you. You might talk about how your journalism courses are different from the other classes you teach, how journalism builds skills to help students be career- and college-ready or how being endorsed in journalism helped you improve your own skills to advise student media. Be specific and focused – you don’t have to cover all the important reasons to support journalism certification in this one letter. We’ve included some ideas below – but make sure to put whatever you write into your own words.
  4. Include your full name, address and phone number.
  5. Send your email or letter to the individuals named below and send a copy to MIPA ([email protected]):

Letters should be sent to the following two MDE staff members:

Dr. Sarah-Kate LaVan
Manager, Professional Preparation and Learning
Office of Professional Preparation Services
Michigan Department of Education
608 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-0874
[email protected]

Dr. Sean Kottke
Education Consultant
Office of Professional Preparation Services
Michigan Department of Education
608 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909
517-373-7861
[email protected]

Why is the journalism endorsement important?

Although journalism courses often are placed in a school’s English department, a journalism teacher’s responsibilities go beyond what most English or language arts curriculum requires.

  • State and national journalism education groups advocate certification as the best way to ensure journalism teachers have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the classroom. (Statement on journalism standards from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication; Journalism Education Association national certification standards)
  • Michigan’s certification standards give schools flexibility to fill journalism-related classes (such as newspaper, yearbook and video production) with teachers who have endorsements in a variety of subject areas. However, few of those other subject areas provide any training focused on the unique challenges of advising student media.
  • In addition to the core literacy skills expected by today’s language arts education standards, journalism teaches students about media literacy, civic engagement, leadership skills, cooperative processes, media law and ethics, fiscal responsibility, visual communication (including photography and broadcast) and the evolving use of technology to communicate messages.
  • Journalism teachers have distinct needs that are different from most English teachers. That’s one of the reasons why the Assembly for Advisers of Student Publications is the largest assembly within the National Council of Teachers of English.
  • The journalism endorsement provides professional teachers and prospective teachers the clearest possible path to gain the skills and knowledge to be successful in a journalism classroom, which includes classes such as journalism, writing for publications, yearbook and news/video production. Eliminating this endorsement area would give schools fewer options to staff teaching positions for these classes.

Michigan has long had a vibrant scholastic journalism community, with teachers coming from a variety diverse and often complementary subject areas.

  • Nearly every middle and high school in Michigan has some form of journalism-related activity via newspaper, yearbook or broadcast programs.
  • Michigan was among the first states to form a scholastic journalism group when the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association was founded in 1921. Thousands of students and more than 200 teachers from across the state participate in MIPA programs each year.
  • Michigan is a top 15 state in membership for teachers in the national Journalism Education Association.
  • Journalism attracts teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, recognizing the broad liberal arts roots of the subject area. Among other endorsement areas of MIPA’s student media teachers: English, language arts, arts education, history, Spanish, science, math, economics, psychology, French, business education, political science, and vocational technical studies, among others.

Robust journalism programs help students become college- and career-ready through the practical application of writing, development of strong research skills, real-world use of technology, and encouragement of civic engagement.

  • Journalism students learn how to evaluate the credibility of information they get from social media, news organizations and interest groups. These skills are more important than ever in today’s age of social media and “fake news.”
  • A national study, “Why Journalism Matters” by Indiana University Professor Jack Dvorak, found that students who work on high school newspapers and yearbooks:
    • get better grades in high school;
    • earn higher scores on the ACT;
    • achieve better grades in their first year of college.
  • A study by the University of Kansas found that students who are in the supportive environment of a journalism classroom are more motivated to be engaged citizens as adults.