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Recognizing the Importance of Scholastic Journalism

This blog post is by NCTE member  Alana Rome. It is the first in a weekly series

Alana RomeMost successful and passionate educators consistently advocate for a particular issue or philosophy. I’m currently reading Penny Kittle’s Book Love, and her pedological crusade involves creating passion, stamina and autonomy in students’ reading, creating lifelong readers that are prepared for the rigor of college and beyond.

Over the past four years, my goal as an educator has evolved into advocating for scholastic journalism, by promoting its value in schools and its ability to enhance and enrich English study. In an age where No Child Left Behind still reins supreme as The Every Student Succeeds Act; states grapple with adopting PARCC and SBAC assessments; and districts nationwide continue to cut budgets, aspects of education that do not expressly deal with core content areas seemingly become expendable.

I am here to prove that turning away from “elective” programs like journalism will not benefit students in our apparent goal to make them “college and career ready.” In fact, several conducted studies indicate the opposite: Involvement in scholastic journalism and newspaper programs correlate with higher standardized test scores and better college GPAs. These programs also improve students’ critical thinking, research, communicative and writing skills; but that’s a much deeper conversation for another blog post.

My initiative to promote scholastic journalism came alive last year with a proposition from my supervisor and superintendent: to teach a part-time class load, and dedicate the rest of my time to renovating our journalism and newspaper program. With no end goal or desired result communicated, I was left to my own devices to find ways to improve and advance our program.

In order to chronicle my journey, document my progress for administration, and help out fellow journalism teachers and advisers tasked with the same initiative, I created my blog, The Trials of Trailblazing, a play on our newspaper name, Trailblazer. On a weekly basis, I discuss our successes, failures, goals, fears and ideas. My hope is that advisers and teachers will read my blog, learn from my journey, or at the very least, become inspired and empowered to execute their own ideas.  

Alana Rome is an English teacher, newspaper adviser for Trailblazer, and soon-to-be journalism teacher at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, NJ. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in English education, grades 7-12, both from Iona College. Alana is a contributor of English Leadership Quarterly and has provided professional development sessions at EdScape, Global Education Conference, and Columbia Scholastic Press Association on a variety of topics, including global awareness, authentic assessment, classroom technology integration and student goal-setting.