Journalism kids still do better:
NAA releases updated study
By Gerry Appel
Twenty-one years after a groundbreaking study revealed that high school journalism students perform better than their non-journalism classmates, a new study shows journalism students still perform strongly.
“High School Journalism Matters,” a study conducted by Jack Dvorak of Indiana University and released by the Newspaper Association of America, showed journalism students had a higher high school grade point average, ACT composite score, and higher scores in ACT English, compared to non-journalism students. Journalism students also had a higher college freshman GPA and did better in their first college English classes.
"I'm very pleased that the results are very similar as a general rule to the results we had about 25 years ago," Dvorak said. "Journalism kids continue to do better...in one part of the study, they did better in 12 out of 14 comparisons."
Of the 31,175 student respondents, 6,137 were on their school newspaper or yearbook. Not only did these journalism students do better in the classroom, they were also more likely to be involved in extra curricular activities or take a leadership position at school.
The statistics speak strongly on journalism’s behalf. For example:
-First year college GPAs are higher for students with high school journalism experience (2.80 vs. 2.73 GPA).
31.6 percent of journalism students were involved in student government, compared to 17.6 percent of non-journalists.
Journalism students had a higher English GPA compared to non-journalism students (3.52 vs. 3.37). GPAs were also higher in math, social studies, science, foreign language and art.
Candace Perkins Bowen, the director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, is pleased--but not surprised--by the results.
"It's encouraging to see research shows what those of us involved with student journalists have known all along: These are sharp kids who do well in school and beyond," Bowen said. "I hope the media write widely about these results and thus administrators and parents may realize high school publications have much more potential than what some might think. Being on a staff is a plus to those students and to the entire school and community."
Cheryl Pell, executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, echos these thoughts.
"At a time when schools are cutting journalism programs because of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and the movement to trimesters to get in new, stricter graduation requirements, I hope this study will be sent to every administrator, principal and school board member,"
"We in journalism have always known how valuable our curriculum is and all that it does to create strong students and responsible citizens, and this updated study acts to strengthen our stance."
Student media helps students learn a variety of skills, and the survey supports this notion, said Shawn Healy, resident scholar of the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum.
"Youth journalism teaches students strong research, writing, and verbal communication skills, while also helping them acquire general knowledge on a whole range of topics related to the broader academic curriculum," Healy said. "The NAA Foundation study findings further justify the universal existence of student newspapers and yearbooks at the secondary level."
One question that could be raised: do students do better because they are in journalism, or does journalism naturally attract stronger pupils?
"The study shows relationships and a strong pattern of success, it doesn't necessarily mean journalism has caused it, but it means journalism is a variable that is very important to these students' lives, which leads to enrichment of these students' lives," Dvorak said. "It gives them opportunities to use these skills such as critical thinking, making judgments having priorities, working with other students for a common goal, working with adults such as printers, and so on."
The study was conducted by utilizing responses from the student profile section of the ACT. Dvorak conducted a similar study, “Journalism Kids do Better” in 1987, finding similar results to the 2008 study.
Read the official press release for more details
Download the executive summary
Download a mp3 about the study with Sandy Woodcock, director of the NAA Foundation