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August 2014

President's Message
Dear NLP Friends and Supporters,

“How do you know that you’re having an impact?”

For some nonprofits, this can be difficult to answer. For NLP, it’s a question we welcome.

We know that we’re making a difference by observing teachers and journalists deliver our lessons. By the outstanding projects that students complete. Through the letters that educators send us detailing the value of our programs in their schools.

Underpinning our understanding of NLP’s effectiveness are the voluminous quantitative and qualitative data that we collect each school year. Our pre- and post-unit surveys of students measure changes in their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. We augment this information with surveys of teachers and journalist fellows.

In this month’s Spotlight, we summarize the gratifying results from our extensive 2013-14 assessment report.

In NLP News, we share developments that will help us increase our capacity to deliver even better outcomes in the 2014-15 school year. Our Profile features Pierre Thomas, the senior Justice Department correspondent at ABC News and one of the many accomplished journalists who help us achieve these impressive results.

We are grateful for your support and participation that allow us to have this kind of impact.

As always, we welcome your partnership as we embark on making our seventh year in the classroom our most ambitious, effective and far-reaching yet.

All the best,


Alan C. Miller








The Council on Foundations' annual conference in June featured a session on news literacy moderated by Ray Suarez of Al Jazeera America (above). NLP President Alan Miller and NLP board member Alison Bernstein and two other panelists discussed the importance of the news literacy to education, the future of quality journalism and the health of our democracy.

NLP in the News

NLP President Alan Miller discussed news literacy with three other guests on public radio’s "The Diane Rehm Show" on Aug. 19. If you missed it, you can listen to the full segment here.  At the end of the show, Rehm said of NLP’s programs: "I wish you all success, because I think the entire population at this point needs something like that!"

Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president for educational programs, leads professional development training for social studies teachers during Chicago Public Schools’ Department of Literacy Summer Institute in July. Photo by David Pierini

NLP News
New Staff Members, Student Advisers, News Partner and Learn Channel Lesson

NLP is pleased to announce two new members of our team, our third and fourth hires this year.

Connie Lesch joined us this summer as a part-time executive assistant to the president. She has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit marketing and public outreach and has also served as a volunteer on community and school boards. Connie has a master’s degree in business administration from Rice University.

This week Tamara Johnson came on staff as our New York program coordinator. She was selected from an impressive and diverse field of more than 160 applicants based on her broad experience in education, journalism and program coordination.

In December, Tamara will complete her master’s degree at the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs. Her NLP position is funded with support from the Ford Foundation and the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation.

In other news, a newly reconstituted youth advisory committee will contribute student perspectives on NLP’s programs and activities. Its initial members are Carlos McKnight, a senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School in Washington, D.C.; Jennifer Mondragon, a senior at John Hancock College Prep High School in Chicago; and Max Jones, a recent high school graduate from Toronto, who at age 12 started an online news outlet for student reporters.

We're also pleased to announce that Politico has become the 26th news organization to participate with NLP. Its journalists will be informed about volunteer opportunities with the project, and the publication will host occasional events.

Finally, in our eighth Learn Channel lesson, Thuan Elston, an editorial board member at USA Today, explains how she and her colleagues select and approach their subjects and discusses how students can apply these processes to their own persuasive writing. We encourage you to share the link to this lesson and to check out the other news literacy lessons on the Learn Channel as well.

photo of students doing du in Chicago  

Karen Toulon, Bloomberg’s New York bureau chief, congratulates Heaven Bush, a student at MS 57 in East Harlem, during a June event celebrating NLP’s after-school newspaper program with Bloomberg.
Photo by Meredith W. Goncalves

  Maggie O’Neil, a mass media student at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, looks on as freelance photojournalist Damaso Reyes speaks to her class from Switzerland via Skype in May.
Photo by Meredith W. Goncalves

NLP Spotlight
Demonstrating Impressive Impact in All NLP Programs

Quantitative and qualitative information from students and teachers gathered throughout the 2013-14 school year consistently shows that NLP’s programs are achieving their goals by changing students’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors about news and information.

Detailed reports compiled by Anita Baker, the project’s evaluation consultant, reflect the impact of NLP’s classroom, after-school and digital programs in middle schools and high schools in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Fairfax County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md.

“The results show that NLP is consistently reaching its goal to help students navigate news and information in the digital world,” Baker said.

“Gains were again emphatically confirmed by teachers. Further, students from both the classroom and digital unit programs and from both high schools and middle schools consistently gave NLP high marks and were able to articulate what they learned and why they found NLP so useful.”

She said the reports were based on “a very robust set of data covering all of NLP's programs in numerous schools across multiple cities, involving many teachers and more than 2,000 students, with extremely consistently positive findings throughout.”

Because of NLP, the reports found, students increased their knowledge of the First Amendment and the watchdog role of the news media in a democracy and gained greater understanding of the primary purpose of advertising and the importance of knowing who created an online video in order to assess its credibility.

Students’ changes in attitudes are reflected in their increased value of a free press and its role in a democracy, an increased sense of responsibility in creating and sharing reliable information, and greater appreciation for exercising civility, respect and care in online communities.

In terms of behaviors, students who took an NLP unit said they were more interested in the news and consumed it more frequently, especially newspapers; were more inclined to check the credibility of news or information before sharing it; and were more likely to vote in elections.

In addition, more than 75% of the high school students who did NLP classroom units in the 2013-14 school year and completed our surveys said they gained the following: a basic understanding of what news literacy is and why it matters; an appreciation for the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment; the ability to seek out news that will make them more knowledgeable about their communities, the nation and the world; and a greater understanding of what distinguishes quality journalism from other sources of news and information.

The student data is supported by the extremely positive results from educators. Teachers who completed surveys overwhelmingly said that upon completing NLP units, their students demonstrated a gain in their ability to identify credible information and appreciation, awareness and knowledge of news literacy concepts introduced by NLP.

Nearly all the teachers said that the NLP curriculum had helped them meet required teaching standards and that they would continue to use news literacy lessons in their classrooms even if they were unable to partner with NLP.

The reports also contain extensive comments by students and teachers as well as the results of surveys of NLP journalist fellows who made in-person and remote presentations. A summary of the findings can be found here.

Pierre Thomas, senior Justice Department correspondent at ABC News, has been involved with NLP since 2009, when he spoke at the project’s kickoff event for the Washington, D.C., region.
Photo by Tyrone Turner

NLP Profile
Pierre Thomas: Tapping Into an Appetite for News

The high school students listened raptly, seated in a semicircle around their visitor, Pierre Thomas, the senior Justice Department correspondent at ABC News. He was describing the challenge of reporting on traumatic breaking news — specifically, an event he had covered just a few months before: the July 20, 2012, mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded.

Thomas recounted how he had to contend with the intense whirlwind of information, misinformation and speculation about the shooting, consult with informed sources to verify each new piece that he reported, and remain dispassionate as he delivered disturbing news on the air over many days and with little sleep. The students at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School in Washington, D.C., nodded solemnly and asked thoughtful questions.

Those lessons were still sinking in when, less than 24 hours later, Thomas was dispatched to cover another horrific mass shooting, this one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Now the students watched in real time as Thomas delivered live reports on television for days afterwards. Nearly every important news literacy concept that Thomas had discussed grimly played out on their television screens.

Thomas has been one of NLP’s most compelling and high-profile journalist fellows right from the start. In February 2009 he was one of two featured journalists at the kickoff event for NLP’s D.C.-region program at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md.

Then, in 2011, he discussed concerns about anonymous sources with 8th graders at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, and he was interviewed for a "PBS NewsHour" report on NLP.

“There’s a lot at stake,” Thomas said in the “NewsHour” report, emphasizing the importance of giving students the tools to become informed citizens in a democracy.

A member of NLP’s Washington, D.C., advisory committee, Thomas joined ABC News in 2000. He has also worked at The Washington Post and CNN.

In April, he and his colleague Martha Raddatz were featured at a VIP breakfast for NLP at the network’s Washington bureau. Thomas also appears in “News Literacy Is…," a video featuring NLP teachers and students.

THE NEWS LITERACY PROJECT (NLP) is an innovative national educational program that mobilizes seasoned journalists and works with educators to help middle school and high school students sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

Click here to learn more about NLP and visit NLP's YouTube channel.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support NLP, you can do so here.

NLP thanks its major funders and all those whose support makes our program possible.

Copyright (c) 2014 The News Literacy Project. All rights reserved.