Recently, one of our faculty members, Sarah Cavanah, along with coauthors Piotr Bobkowski and Patrick Miller at University of Kansas, published a new article in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator. The article is called “Who are the ‘Journalism Kids?’ Academic Predictors of Journalism Participation in Secondary Schools.”
This article puts to rest one portion of a 30-year issue in scholastic journalism research. We have a lot of studies that show students who participate in high school journalism do better on all sorts of markers, like ACT/SAT scores, writing assessments, and first-year GPA in college. However, all these studies were nagged by the problem that it was impossible to say whether journalism makes kids do better or whether journalism attracts better kids. This stayed a problem because you need a lot of data to really decide. Otherwise you can’t control for different factors like gender, income, etc. and you don’t have enough statistical power to really find effects. In this first study, we use a large longitudinal data set kept by the Department of Education to determine who is choosing to take high school journalism courses and participate in extra-curricular journalism programs. The answer is that it is true that students with “better” markers tend to take journalism courses. They have more confidence in their English skills than other students, higher English GPAs, greater overall involvement in school, have higher socioeconomic status, and tend to me female and White (both of which tend to match with higher academic achievement in high school). So, journalism attracts the kinds of students more likely to succeed on academic measures.
With the answer to whether journalism just attracts better students, the next part of this study uses the same data to measure what the actual effect of journalism course are on academic achievement. Those results should come out in the next couple years.
To read the article, follow this link: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1077695815622770