*Washington’s SB 5626 is one of the worst carry-over bills from 2023 that we are watching closely moving into 2024. We already know expanding upon “Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship” is a priority for the legislature in 2024 as they have already had work sessions to start moving forward. This article is written by one of our Legislative Action Team members who is currently teaching in WA public schools. Please share and please engage in making your voice heard!
The educational buzz words Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship have been around for several years in Washington State. In 2017, a law Senate Bill 5449 was passed that required the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, OSPI, to create new standards for Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship. Last year, lawmakers tried to expand on the 2017 law, but it did not move forward. The expansion Senate Bill 5626 sought to incentivize school implementation by providing additional grant money and teacher training programs to schools that rolled out the new Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship curriculum.
Even though the expansion bill did not move forward last legislative session, OSPI already engaged in a pilot program with about 25 teachers and librarians during the 2022-2023 school year to start discussing ways to integrate Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship into curriculums. The outward premise of Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship is to teach kids to use technology appropriately and teach kids to use tools to think for themselves and find accurate and valid information. On the surface, this seems like a great idea especially since most older students have access to multiple technological devices like cell phones and computer devices. However, I become truly concerned any time the government looks to control the sources and types of information that are considered acceptable. Who are the gatekeepers of information and acceptable sources? Well we know the answer since Senate Bill 6273 in 2016 established an advisory committee and working group with members such as Lilia Cabello Drain, a Board Member at Action for Media Education, whose last LinkedIn post recommended “White Privilege / Black Power – A diversity & inclusion Improve Show” or Jessica Vavrus of WSSDA who posts on X that “Students as forces for societal change” while liking tweets that note “Climate change is not a separate issue; it must be the issue and the lens through which we view every issue.” In understanding who was on the committee, I worry we no longer aim to educate and train independent thinkers. Those on the committee seem to want to mold students in their own political and ideological image through controlling information. So of course, when I went to the OSPI to look for media literacy resources. I click on the link in the classroom resources section and it takes me to the OER Commons website. The first course listed is titled “Artists, Information Literacy & Climate Change.” Climate change isn’t the first thing I think of when Media Literacy comes up. As I scroll down to the other links on the this website, I come across one that says, “Digital Citizenship K- 5 th Grade Scope and Sequence.” There are lots of lessons listed for K-5 th students, but one that stood out to me was a 5 th Grade lesson listed is titled, “Beyond Gender Stereotypes.” I am curious what this type of lesson has to do with Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship?
Another document I found on OSPI’s website, Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship will be integrated into the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards during the 2026 School Year. Not homeroom, not maybe a technology or computer class, but English Language Arts, you know English class that is supposed to be about reading, writing, grammar, and the occasional 5 paragraph essay will now include media literacy. The OSPI Washington State Report Card website includes data on all things education. Data like how before Covid and the lockdowns students met standard in ELA and math at roughly 60% and 50% rates respectively. Covid and the lockdowns saw those numbers fall roughly 10% within the first year of “remote education”. Three years later with no recovery in proficiency and test scores some are calling this issue a “learning loss pandemic”. Combined with lower enrollment impacting district budgets OSPI continues to ignore the issue as our students fail to perform at levels significantly below that of just four years ago.
As teachers we continue to have OSPI push standard after standard and initiative after initiative that we by law have to follow and teach: Common Core, Media Literacy, Equitable Education, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Social Emotional Learning, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, Positive Behavior Intervention Systems. Every year brings another 3 or 4 letter catch phrase that will be forgetting soon. All those teacher training sessions that happen during those weekly half days aren’t about improving how we teach ELA or math, but instead its district and state training on those above OSPI initiatives.
Countless students aren’t reading at grade level across the state, but OSPI keeps pushing standard after standard that ignore the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, all the while scores continue to plummet. A big question I have is: How do we know that these new standards and curriculums aren’t going to have students using Wikipedia as a reliable source? Or only give “certain” places for students to find information that is completely one-sided and doesn’t actually teach them to think critically like OSPI says is this intent of Media Literacy? What proof prior to implementation shows these standards will benefit our students, or are they being rolled out so that those at OSPI can force the “societal change” they so desperately wish to see in your students?
So again, parents, community members, ask yourself this, is another new thing really what we should be focusing on in WA state schools or should we get back to the basics of learning?
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