NLP began its first classroom unit on Jan. 20 with four sections of 117 eighth-grade English students at Lanier Middle School in central Houston. The unit is expected to continue for a month.
Lanier has a notable place in journalism history: Walter Cronkite, the iconic former CBS News anchor, attended the school in its inaugural year, 1927, and worked on the staff of its student newspaper.
"The News Literacy Project has been an eye-opening experience for my students," said Dwaine Yeargin, the English teacher whose class is doing the pilot program. "Not only are they thinking in new ways about how the news gets reported, but they are also thinking more critically about the need for standards and accountability."
Additional pilot classroom programs are scheduled this spring. These will be delivered in ninth-grade communication classes at St. Agnes Academy in the Sharpstown area west of the city and in nine-grade world geography classes at KIPP Northeast College Prep High School in northeast Houston. NLP is also working with a KIPP high school in New York City.
NLP is expected to reach a total of 225 students this spring in the three Houston schools. The project is seeking to raise funds from foundations, corporations and individuals to expand the program and reach more educators and students throughout Houston.
The Houston Chronicle is a local partner. The paper hosted a VIP lunch last June welcoming the organization to the city. Officials from the Houston Independent School District and representatives from foundations, leaders of educational nonprofits, and teachers and administrators attended.
The initial members of NLP's Houston advisory committee are Andrea White, a member of the Houston Chronicle's editorial board and the former first lady of the city, and Dr. Scott Van Beck, a former superintendent and the executive director of Houston A+ Challenge.
The Houston expansion has been spearheaded by consultant Tina L. Peterson, who has a doctorate in mass media and communication and has taught media studies and journalism at the college level for seven years. She is also a member of the Leadership Council of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE).