NJ Passes First Ever K-12 Information Literacy Education Law

By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – All New Jersey K-12 students will have required instruction on informational literacy under the New Jersey Student Learning Standards that aims to teach students how to locate, evaluate, and use needed information.

 The bipartisan legislation (S588) signed by Governor Phil Murphy on January 4 preps students to be accustomed to how to properly assess information which includes media, visual, digital, textual, and technological pieces of literacy. 

According to an article posted on the Rowan University website, the new education law will      “teach the research process and how information is created and produced; critical thinking and using information resources; research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources; the difference between facts, points of view and opinions; accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources; the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information; and the ethical production of information.”

On the Office of the Governor website it says, “in April 2022, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness launched a disinformation portal to assist the public in identifying and vetting any truth-obscuring, manufactured information.” 

Because of this new piece of legislation, a committee run by the Commission of the Department of Education must include certified school library media specialists and teaching staff members to develop the information literacy standards for New Jersey Schools. As this is a new piece of legislation, the state says that it is an effective opportunity for teachers to enhance student’s knowledge on information literacy. It has also been ultimately decided that the public may have input on information literacy as well as being reviewed by experts as the teaching is advancing.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, information on news platforms and social media is not always correct. A lot of children and even adults can take in disinformation and believe it is true solely because  it is on the internet. Furthermore, disinformation can be extremely harmful because it can lead to panic within the United States and lead to the distrust of the government. With rumors floating around throughout the media, it can be hard for people to know who to trust.

Senator Shirley Turner, who is a primary sponsor for the bill, proclaims that, “this signing feels especially timely as we approach the two year anniversary of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol. It is incredibly important that our children are taught how to discern reliable sources and recognize false information.” 

Professor Olga Polites, a professor since 1999 at Rowan University, helped create the bipartisan legislation because she presumes that, “in the 21st century, media literacy is as important as reading or math literacy,” she stated. “The ability for students to navigate the complex digital world we live in is a high priority, and this law will help them do that.”

According to Murphy, the state of our democracy depends on strong information literacy. 

“Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of disinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse,” Murphy said in a press release from his office. “It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”

Professor Polites shares that her hope for this new law is to educate students and to have students become, “more competent information consumers so they will not fall prey to disinformation. 

They will be able to protect themselves from online harm, improve their physical, emotional, and financial well-being, and become more civically engaged citizens.”

Nicole Cocco, a fourth and fifth grade ESL teacher in South Jersey believes that younger children may not fully understand the concept of how literacy information is formatted or even have any interest in the topic.

“It could be very beneficial but for older grades,” Cocco said. “I feel like my class, for example, teaching kids  English as their second language, they would have no idea what that means. I think I could see that being like a class that’s an elective for high school but I think for younger kids they would care less about it because that’s not essential as much to them.”

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to news@followsouthjersey.com with “NEWS” in the subject line.