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Students in Colorado's public schools should know how to critically evaluate what they see and hear in the media and how to identify the difference between facts, misinformation and opinions. That's the basis for including media literacy in the public schools, and the charge of a committee that last year came up with standards for teaching media literacy.

The result of that committee's work was the introduction of House Bill 1357, sponsored by Reps. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, and Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. It requires the Department of Education to create an online resource bank of materials on media literacy, including the resources recommended by the committee in the 158-page report it submitted to the General Assembly in January.

The CDE also will be required to provide technical assistance on policies and procedures to school districts that request it. The bill also says the State Board of Education must review and adopt revisions to reading, writing and civics standards that incorporate media literacy by June 30, 2021.

The standards for reading at the sixth-grade level, for example, currently require students to "Analyze literary elements within different types of literature." That could be modified to include media, the report suggested.

At the 11th and 12th grade reading level, the standards recommend students be able to "interpret and evaluate complex literature using various critical reading strategies." That also could be modified to include media, the report said. 

Each grade level also includes "essential questions," such as how to evaluate an author's credibility, which is in the 8th grade standard. An addition could include "how credible is this [media product], and how do you know?" the report said. 

The media literacy committee was required under House Bill 19-1110, sponsored by Cutter and Sen. Brittany Petersen. As defined by HB1110, media literacy is the ability to "access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act through the various forms of media;" analyze reliability of information, claims and sources, and practice "digital citizenship, including norms of appropriate and responsible behavior and discourse when engaging with media, and the prevention of cyberbullying."

The 13-member committee included two broadcast journalists: Kyle Clark of 9News and Ryan Hazelwood of KOAA News 5 in Colorado Springs. "Despite extensive recruitment efforts," the committee was unable to find a print journalist for the committee.

The civics curriculum is currently designed to ensure a student's success in both the postsecondary and workforce world. The report said that civic participation can occur "through engagement with media," as well as to acknowledge that the rights and responsibilities of a citizen "might extend to how citizens choose to engage with the realm of media and technology."

Key questions for students to address could include whether they're examining something that is fact, opinion, or something else, how credible the information is and how a student knows that, and whether the student can trust the source to tell the truth.

The report also provided lists of resources for teachers, parents and students on cyberbullying, digital citizenship, media literacy, lesson plans, teacher training and book lists.

HB 1357 is not yet calendared for its first hearing, which will be with the House Education Committee. 

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