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The Media Literacy Now (MLN) annual analysis of state-by-state education policy shows strong advancement among policymakers of awareness and action to ensure the essential skills of media literacy are reaching the nation’s primary and secondary students. To date, lawmakers in 18 states throughout the country have taken steps that help prepare students for participation in the economic and civic life of the nation through media literacy education.

“We’re seeing bipartisan cooperation on this issue as lawmakers seek to address some very serious challenges as new technologies arise,” said report author Erin McNeill, president and founder of MLN. “Advanced communications technologies offer so much promise to our world, but real risks to individuals and the wider society threaten to overshadow the opportunities. Media literacy is truly a nonpartisan issue, as manipulative content has become a greater problem for all ages in many areas of our lives.”

There is a view that teachers and schools are overwhelmed right now, and that the requirement to teach media literacy would be “one more thing” on the teachers’ plates. Schools, teachers and students are stressed after the pandemic years, but this is the time to take a step back and consider new ways we can educate young people for life. A quality media literacy education prepares students for the world we live in today. It is not an extra but an essential element of education.

In 2022, both Delaware and New Jersey legislators established models for other states to follow although their methods slightly differ. It’s especially exciting that Delaware’s law clearly calls upon the Department of Education to write media literacy standards for every grade level, and specifically requires that schools use those standards in curricula.

“We were very intentional in drafting this bill to ensure that districts would maintain local control of the specifics of curriculum but there would be no less than a requirement to incorporate media literacy and digital citizenship within instruction and classroom time,” Delaware Sen. Sarah McBride told MLN.

New Jersey’s new law requires information literacy standards for K-12 schools. Information literacy is an important part of broader media literacy abilities. But the law defines information literacy as including those broader media literacy skills, so we see this as a k-12 mandate for media literacy. The law explicitly requires schools to teach information literacy at each grade level.

“The new standards will help develop young residents who can recognize false claims and have the skills to succeed in a web-driven world,” New Jersey Sen. Michael Testa said in a press release.

Another highlight this year is Nebraska’s new K-12 mandate around digital citizenship in computer science and technology. Digital citizenship outcomes require media literacy skills, and the term is often defined to include the acquisition of foundational media literacy skills.  MLN takes the stance that computer science instruction should be understood to include media literacy skills.

Tennessee is among the new states taking action, calling for a central library position to oversee digital citizenship initiatives.

Several states have shown continuous leadership. We commend Washington state for continued progress. Washington has approved substantial funding for schools and teacher training since the first bill was passed in 2016, and has now added a dedicated staff position at the state level. Washington stands above all in committing money and staff to modernize teacher and teacher-librarian training for the media literacy challenge in schools.

Utah has also shown continual progress since an initial bill in 2015, adding more state resources over time. In 2022, New Mexico, one of the poorest states, has again found funding for media literacy programs, including teacher training. Advocates and education leaders in Illinois are working together to achieve implementation of the Illinois requirement for a unit of media literacy in high school.

Virginia came very close to taking a strong stance with bipartisan legislative agreement on a bill that was later watered down to focus on internet safety only – still an important element of media literacy. MLN takes the stance that there’s no internet safety without a broad set of media literacy skills that help students understand media systems and how information and messages – potentially manipulative – are created, distributed and targeted.

Connecticut and California have also provided funding for media literacy programs this year. In the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress included $20 million for grants for programs that use “evidence-based” practices for civics education, to include the teaching of media literacy. (This 2022 report doesn’t cover funding, only policy statements.)

Momentum is building among leaders to ensure all students have the skills they need to prosper in a global media environment.  Already this year, legislators in regions across the country – including Missouri, Indiana, Arizona, Washington, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and New York, have introduced bills that take various approaches to achieving media literacy education in schools.


This report is made possible by the following standard sponsors: Ad Fontes Media, Ground News, Modern Language Association of America, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education; and basic sponsors Cyabra and Learnics.

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