New Jersey Becomes First State to Require K-12 Information Literacy

New Jersey is trying to combat misinformation with new bipartisan legislation that was signed by Governor Phil Murphy.

A child on the computer
New bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Phil Murphy will direct the New Jersey Department of Education to develop New Jersey Student Learning Standards for information and media literacy. Photo: Unsplash/Thomas Park

In an effort to combat the rise of misinformation, Garden State students are getting a new addition to their curriculums.

Governor Phil Murphy signed bipartisan legislation (S588) Wednesday that requires K-12 instruction on information literacy under the implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. In doing so, the Democrat made New Jersey the first state with such a mandate.

Under the new bill, students will develop critical thinking skills while learning how to find information, produce and spread information online, and the difference between facts and opinions. Per a news release, information literacy includes digital, visual, media, textual and technological 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 the news release. “It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction. I am proud to sign legislation that is critical to the success of New Jersey’s students and essential to the preservation of our democracy.”

The legislation requires the commissioner of the Department of Education to form a committee, which will assist in the development of information literacy standards. The committee will include certified school library media specialists and teaching staff members, and standards will be reviewed by experts.

The public will also get to offer input before standards are implemented by the State Board of Education.

“Information literacy is more important now than ever before, especially with the growing prevalence of social media and online news,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “Students for generations will be well-served by this legislation, which sets into statute the requirement for schools to provide instruction on information literacy.”

While it’s unclear when a committee will be formed or standards will be decided on, seven minimum curriculum guidelines were outlined in the bill. They are as follows:

  1. The research process and how information is created and produced;
  2. Critical thinking and using information resources;
  3. Research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources;
  4. The difference between facts, points of view, and opinions;
  5. Accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources;
  6. The economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information; and
  7. The ethical production of information.

The topics of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories have become politically polarizing in recent years, but the new bill received immense bipartisan support in the State Legislature. Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Michael Testa (R-1) and Shirley Turner (D-15), and Assemblymembers Daniel Benson (D-14), Pamela Lampitt (D-6), and Mila Jasey (D-27).

“Teaching children about information literacy will help them to weigh the flood of news, opinion, and social media they are exposed to both online and off,” said Testa, the Senate version’s lead sponsor. “This law isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false, rather it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate, and understand the information they are presented for themselves.”

No one knows New Jersey like we do. Sign up for one of our free newsletters here. Want a print magazine mailed to you? Purchase an issue from our online store.

Read more News articles.