Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yearbooks Key To Positive Schools

Matthew Tully has been writing a series of articles about Manual High School for the Indianapolis Star as a way to shine a light on the state of the Indianapolis Public School system. His story told through the eyes of Manual’s teachers, administrators, students and parents is available on his blog here, or type in “Manual Project at IndyStar.com/MatthewTully.

The third article of the series printed in the Star’s September 13 issue discusses the inspiration and school spirit that have diminished at Manual as traditions have been eliminated.

Tully says, “I have seen many mind-boggling things during my first month at Manual High—including students arrested and teachers threatened—but I was still caught by surprise when informed about a tidbit of life at the school."

That “tidbit” is the fact that the school hasn’t had a yearbook in years. There is no student newspaper or student council, and the school hasn’t produced a musical in a decade. He doesn’t blame these things for Manual’s low test scores, graduation rate or attendance, but he describes them as additional signs that the school is not thriving.

Co-curricular or extracurricular activities may seem like expendables when budgets are tight, but they are valuable components for a positive learning environment. Those who have had the opportunity to meet students from across the country through workshops, conventions and high school visitations often conclude that students who attend schools that have strong publications programs and student government benefit in a variety of ways.

The opportunity for students to express interests and concerns about school activities and issues provides ownership. Not every student suggestion or complaint has to lead to change for the student body to feel that individual and collective voice matters. Communication between students with other students, teachers and administrators through publications and student government creates a dynamic that contributes to a positive school atmosphere.

An administrator at one of our member schools read last Sunday’s article and took the time to thank the publications adviser at his school for leading groups that play such an important role.

The Indiana High School Press Association tries to help schools promote programs that become the “tidbits” that make such a difference. Keep us informed of your successes and challenges as we try to share best practices with others.

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