Posts

The First 100 Days

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The past week has been a testament to the importance of the work we do together to prepare students for civic life. Teachers have risen to the challenge of the recent violence at the Capitol. A special Social Studies Network Chat on Twitter (#sschat) on the evening of the riots provided a safe space for teachers to process, ask questions, and share resources as they prepared to meet students the next day. Through the  Illinois Civics Hub Facebook group, teachers collaborated in real time to curate materials for classroom use. Illinois Civics endeavored to support classrooms with curated materials to address questions about insurrection, the 25th Amendment, impeachment, and discussion strategies appropriate for this time. On Monday, Civics 101 Podcast was the host of the weekly #sschat centered on the theme of Transitions of Power . The final question of the night asked, “How has teaching during this election cycle changed th

Be a Guardian of Democracy: Strategies for Current and Controversial Issue Discussions

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by Sue Khalaieff, Democracy Schools Network Manager The second session of the Civics Across the Curriculum webinar series was held on Thursday, January 7, 2021. This year’s theme builds on the theme from the originally scheduled Democracy Schools Network Spring 2020 convening, “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” View a recording of the session . The program featured Alia Blumlein, Prairie Ridge High School Social Studies Instructor, and Tracy Freeman, Normal West High School Social Studies Department Chair. It was facilitated by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition.  The presenters spoke about their experience with the Guardians of Democracy  online course in Current and Controversial Issue Discussions and how their professional practice has been enhanced as a result of it. Specifically, both noted these advantages: having a reliable, steady pool of resources to utilize

The Recipe for Successful Civic Learning Implementation

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director Earlier this month, we released a summative report on the #CivicsIsBack campaign produced by the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement ( CIRCLE ) at Tufts University titled “ Building for Better Democracy Together .” We then explored the impact of the campaign on teachers, schools, students, and our civic education nonprofit partners, followed by CIRCLE’s overall assessment of our civics course implementation model. On Friday we tested the model’s sustainability , and today, in the final installment of a five-part series, we weigh its applicability to other states. Among the key ingredients in the Illinois #CivicsIsBack Campaign’s success was its comprehensive approach to building capacity among civics teachers. Teachers’ capacity and dispositions were nurtured with empathy and encouragement: One of the key observations that the team used from early on, is that teacher disposition (i.e., how comfortable

The Challenges of Sustaining Civic Learning in Illinois Schools

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director Two weeks ago we released a summative report on the #CivicsIsBack campaign produced by the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement ( CIRCLE ) at Tufts University titled “ Building for Better Democracy Together .” Subsequent posts respectively reviewed the impact of the campaign on teachers, schools, students, and our civic education nonprofit partners, and CIRCLE’s overall assessment of our civics course implementation model. This fourth installment of a five-part series will review CIRCLE’s assessment of the model’s sustainability. Teachers expressed broad comfort in wielding the instructional practices embedded in the new high school civics course (discussion, service learning, and simulations), teaching media literacy , and using the revised K-12 social studies standards . A strong majority of teachers also saw alignment between these instructional approaches and their professional evaluation via the

Assessing the Strengths and Weaknesses of the #CivicsIsBack Campaign

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director Two weeks ago I introduced a summative report on the #CivicsIsBack campaign produced by the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement ( CIRCLE ) at Tufts University titled “ Building for Better Democracy Together ,” and last week I reviewed the impact of the campaign on teachers, schools, students, and our civic education nonprofit partners. This third installment of a five-part series will review CIRCLE’s overall assessment of our civics course implementation model. The report’s authors concluded, The primary strength of the model is that it created a grassroots movement for transforming teaching practice in high school civics and enlisted a corps of teachers to be role models and experts to help other teachers also grow and learn to adopt best practices in civics instruction. More specifically, implementation was delegated regionally to Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors with strong central support from Ins

Is it Time to Reset the System of Checks and Balances?

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist The system of checks and balances has been an enduring concept for deliberation throughout United States history. Essential questions around the separation of powers and the use of tools such as executive orders to blur the lines between the branches are opportunities for #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms to engage in current and societal issue discussions that promote a deep understanding of our constitutional republic. Last week, Dr. Steven D. Schwinn , professor of law at the John Marshall Law School at the University of Illinois at Chicago, joined IllinoisCivics.org for a webinar to explore the question, “Is it time to reset the system of checks and balances?” Participants received a preview of Dr. Schwinn’s upcoming book on the same topic and had a chance to reflect on issues involving power, justice, and representation as the nation prepares for a presidential inauguration and a new congress in 2021. If you missed the webinar

Civics Across the Curriculum: Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher

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by Sonia Mathews, Democracy Program Officer The kick-off to the Civics Across the Curriculum webinar serie s was held on Thursday, December 3, 2020. This year’s theme builds on the theme from the originally scheduled Democracy Schools Network Spring 2020 convening, “Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports.” View a recording of the session .    This kick-off explored the intersections of civic learning, vision and leadership and school climate and set the stage for the upcoming sessions in 2021. Panelist Nicole Beechum, Co-Director of the Equitable Learning and Development Group at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, highlighted recommendations for bridging efforts to promote social and emotional learning and democratic practices in schools. She emphasized that centering identity is essential for understanding the roles of citizens and that it is incumbent for school teams to prioritize this work and u