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Showing posts from March, 2016

A Civic Check-Up for Illinois

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by Emily Barry, Research Intern, McCormick Foundation Democracy Program

Before we implement civic education in all Illinois classrooms, we must first find the pulse of current civic practices throughout the state. The civic check-up came in the form of a survey distributed to teachers by Regional Offices of Education, and compiled by the McCormick Foundation. The survey checked the vital signs of healthy civic education: the direct instruction of civic themes, current and controversial issues discussions, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes.

This teacher-reported diagnosis reveals several healthy habits. For example, the majority of educators surveyed report their schools teach the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic as a theme of an entire course, or as a recurring theme throughout a student’s high school experience (65%). In addition, three-fourths of government and civics classes discuss current and controversial issues t…

The Tale of Two Convenings

by Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar, McCormick Foundation
Free speech and the right to peaceful protest are foundational to democratic governance. They were both celebrated and challenged last Friday at venues blocks away from one another on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

At the UIC Forum, members of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC) gathered to celebrate the #CivicsIsBack campaign. This included recognizing ten new Illinois Democracy Schools, passage of a new high school civics course requirement, and approval of civics-friendly state social studies standards. The event was punctuated by a bi-partisan ceremony where students, civic learning advocates, bill sponsor Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner shared the stage, the latter two offering congratulatory remarks for the ICMC’s recent achievements.

The new civics course requires class discussions of current and controversial issues, among the most promisi…

Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors

by Dr. Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar, McCormick Foundation / Chair, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition
In order to support implementation of the new high school civics course requirement through the #CivicsIsBack campaign, the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition is recruiting teacher mentors representing every region of Illinois.

Mentors will receive training from local and national professional development providers with proven expertise in civic learning. Mentors, in turn, will co-facilitate two-day summer institutes for subscribing civics teachers in their respective regions. Mentors will also be responsible for ongoing engagement with teachers, schools, and districts in their assigned region throughout the school year that follows.

Mentors must have at least three years of experience teaching civics or government at the high school level in Illinois. This experience should include proficiency with instruction on government institutions, current and controversial issues discussi…

#CivicsIsBack

by Dr. Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar, McCormick Foundation / Chair, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition
Civics is back in Illinois in 2016! The Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, convened by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, is set to launch a statewide system of supports for teachers, schools, and districts in order to implement a brand-new high school civics course requirement.

Our #CivicsIsBack campaign will disseminate information on the new law, speak to the importance and impact of high-quality civic learning, provide professional development and ongoing mentorship for teachers on proven civic learning practices, and make available a menu of online resources through this brand new web portal: IllinoisCivics.org.

We’ll speak to each of these component parts in the posts that follow, but let’s begin with the basics of the new law.

On August 21, 2015, Governor Rauner signed House Bill (HB) 4025 (Pubic Act 99-0434) into law, requiring that future Illinois high school students c…