Teacher Licensure and the New Civics Course Requirement

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Early in each of our #CivicsIsBack regional workshops, lead teacher mentor Mary Ellen Daneels guides participants through a Question Formulation Technique (QFT) exercise on the new civics course requirement. This generates an extensive list of questions that we attempt to address over the course of the two days. While some of the material is embedded in the content of our workshops, others aren’t fully addressed and stand as important topics for future statewide professional development endeavors.

Last week in Charleston we were asked about teacher licensure and specifically what qualifications educators must have in order to the required high school civics course. According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the state does not have a civics endorsement, so prospective social studies teachers should seek a political science endorsement instead.

In order to receive the political science endorsement, applicants must complete the following:
  • 32 semester hours in social science
  • 12 of the hours in political science
  • Coursework in 2 other social science designations
  • Social Science Political Science test
Current teachers are qualified to teach a general civics course under any of the social science endorsements issued after July 1, 2004. However, those seeking to teach Advanced Placement or Honors courses must have the political science endorsement. A number of teachers certified prior to 2004 have endorsements in history or other discrete subjects and are only authorized to teach in the content area held.

We are aware of at least one school district in Illinois that planned to address the new civics course requirement in the context of a consumer education course. This violates both the letter and spirit of the law, and ISBE has said definitively that only social studies teachers are qualified to teach the course.

Finally, ISBE suggests that those seeking input on certification for the civics course should submit proposed changes to its Educator Licensure Department. In turn, they will consider these sentiments during future rule-making processes.

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