Let's Do Democracy and Make Sure Civics is Woven Throughout Illinois' ESSA State Plan

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar

Last month, I shared testimony provided to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan. My colleague Sonia Mathew weighed in separately on our work with Illinois Democracy Schools (see page 522).

ISBE has since issued its second draft of the ESSA State Plan, responding to more than 280 individual comments, 54 from organizations, 70 from students advocating for the arts, and 60 from librarians. This post represents a call for the state’s civic learning community to do democracy and weigh on the ESSA plan prior to December 27, 2016.

It’s fair to say that the second draft of the ESSA plan provides little more than lip service to the social studies and civics in particular. However, our collective work aligns well with the central thrusts of the plan.
Please articulate these points and your own personal touches in email comments to ISBE via their designated email address (essa@isbe.net) no later than December 27, 2016. If you’re able, we also encourage you to attend Round Three Listening Tour Sessions facilitated by ISBE. They began this week in Chicago and conclude next Thursday in Decatur.

We pursue this work at a time of disconcerting uncertainty. Federal education policies are very much up in the air, and the Springfield Stalemate has only added fuel to a challenging environment. The bitter 2016 Election and its still-evolving aftermath further underline the importance of our collective efforts to educate our students for democracy. It’s up to us to make the case to our state leaders on their behalf. Better yet, follow the lead of our friends in the arts and engage them in doing the democracy we all teach.

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