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Showing posts from November, 2017

Classroom Resources for this Election Season

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
This week, marked the beginning of both the holiday shopping season and the official start of the midterm election season. As Shawn stated in an earlier blog, less than a week remains for candidates representing established parties in Illinois to file their petitions for the March primaries.


While resources for presidential elections are plentiful, teachers are often left scrambling for midterm election materials to engage their students. There are a number of tools from civic organizations and educational partners that provide a foundation for involving students in the 2018 election season. Here is a list to start with.
The Center for Information and Research for Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has data and analysis relating to youth voting trends, suffrage laws and what works in getting out the youth vote.The Illinois State Board of Elections has a page where classrooms can follow who has filed petitions to run for office.OpenS…

'Tis the Season to Pass Petitions

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Attention holiday shoppers: Only one week remains for federal, state, and county candidates representing established political parties in Illinois to file petitions for the March 20, 2018 primary. The December 4th deadline (today is the first day candidates may file) requires legislative and congressional candidates from the Democratic and Republican Parties to furnish valid signatures equal or greater than half a percent of total votes cast for the office they are seeking in the previous election.

As detailed in this Illinois Issues article, third party candidates must clear a higher five percent threshold, making Illinois one of the most restrictive states challengers to the two-party system. This requirement survived a recent court challenge, but another is in the works taking on the standard that third parties must field a full slate of candidates for constitutional offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Att…

Civics in the Spotlight at #NCSS2017

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
This past weekend, thousands of educators from across the nation gathered in San Francisco for the annual National Council for the Social Studies conference. Civics took center stage at many workshops with recognition of innovative practitioners, new resources for classroom teachers and affirmation of the importance of empowering ALL students for college, career and civic life.


Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation led an exciting session about the Action Civics initiative. The highlight of the presentation was the participation of a panel of youth from around the country that shared the significance of informed action in developing the knowledge, skills and dispositions of effective civic engagement.

With support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) debuted a new resource called Civic Online Learning designed to help students acquire, “t…

Classroom Resources for News Literacy

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
A recent report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) highlights the importance of news literacy as a complementary stream to the proven practices of civic education embraced by the civic education requirement for graduation in the state of Illinois.

Kei Kawashima Ginsberg and Peter Levine, co-authors of the report titled, The Republic is (Still) at Risk- and Civics is Part of the Solution, explain that, “young people are increasingly empowered to influence the topics and stories that are widely shared. At the same time, they are deluged with unreliable information and actual propaganda, and research shows that most young people perform poorly at distinguishing fake news from reliable news. This skill can be taught effectively in schools, and students can learn to be effective producers of news.”

The proven practice of current and controversial issue discussions in the classroom has explic…

Media Literacy Week Highlights Importance of Healthy News Diets

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
A modern definition of informed and engaged citizenship includes media and news literacy. I write today in honor of Media Literacy Week, sponsored by our partners at the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). NAMLE hosted its conference in Chicago last summer, and the McCormick Foundation is proud to support and collaborate with a number of its members, including the News Literacy Project and the Center for News Literacy.

Like civic learning, media literacy must live across the curriculum. When I began my teaching career two decades ago, the daily newspaper served as my textbook. Media diets have since evolved, but the currency of news for democratic discourse and participation has only appreciated. While our students are indeed digital natives and often more adept than us with their devices, it is wrong to asssume that they possess the skills and dispositions to be media literate.

Media literacy is fostered by i…

Propagating Civic Education Practice in Illinois

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
I’m delighted to share some of the results from the first full year of our civics course implementation efforts. In 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed bi-partisan legislation requiring high school students to complete a semester-long civics course effective with the Class of 2020. The McCormick Foundation, in partnership with other local funders, committed more than $1 million annually to support statewide implementation efforts in the form of intensive teacher professional development opportunities paired with related curriculum and resources.

We have also partnered with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), based at Tufts University, to evaluate our implementation efforts. By utilizing real-time evaluation data, we have made timely adjustments and adaptations to our programming, and also been able to communicate our progress to key stakeholders, policymakers included.

Through surv…