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Showing posts from July, 2018

Illinois Civics Courses Changing Classroom Practice and Producing Strong Student Outcomes

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Since the debut of the #CivicsIsBack Campaign in 2016, we have provided periodic updates on our progress. The primary intent of the Campaign is to support teachers, schools, and districts throughout Illinois in implementing the new high school civics course requirement and related, revised K-12 social studies standards.

To measure our progress, we partnered with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, and have previously summarized their findings on the impact our interventions have had on teachers participating in our professional development, plus the fidelity by which teachers, schools, and districts are implementing the law.

Core to our campaign are Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors, veteran educators representing the state’s 38 Regional Offices of Education outside of the City of Chicago. Teacher Mentors have received extensive professional development from the Illinois…

Complete Census Count Critical for Rural Communities in Illinois

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last Wednesday, I had the honor of addressing the Illinois Governor Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) in partnership with Anita Banjeri of Forefront’s Democracy Initiative in regard to the 2020 Census. Mary Ellen and I have posted in the past about national concerns on administering the 2020 Census, its high stakes for Illinois, and how to integrate it into your classroom this fall.

Anita and I shared some of these lessons with the GRAC, and received a favorable reaction from Council members, including Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti (see picture below). A few highlights are particularly relevant for civics teachers serving in schools outside of the Chicago area.


As mentioned in a previous post, Illinois is speckled with hard-to-count communities (HTC’s) outside of Chicago, including Rockford, DeKalb, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Springfield, Metro East (suburban St. Louis), Carbondale, and Pulaski and …

Civic Learning the Long-Term Solution to Restoring Faith in American Democracy

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last week I reviewed a Brookings Institution study on the state of civic learning in the United States. Today, I’d like to review a separate report published by the Democracy Project that explores how we can reverse “a crisis of confidence” in our democratic institutions. The report is a collaboration of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center. It draws from a large national survey and regional focus groups, “…examining American attitudes about democratic principles and institutions at home and support for U.S. policies that advance democracy abroad.”

While the project did not find a decline in support for democratic ideals, it demonstrated “…a crisis in confidence of how U.S. democracy works in practice.” A majority view American democracy as weak (55%) and more than two-thirds (68%) feel it is getting weaker. These feelings are more pronounced among people of color, perhaps attributed to their histor…

Brookings Institution Report Spotlights Inequities in Civic Learning

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last month, the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy released a report on K-12 civic learning. They explored the extent to which “…schools (are) equipping students with the tools to become engaged, informed, and compassionate citizens.” And they disaggregated their findings by race and class to identify inequities in access and outcomes with respect to youth civic development.

I have written extensively about the National Assessment in Civics at the high school level, and this report makes a notable contribution to the literature in driving down to elementary (4th) and middle grades (8th), positioning civics performance against the prioritized subjects of reading and math. Scores in all three subjects rose since 1998, a period that coincides with implementation of No Child Left Behind.

However, gaps in student performance on civics assessments widened between black and white students, along with those qualifyin…

Census 2020: The Stakes Couldn't Be Higher for Illinois

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last week I laid out the challenges facing administration of Census 2020, and Mary Ellen followed with “Monday morning lesson plans” for incorporation in your civics classes this coming fall. Today I’d like to highlight the implications of Census 2020 for Illinois.

The Census Bureau’s goal is to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” but this is easier said than done. According to the Funders Census Initiative 2020, during the 1940 Census, 453,000 more men registered for the military draft than were reflected in the census. And while this disparity equated with only 3% of white men ages 21 to 35, it rose to 13% for black men in the same age cohort.

In 2010, the Census Bureau overcounted whites by 0.83%, but undercounted blacks by 2.06%, meaning that blacks ceded 3% of their representation to whites. Communities of color are considered hard-to-count (HTC), as are low-income households (equated with renting) and you…