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Showing posts from February, 2019

Racial Disproportionality of Student Punishment Impedes Progress on School Discipline Reform in Illinois

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Since 2014, Illinois has been on the leading edge of school discipline reform. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of our partner Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), the General Assembly passed a series of laws that:
Require districts to report exclusionary discipline measures (expulsions, suspensions, and transfers to alternative schools) by student subgroups, including race and ethnicity;Eliminate broad-based zero tolerance policies in favor of restorative practices; And prohibit preschool expulsion from state-funded facilities. These measures were passed in response to Illinois’ dubious distinction as the national leader in disproportionality of exclusionary discipline by students’ race/ethnicity. Based on my analysis of data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), five years in, exclusionary discipline is down 15.1% and the number of expulsions has been cut in half. However, the latter have been offset alm…

Teachable Moment: Presidential Emergency Powers

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
I suspect that many lesson plans were amended or tossed out this past Friday when President Trump announced he would be using his presidential power to declare a national emergency to help fund a wall at the southern border of the United States.

Experts and pundits alike are scrambling to answer the question, “Can he do that?” as they wait for the courts to weigh in on the issue.


As we anticipate a judicial ruling to address this topic for current and controversial issue discussions, here are some resources to help you and your students address essential questions related to this “teachable moment”.
The American Bar Association Journal responded to President Trump’s announcement with an piece titled, “Can Trump Legally Use Emergency Powers to Build a Border Wall? Experts Weigh In.”USA Today provides a brief, historical overview on the issue of emergency powers in this piece, “National emergencies: What to know about executive orders and th…

Classroom Resources for Local Elections

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Yet, while resources for presidential elections are plentiful, teachers are often left scrambling for local election materials to engage their students. While the news outlets quickly cover the latest candidate to announce for the 2020 presidential campaign, news about local candidates seems sparse in comparison.

The Illinois Social Science standards and high school civics requirement both provide a vision of civic learning that takes inquiry to informed action. In this, students can use the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they are building in the classroom to address real-world problems in their communities.

While access to national and state lawmakers can be limited due to location, proximity to legislative offices, and demanding campaign schedules, local lawmakers often live right next door to our students. They are the parents of peers and the ow…

Civic Nebraska Building Democracy from the Bottom Up in the Cornhusker State

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
I had the honor of visiting Nebraska two weeks ago to serve as keynote speaker at Civic Nebraska’s annual Build Up Omaha event. Founded by now Senator and then college student Adam Morfield, the organization engages youth in and out of school in service learning projects, measures the civic health of the state, and works to ensure that Nebraskans have equitable ballot access. Build Up Omaha recognizes community members, youth in particular, who build democracy from the bottom up in the metropolitan region.


It was an inspiring event, and Morfield and his talented team made the most of my visit. It included a discussion with the State Commissioner of Education, Dr. Matthew Blomstedt, to explore stronger state civic learning policies and a sit-down blocks from the majestic State Capitol with colleagues from Lincoln Public Schools.

I was particularly impressed by Lincoln’s strong integration of service learning into the elementary and…