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Showing posts from April, 2019

Middle School Leaders Claim Civic Learning Marginalized in Their Buildings

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
As legislation to require middle school civics (House Bill 2265) moves through the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Civics team is partnering with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University to determine the presumptive implementation needs of teachers, schools, and districts through a survey distributed earlier this month. We encourage middle school social studies teachers and administrators to weigh in and complete the survey by mid-May.

The need for middle school civics is profound. Only 23% of 8th graders demonstrated proficiency in civics on the 2014 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), with a stark civic achievement gap evident along racial and ethnic lines (see below). This coincides with a report from the Council of Chief State School Officers that 44% of school districts have reduced time spent on social studies since the advent of No Child Left Behin…

Social-Emotional Learning and Civics: What are the Connections?

by Scott McGallagher, Democracy Program Research Intern
“Social-emotional learning is not frou-frou, it matters.” This impassioned statement from Desmond Blackburn, and many others like it from his colleagues, impressed upon their audience the importance of supporting social and emotional learning (SEL) in our schools. Mr. Blackburn, the Chief Executive Officer of New Teacher Center (NTC) was a panelist, along with Dr. Elaine Allensworth the Director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (hereafter the Consortium) and LaTanya McDade the Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), at the Forefront and W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation discussion of “Supporting Social, Emotional, & Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators” on Thursday, March 21st, 2019.

The essential question driving the discussion for the day was: how do we close the gap between “pockets” of SEL excellence and “systems” of SEL excellence? Dr. Allenswor…

Illinois Students Make the Case for Middle School Civics, Part II

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
On Tuesday, we shared a student (Kelsey’s) narrative statement on behalf of House Bill (HB) 2265, legislation to require a semester of civics in Illinois middle schools. Kelsey’s teacher, Chris Johnson, is an Illinois Civics Teacher Mentor for Henderson, Knox, Mercer, and Warren Counties in West Central Illinois, and teaches civics at both the middle and high school levels at ROWVA Junior/Senior High School.

HB 2265 passed the Illinois House last week with a bi-partisan supermajority, and moves next to the Senate with a May 24 deadline for passage. There is no stronger testimony for #CivicsInTheMiddle than the voice of students, and we’re please to offer a powerful statement from a second student of Mr. Johnson’s, Kayla, below.


From one study, out of 165,000 high school students surveyed, 45% of those students feel unprepared for college. We have a solution that could possibly make these students feel more prepared from an earlie…

Illinois Students Make the Case for Middle School Civics, Part I

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Chris Johnson, Illinois Civics Teacher Mentor for Henderson, Knox, Mercer, and Warren Counties in West Central Illinois, has taught civics at both the middle and high school levels at ROWVA Junior/Senior High School (pictured below, bottom left). He engaged his students in exploration of the current debate in Springfield over middle school civics, and a couple of them, Kelsey and Kayla, felt passionately about the need for #CivicsInTheMiddle. Both provided narrative statements on behalf of House Bill (HB) 2265, currently awaiting consideration in the Illinois Senate after passing the House last week with a bi-partisan supermajority. Kelsey’s narrative follows and stay tuned for Kayla’s statement on Thursday.


In small town schools, it may be difficult to provide higher level classes for students. Aside from basic social studies courses, civics classes may not be offered; therefore, they are not required. This is a major controversy f…