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Showing posts from July, 2019

Do you REALLY want to hang that poster? Creating Civic and Collaborative Spaces

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
There is a new teacher poster that is making the rounds on social media (see image to the left). I would say that the majority seem to “like” the message of the piece. I dissent.

The poster reads:

NOTICE TO ALL STUDENTS
Leave the excuses at the door.
If you didn’t do your homework, just admit it.
If you didn’t understand the assignment, ask for help.
If you didn’t study for the test,
Accept the grade and resolve to do better
(with my help if necessary) next time.
If you refuse to follow my rules, accept the consequences.
This is not a democracy.
This is MY classroom,
And I’m here for one reason and one reason only:
TO TEACH YOU
TO INSPIRE YOU
TO HELP YOU GROW
I’ll do my part. The rest is up to you.
I have to admit, I connect with the frustration and issues the poster addresses. I would also say that at one point in my practice, on a very bad day, I might have considered hanging this up in my classroom. But now, when I reflect on this ima…

Let's Talk About the "Required" Constitution Test

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor
As I have traveled around the state of Illinois to support implementation of the high school civics requirement and pending middle school civics legislation, one of the biggest concerns I have heard is, “How will we have time to prepare students for the required Constitution test? I will never have time to cover all 200 questions on the test if I have to make time for student-centered inquiry, discussions, simulations, and service learning!”



The Illinois State Board of Education states:
American patriotism and the principles of representative government, as enunciated in the American Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the proper use and display of the American flag, shall be taught in all public schools and other educational institutions supported or maintained in whole or in part by public funds. No student shall receive a certificate of graduat…

Illinois Middle School Social Studies Teachers Thirsty for Professional Development Opportunities

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
On Tuesday, I analyzed data from a spring survey of Illinois middle school administrators to inform our presumptive implementation plan should Governor J.B. Pritzker sign legislation to require middle school civics (House Bill 2265) this summer. This companion post will summarize the findings of a parallel survey of middle school social studies teachers conducted by our research partner, the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. One hundred eighty-two teachers completed the survey as of June 11.

A middle school civics requirement would be a game-changer as only 10% of survey respondents report the subject is addressed in a stand-alone course. Thankfully, 80% suggest it’s integrated into other social studies courses, and only 6% claim it isn’t explicitly taught at all (see chart below).


Turning to key course content, the U.S. Constitution, governmental structures, federalism, …

Illinois Middle School Administrators Identify Opportunities for Course Integration

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Legislation to require middle school civics (House Bill 2265) awaits consideration by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and the Illinois Civics team is hard at work designing a presumptive implementation plan. As I mentioned in the spring, we partnered 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 of middle school social studies teachers and administrators. This first post of a two-part series will dissect the findings from 45 administrators who completed the survey as of June 11.

As with the high school civics course requirement, Illinois middle schools would begin implementing a parallel requirement from a position of strength. A majority of those surveyed “strongly agree” that their school or district emphasizes civic knowledge (69%), participatory skills for active citizen…