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Showing posts from March, 2020

News Literacy Resources for Distance Learning

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The recent closure of Illinois schools in an effort to #flattenthecurve has required many schools to engage their students in meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment.

Many schools are leveraging technology to deliver instruction. With the increased use of technology comes the need to make sure students are wise consumers, engagers, and producers of information with their devices. Rumors are swirling in this current crisis. We can help our students navigate this “infodemic.” Here are some news literacy resources to start with.

General News Literacy ResourcesThe News Literacy Project provided open access to its Checkology subscription-based service to teachers and parents for the remainder of the school year. The package is twelve interactive lessons building on news literacy skills.“Crash Course - Navigating Digital Information” is a ten episode series that cove…

Current Public Health and Economic Crisis Necessitates Urgent Equity in Civics Conversations

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
During the current public health crisis, educators are scrambling to move lessons online for students while balancing the numerous needs of our own families. The pedagogical conversations I participated in assume a middle-upper class perspective given our socioeconomic status. I would argue that we are blind to the needs of many of our less privileged students and their families who may instead be in survival mode and at a minimum don’t have one-to-one access to technology or high-speed internet connections. This lack of privilege is a product of structural inequities facing many of our students’ families.

I am honored to serve on a national Equity in Civics steering committee led by Generation Citizen and iCivics, and during a virtual meeting last week, my friend and colleague Amber Coleman-Mortley, Director of Social Engagement at iCivics, raised a profound point. She said that much of the current K-12 educational infrastructure i…

Creating Safe Civic Spaces in Troubling Times - Part 2

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
In March of 2018, shortly after the tragedy at Stoneman-Douglas High School, we shared a blog that stressed the importance of creating a civic safe space for students to process current events. Little did I know how relevant that blog would be for the times we live in today.

COVID-19 has upended many of the routines and traditions that undergird our lives. Teachers have been called upon to create meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment. We must take care, however, to prioritize and model civic dispositions in our interactions with students. Dispositions like empathy, commitment to the common good, community involvement, and personal responsibility are crucial during this pandemic.

As a pre-service teacher, we were required to take Educational Psychology 101 where we learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: physiological needs, safety, belonging, esteem and …

Students Primarily Experience Civic Learning Opportunities in Social Science and English Courses at Democracy Schools; Cross-Curricular Applications Abound

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
My previous analysis of 2019 student survey data from a pilot group of eleven Illinois Democracy Schools (N=3,904 students) touched on the extent to which students experienced civic learning opportunities and school cultures aligned with a “lived civics” framework and media literacy opportunities and outcomes. As the Democracy Schools Network convenes this week for the tenth consecutive year with a theme of ‘Every Teacher is a Civics Teacher: Best Practices for Civic Learning and Organizational Supports in Schools,” I am returning to 2019 student survey data to explore the extent to which civic learning is threaded across the curriculum at selected Democracy Schools.

Civic learning’s natural home is the social sciences and 93% of students surveyed said they learned about civics content in these courses, but English also ranks perennially high, with nearly 63% of students experiencing civics content here, too (see Figure 1 below). Th…

Exclusionary Discipline Decreasing in Illinois Schools, but Racial Disparities Persist

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last year, I assessed the impact of a series of recent laws passed in Illinois to limit exclusionary discipline and public schools and instead employ restorative practices. Recall that the School Code now:
Requires districts to report exclusionary discipline measures (expulsions, suspensions, and transfers to alternative schools) by student subgroups, including race and ethnicity;Eliminates broad-based zero tolerance policies in favor of restorative practices; And prohibits preschool expulsion from state-funded facilities. My previous analysis of data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) found a 15.1% drop in exclusionary discipline and the number of expulsions halved from 2014-2018, coinciding with passage and implementation of the aforementioned statutes. However, expulsions were offset almost one-for-one by transfers to alternative schools. Whereas the 2017-2018 numbers regressed from the previous year’s gains,…