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Showing posts from May, 2020

Understanding the Illinois Civics Mandates

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
This fall, middle schools will join their colleagues in high school in requiring at least a semester of civics for students in the curriculum. The mandate goes beyond “what” to teach, but also “how” to teach using the proven practices of civic education. We kicked off our online summer professional development series on Wednesday, May 27 to support the implementation of the civics mandates in grades 6-12.


The Understanding the Illinois Civics Mandates webinar began by asking participants the simple question, “Why teach civics?” Their responses captured in the word cloud above, indicate the need to go beyond the traditional content measured on a constitution or citizenship test but pointed to deeper knowledge of democratic institutions, skills to navigate complex systems and work with others, and dispositions of civic engagement.

Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, present…

Using Reflection to Support Student Learning During COVID-19

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by Byron Terry, Research Intern, Democracy Program
In the blink of an eye, students went from seeing each other and their teachers physically to an online zoom call. Recently, the Democracy Schools Network hosted a check-in call with civic education leaders from different schools in Illinois to discuss some of the thorns and roses since they have made the online transition. Educators expressed a variety of challenges, including:
Some of their students now have even more responsibility with younger siblings in the homeStudents have limited access to devices to do their schoolwork because in some instances multiple people share one device throughout the dayStudents are leaving home and going to businesses that have free wifi to complete assignments and/or access their virtual classrooms through their phones in the parking lotsStudents are having trouble expressing their concerns about what is happening in this moment

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, schools across the nation have b…

Does the Graduated Income Tax Amendment “Add Up” for Illinois?

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
One of the more consequential questions on this fall’s ballot in Illinois is largely flying under the radar in the minds of most voters. Voters in the Land of Lincoln will weigh in on a measure to repeal the state’s constitutional requirement that personal state income taxes remain flat. The referendum would allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax (see image below).


This ballot question provides #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms an opportunity to engage in current and societal issue discussions around the essential question, “Is equal always fair?” This is a complicated, but important issue to address that combines both political and economic disciplinary content.

We curated a number of sources in our IllinoisCivics.org Election 2020 Toolkit to help you unpack this issue and other topics related to the November General Election. Below are resources explicitly tied to the Graduated Income Tax question.
Illino…

Civic Learning Vital to Local and National COVID-19 Relief, Recovery, and Reform Efforts

by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for continued investment in youth civic development principally through high-quality, school-based civic learning opportunities. However, the tremendous progress of the civic learning movement over the last decade is threatened in Illinois and nationally.

For one, the transition to remote learning in K-12 has been highly inequitable as school districts and families navigate access to hardware and broadband, not to mention an overnight upheaval of the way we teach and learn. As I wrote previously, civic education already suffered from inequitable inputs with lasting implications for who participates in our democracy and benefits from related public policy outcomes.

Anecdotally, civic learning, and the social studies more generally, is being further marginalized as schools double down on tested subjects. This concern is particularly acute for grades K-5 where the social studies are already…