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Showing posts from August, 2020

Reflect on the Past to Inform the Present

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
Schools across the Land of Lincoln are starting to reopen for the 2020-21 school year. Whether you are meeting with students on an online platform or in a blended format, creating a safe civic space for online learning takes intentionality and reimagining of typical back to school routines.

This past spring, we had the advantage of already knowing our students when school buildings closed and classes shifted to distance learning. This semester, all stakeholders will have to create room to put “Maslow before Bloom” and build a foundation for relationships in virtual and/or blended spaces.


All teachers are civics teachers.
We send messages to students about power, equity, justice, and representation by our classroom routines, relationships, and curricular choices. While the following resources have explicit connections to the civic learning practices in both the middle and high school civics course requirements, they are also best …

Students’ Civic Development Dependent Upon Teachers as Civic Role Models and Cultivators of Family Engagement

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Last week, I documented 8th graders’ uneven and inequitable exposure to proven civic learning practices according to the disaggregated results of the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Civics. Further data analysis revealed the critical role that teacher experience and dispositions play in students’ civic development, including the extent to which educators engage families in the learning process.

Education Week noted that students served by teachers whose primary role is in social studies and specifically civics or government outperformed those for whom it’s a secondary responsibility by a statistically significant, six-point margin, 159 to 153 (on a 300-point scale). Student scores are reflective of their proficiency in civic knowledge and skills.

In the same vein, teaching experience factored into student performance, with veteran teachers (three or more years of experience) besting novice teachers (two years or …

2018 NAEP Civics Results Reveal Uneven and Inequitable Exposure to Proven Civic Learning Practices

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
In April, the National Center for Education Statistics released the results of the 2018 National Assessment in Civics, administered for a second straight time to only 8th graders. Past versions of NAEP Civics also included 4th and 12th grade, and this cutback itself is a sign of the extent to which civic learning has been deprioritized nationally. The 2018 8th grade results reiterate a tired narrative of static student performance with less than one-quarter (24%) of students demonstrating proficiency in civic knowledge and skills.

And underlying these lackluster results is a profound and persistent civic achievement “gap” along racial and ethnic lines. Previous analysis of NAEP results points to massive disparities in access to proven civic learning practices among students of color, those qualifying for free and reduced lunch, students with limited English language proficiency, and those whose mothers did not graduate high school o…

Teaching the 2020 Election and Beyond

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The 2020 election provides a unique teachable moment for #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms to explore issues around power, representation, and justice as candidates for state and federal office answer the essential question, “How should we live together?” in their platforms that delineate a vision for policy and practice to create a “more perfect union.”

IllinoisCivics.org provided a preview of things to come this week with a webinar through the Lake County Regional Office of Education on Teaching the 2020 Election and Beyond. Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, began with an update on the state of the race, the “veepstakes”, upcoming conventions, electoral college scenarios, current polling, and fundraising data. Dr. Healy also gave a preview of ballot questions unique to the Land of Lincoln including an amendment to the Illinois Constitution relating to graduated state income tax…

Creating a Safe and Reflective Online Community When Teaching Remotely

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
School reopening plans are slowly coming into shape for this fall. Whether you are meeting with students on an online platform or in a blended format, creating a safe civic space for remote learning takes intention and reimagining of typical back to school routines.


This past spring, we had the advantage of already knowing our students when school buildings were closed and classes were shifted to distance learning. This semester, all stakeholders will have to create room to put “Maslow before Bloom” and create a foundation for relationships to be built in virtual and/or blended spaces.

All teachers are civics teachers. We send messages to students about power, equity, justice, and representation by our classroom routines, relationships, and curricular choices. With this in mind, IllinoisCivics.org has created a Remote Learning Toolkit with resources to support: Best Practices in Distance Learning for EducatorsBest Practices in D…

Courageous Conversations to Support Anti-Racism

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist

For the past few weeks, IllinoisCivics.org has partnered with the DuPage Regional Office of Education to respond to current events with a series of webinars to explore how to have courageous conversations about race, equity, justice, and progress in the classroom and the community. Experts discussed ways to support and train students to become socially responsible, empathetic allies of minority and marginalized groups as they strengthen our constitutional republic into “a more perfect union.”

The series began with an offering on How to Raise a Socially Conscious, Anti-Racist Kid. Panelists including Amber Coleman-Mortley from iCivics, Dr. Shawn Healy and Sonia Mathew from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation wrestled with questions about how families can: Building cross-racial coalitionsLearning full and complete historical accountsUnderstanding how our justice system is experienced differently by different groupsEliminating the in…