Wednesday, December 10, 2008

November CPCE Newsletter

The Campaign to Promote Civic Education has contributed to concrete policy improvements in civics and government across the country. While we often showcase the outstanding work of our state facilitators in the guest commentary, this month we feature the writing of a legendary champion of civic education. Perhaps reading his words following this historic election will reinvigorate your own efforts to restore the civic mission of our schools. We thank Lee Hamilton of The Center on Congress at Indiana University ( for sharing his post-election comments in his recently penned “The Ten Commandments of Citizenship.”

Guest Commentary: The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University
Now that the national elections are over, and Americans have voted, our nation enters the most challenging opportunity for citizens to exercise their rights and responsibilities. Voting is only the first step in the process. In the months ahead, our country will face important challenges on the economy, national security, energy independence, and health care. More than ever our citizens must be prepared to be engaged, to stay informed, and make government accountable to their needs. The column below is intended to remind all of us of our solemn obligation to be active participants in our democracy instead of spectators—and to live up to the ideal of a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

The Ten Commandments of Citizenship
The Honorable Lee H. Hamilton

This presidential election, if you believe the polls and the rhetoric, is about change in Washington. Both candidates promise it, while voters clamor for it. It is the cause of the moment.

Yet I have news for you: Change in Washington won't happen, and certainly can't be sustained, without change in the country at large. For the point is not to overthrow the system, it's to make it function properly. Government does not fix itself. Only a citizenry that is engaged in our democracy to an extent far greater than in recent decades can help to heal our system. To get change in Washington, in other words, it has to begin with you.

Since being a responsible citizen takes commitment, here are some precepts to follow if you want to be effective—what I call the “Ten Commandments of Citizenship”:

I. Vote. This is the most basic step democracy asks of us. Don't buy the argument that it doesn't matter. Every election offers real choices about the direction we want our towns, states, and country to take. By voting, you not only select the officials who will run the government, you suggest the direction government policy should take and reaffirm your support for a representative democracy.

II. Be informed. To be a knowledgeable voter, you need to know what candidates actually stand for, not just what their ads or their opponents' ads say. Read about the issues that confront your community and our nation as a whole. Our government simply does not work well if its citizens are ill–informed.

III. Communicate with your representatives. Representative democracy is a dialogue between elected officials and citizens—that dialogue lies at the heart of our system. Legislators and executives can't do their job well if they don't understand their constituents' concerns, and we can't understand them if we don't know their views and why they hold them.

IV. Participate in groups that share your views and can advance your interests. This one's simple: In a democracy, people tend to be more effective when they work together rather than acting as individuals. You can be sure that almost every issue you care about has one or more organizations devoted to it. By joining and working with the ones you think best reflect your views, you amplify your beliefs and strengthen the dialogue of democracy.

V. Get involved locally to improve your community. You know more about your community's strengths and weaknesses than anyone living outside it. Identify its problems and work to correct them. Involvement is the best antidote I know to cynicism.

VI. Educate your family—and make sure that local schools are educating students—about their responsibilities as citizens. As a society, we're not as good as we should be at encouraging young people to get involved in political life. Too many young people—and even many adults—do not understand how our government and political system work and why it is important for them to be contributing citizens.

VII. Understand that we must work to build consensus in a huge, diverse country. In pretty much every way you can think of, ours is an astoundingly mixed nation of people, with wildly divergent views on most issues and a constantly growing population. This means we have to work through our differences not by hammering on the other side, but by bringing people together through the arts of dialogue, accommodation, compromise, and consensus–building.

VIII. Understand that our representative democracy works slowly. There's a reason for this: it is so that all sides can be heard, and so that we avoid the costly mistakes produced by haste. Our Founders understood this 220 years ago, and it's even more vital now, when issues are vastly more complex and the entire world is closely connected.

IX. Understand that our system is not perfect, but has served the nation well. Democracy is a process designed to give people a voice in how they are governed. It's not perfect—far too many people feel voiceless, and polls in recent years suggest that unsettling numbers believe the system is broken. And our system offers no guarantee that you'll get what you want. Yet it is also true that it provides every individual an opportunity to be heard and to work to achieve his or her objectives, and it has served our nation well for over two centuries.

X. Understand that our system is not self–perpetuating; it demands our involvement to survive. Just because it has worked in the past does not mean we will have a free and successful country in the future. Lincoln's challenge is still urgent: whether this nation so conceived can long endure. Being a good citizen isn't something one does just for the heck of it; it's critical to the success of our nation.

The Center on Congress joined the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Center for Civic Education to create the Alliance for Representative Democracy in America ( Representative Democracy in America is a national project designed to reinvigorate and educate Americans on the critical relationship between government and the people it serves. The project introduces citizens, particularly young people, to the representatives, institutions, and processes that serve to realize the goal of a government of, by, and for the people.

Update: Campaign to Promote Civic Education Needs Assessment Survey
As Charles N. Quigley noted in the October newsletter, the Center is conducting a needs-assessment survey in each of the fifty states and District of Columbia. The survey is about one-third completed and we are targeting January 15th as a tentative deadline for completion. The information you have provided thus far has revealed extremely useful information that will assist the Center in providing future resources and strategic direction to your campaign. The culmination of this survey will lead to a report on the achievements and challenges at the state level since the conclusion of the Congressional Conferences on Civic Education in 2006. Thank you again for helping us to paint a clearer picture of the status of civic education in each state. The final report will allow us to better serve your state’s campaign needs with technical assistance and grants.

Join the Campaign on The Five Freedoms Network The Campaign keeps an interactive discussion forum, in the form of a blog, to exchange best practices in civic education and engagement. We are proud to build this community of civic education policy leaders amongst an outstanding pre-existing network at The Five Freedoms Project ( The Five Freedoms Network is an online community of educators, students, and citizens who share a commitment to First Amendment freedoms, democratic schools, and the idea that children should be seen and heard. The Campaign was also proud to be featured in this month’s Degrees of Freedom newsletter. Please join us on the network at and lend your voice to this important discussion.

Quick Facts: Youth Vote Up 4–5% in 2008
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reports that youth turnout was up again in the 2008 presidential election. According to the most recent polling data, “CIRCLE estimates that youth voter turnout rose to between 52 percent and 53 percent, an increase of 4 to 5 percentage points over CIRCLE’s estimate based on the 2004 exit polls. The 2004 election was a strong one for youth turnout, reversing a long history of decline. If we compare 2008 with 2000, the increase in youth turnout is at least 11 percentage points. This year’s youth turnout rivals or exceeds the youth turnout rate of 52 percent in 1992, which is the highest turnout rate since 1972 (55.4 percent).” While there is obviously still much room for improvement in young voter turnout, the trend remains positive. To read more about the youth vote in 2008, visit CIRCLE at:

For more information on the Campaign to Promote Civic Education, please contact Liza Prendergast,, and Justin Rydstrom,, in the Center’s Washington D.C. Office, 1743 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20009. Phone: 202-861-8800 Fax: 202-861-8811

Monday, November 3, 2008

Welcome to Our Campaign!

The Campaign to Promote Civic Education effort is a fifty state campaign (including the District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of our nation’s schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade. This monthly newsletter is part of a new initiative to provide a forum for information exchange in the civic education community and is administered by the Center for Civic Education (Center). The Center's Campaign to Promote Civic Education is affiliated with the Civic Mission of the Schools Campaign (CMS); we share the common goal of improving civic education policy and practice.

The Center for Civic Education's Campaign to Promote Civic Education has contributed to concrete policy improvements in civics and government. Each month, we hope to showcase the outstanding work of our state facilitators as they seek to restore the civic mission of our schools. If you would like to showcase a specific effort or activity in your state, please contact Liza ( or Justin (

October CPCE Newsletter

The Center for Civic Education's Campaign to Promote Civic Education has contributed to concrete policy improvements in civics and government. Each month, we hope to showcase the outstanding work of our state facilitators as they seek to restore the civic mission of our schools. This October, we thank Annette Boyd Pitts of the Florida Law Related Education Association (FLREA) for sharing the accomplishment of establishing a state middle-school civics requirement. We also thank FLREA for sharing a specific technical assistance model currently being implemented. Last month, Arlene Gardner of New Jersey shared a model agenda and ideas on holding a stakeholders meeting to advance the goals of your campaign.

Guest Commentary: The Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc. Models of Change in Florida’s Middle School Civics Curriculum
State campaigns to promote civic education and restore the civic mission of our schools have catapulted into successful public policy initiatives in many states since the initial Congressional Conference was sponsored by the Alliance for Representative Democracy composed of the Center for Civic Education, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2003. The collaborative model brought together teams of policymakers and gatekeepers annually in Washington, D.C., to spearhead state-level planning and campaigns. The ultimate goal was to raise this valuable instructional area to its rightful status in the curriculum. This dynamic series of conferences, which ended in 2006, was instrumental in creating the synergy to explore new territory and develop new alliances for civic education.
“The conferences provided the impetus for groups to collaborate and determine the best strategies to advance civic education in our own states,” commented Annette Boyd Pitts, campaign facilitator for Florida and executive director of the Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc. “They created alliances and revitalized interest in a subject that was losing its visibility in an era of high stakes testing and a focus on testing core subjects,” Pitts continued. Florida’s campaign has brought together legislators, advocacy groups, government officials, school district administrators and a wide range of interested entities.
The Florida campaign began making headway in 2005 when The Florida Bar polled adult Floridians to determine public knowledge of basic democratic principles. The survey results were dismal. Following the poll, FLREA surveyed school districts to determine the status of civic education in every county in the state. Armed with this data, Bar President Alan Bookman met with every major media outlet in the state and initiated a call for action.
Newspapers throughout Florida carried stories and the media helped focus public attention on the topic at a critical time—prior to legislative session. FLREA worked closely with The Florida Bar, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other interested entities to make the public aware of the survey results and to encourage change.
Former representatives who had attended the Congressional Conferences also became involved. Survey results of school districts were analyzed to find that only ten percent of districts statewide offered a middle school civics course. Middle school reform was on the state legislative agenda and the timing was right to secure a new state mandate for civics at the middle school level. In 2006, Representative Curtis Richardson introduced legislation that eventually led to the passage of a state requirement for students to take a semester of civics prior to exiting eighth grade.
The mandate has created an increased need for training, curricular materials, and innovative classroom practices. This summer, FLREA conducted eleven summer institutes and multiple one-day trainings to help pave the way for implementation of the new mandate. FLREA has worked with the Leon County Public Schools to design a yearlong required middle school course and curriculum to prepare every middle school civics teacher to begin teaching the program this fall. Teachers and FLREA staff worked to design a graphic organizer with thirteen separate units. A resource notebook filled with lessons and resources for each unit has been provided to each school. Additionally, each school has received We the People training and curriculum materials. FLREA works monthly with teachers from each of the middle schools to provide support, best practices, and technical assistance throughout the year. Other counties including Volusia, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach have created unique middle school civics models as well. To review these models, visit the FLREA website at and look under the Civic Education Campaign for model courses.
Other initiatives have contributed to institutionalizing civic education in the curriculum since the passage of the mandate in Florida. A multi-year state standards project is underway to draft new standards for the social studies for state adoption. FLREA has served on the framing and writing committees and has attended every single meeting held by the Department of Education. Civics and government is being incorporated at every grade level from kindergarten through high school. Civics and government benchmarks are targeted for particular emphasis in grades 5, 7, and 12.
Assessment is the next major public policy hurdle in Florida. Many new groups have introduced civics initiatives in Florida with the passage of the new legislation in 2005 and have jumped into the legislative arena. Unfortunately no progress has been made to date after several attempts to secure the inclusion of social studies on the state FCAT assessment.
There is much still to be done but Florida has benefited greatly from the congressional conferences held by the Center and the Alliance for Representative Democracy. The state campaigns have built infrastructures to advance civic education in a way never before realized throughout the United States.

A Message from Charles N. Quigley Executive Director, Center for Civic Education
The Center is conducting a survey of the status of civic education and the progress of the civic education campaigns in each state and the District of Columbia. Liza Prendergast and Justin Rydstrom, co-managers of the Center's national Campaign, will be contacting each facilitator to gather information on progress and identify what assistance the Center can provide to help them improve civic education in their states. We hope this survey will provide us a clear picture of the status of civic education in each state that will enable us to more effectively provide both technical and financial assistance to further our mutual goal of improving civic education.

The American Civic Education Teacher Awards (ACETA) recognize teachers for their exemplary work preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens. This year's recipients include Cheryl Cook-Kallio of Irvington High School in Fremont, California; Julie Kuhnhein of Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky; and Sally Broughton of Monforton Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana. These outstanding teachers were honored in a video documentary on October 10, 2008, at the annual Project Citizen conference. ACETA is a project of the National Education Association, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and the Center for Civic Education. For more information about the organizations supporting this award, visit the following websites:
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a member of the Alliance for Representative Democracy, contracted with Turcotte Public Administration Consulting and Training, LLC (TPACT) to conduct a controlled study—in Louisiana and Wyoming—of the effects of the Legislators Back to School Program, an initiative directed by NCSL. TPACT devised a study to test students' knowledge and appreciation of representative democracy before and after a legislator's visit to the classroom. In these "intervention" groups, an observer watched the presentation and kept track of how the legislator used the messages and resource materials offered through the program. TPACT also gave the tests to control classrooms that did not experience a legislator’s visit.

The TPACT evaluation shows that the America’s Legislators Back to School program results in significantly higher levels of understanding and appreciation of representative democracy among middle school students. These higher levels of achievement and appreciation are possible when legislators and teachers use the recommended lesson types and materials, and address the intended program objectives. You can view a summary of the report or link to the full report at

An Interview Conducted by the Agency for Instructional Technology (AIT): For a clear presentation of many activities supporting civic literacy in the United States, read an interview with Robert Leming, program director of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program. Leming reflects on the general underpinnings of civic education and provides specific examples of professional development opportunities, success stories, and lessons learned in his career in the field. To read the full interview, visit:
Working Paper: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)
In the online prelude to CIRCLE Working Paper 59, “Democracy for Some–The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School,” coauthors Joseph Kahne and Ellen Middaugh stated that “in our study of high school civic opportunities, we found that a student’s race and academic track, and a school’s average socioeconomic status (SES), determines the availability of the school-based civic learning opportunities that promote voting and broader forms of civic engagement. High school students attending higher SES schools, those who are college-bound, and white students get more of these opportunities than low-income students, those not heading to college, and students of color.” To read the working paper in its entirety, please visit:

Center Launches We the People Initiative for High-Needs Students
In the summer of 2008, the Center for Civic Education launched a comprehensive outreach effort to assist schools in the United States with significant numbers of high-needs students. While the We the People programs are currently available to every elementary and secondary school that wishes to participate, the initiative seeks to take an extra step to reach schools that serve high percentages of socio-economically disadvantaged students and those experiencing school attendance or truancy problems. The goal of this long-term project is to provide program assistance to schools in all fifty states at the upper elementary, middle, and high school levels. The initiative will provide free curricular materials, professional development services, and technical assistance. Currently, We the People state coordinators are identifying three high-needs schools at each level to receive assistance. The first professional development seminar for middle schools is scheduled for February 13–16 in Manhattan Beach, California.

The Center is launching the initiative as a backdrop to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landmark “A Nation At Risk” report. The report sounded a national alarm that the “educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” Remembering the clarion call of that landmark report, the Center thinks that all educational institutions need to assess the current state of education among our youth and make an extra effort to assist those experiencing the least success in schools. The high-needs initiative takes its lead from effective schools research that notes that all children are educable regardless of background and that schools can make a difference in the educational performance of every child. If you are interested in reading the 1983 report, please visit:

For more information on the We the People High-Needs Initiative, call Robert Leming or Maria Gallo at 818-591-9321, or Mark Molli at 202-861-8800.

For more information about the Campaign to Promote Civic Education, please contact:
Liza Prendgergast
Justin Rydstrom
Center for Civic Education, 1743 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington D.C. 20009

September 29, 2008: Newsletter Update
The Campaign to Promote Civic Education is a fifty state effort (including the District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of US schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The Campaign is co-managed by Liza Prendergast ( and Justin Rydstrom ( at the Center for Civic Education's D.C. Office. The Center's Campaign to Promote Civic Education is cooperating with the Civic Mission of the Schools Campaign (CMS) to help promote our common goal of improving civic education policy and practice.

We hope that this blog will be of use to international and domestic colleagues interested in the exchange of best practices in the field of civic education.

Research, Studies, and Reports:
If you become aware of significant reports that may be related to our work in the United States or abroad, please share them with us to circulate formally each month.

The Center on Education Policy released a report on July 15, 2008, entitled “Has Student Achievement Increased Since 2002? State Test Score Trends Through 2006–07,” authored by Nancy Kober, Naomi Chudowsky and Victor Chudowsky. The report compares state testing and National Assessment of Educatinoal Progress (NAEP) testing in math and literacy to examine the effects of the No Child Left Behind Law. Among other possible explanations for the report findings in each state, the authors recognize that improvements in test scores may come at a cost, “Many school districts are devoting more instructional time to reading and math – often by reducing time for other subjects.” To read the full report or review state findings, click the following link and scroll halfway down the page:

We know that effective civic education programs produce desirable results. A quasi-experimental research study conducted by RMC Research Corporation examined the effects of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program in terms of student political knowledge, civic skills, and civic attitudes. Participating students made significantly greater gains than comparison students in their understanding of (1) core values and principles of democracy (2) constitutional limits on governmental institutions and (3) rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Participants also improved their civic skills, including their ability to analyze issues, debate, persuade, and achieve group consensus. For more research released by the Center for Civic Education, visit or:

You may be familiar with the recently released “Democracy at Risk” report from the Forum for Education. The report, launched at the National Press Club in April 2008, is making the rounds in Washington. It examines the role of the federal government in promoting education as the great equalizer in a democratic republic and discusses the need for federal funding for professional development, research, and community involvement. The report is available for free download here:

What is the education community doing in your district, state, or country to innovatively engage students? What are you doing to engage policymakers? Please share with us your innovations either via blog response or email. These may include using technology, pairing civic engagement classes based on issues, finding new forums and audiences for civic education policy discussions, using the presidential and congressional elections as a platform for civic education, or any other innovative topics in your district, state, or country.