The Education Department Wants to Hear From You!

BACKGROUND:

At a White House event this past January, the Obama Administration released its Road Map for civic learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.”  This Road Map, developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is a call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement for students, families, communities and leaders in education, business, labor, philanthropy and government. We envision a nationwide commitment to preparing all students for citizenship as informed, engaged and responsible members of our society.  The Road Map outlines nine steps ED is undertaking to increase civic learning and engagement across our country. You are invited to watch the release event and read ED’s Road Map to learn more.

THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Since the release of the Road Map, ED has been implementing a strategy to achieve its nine objectives.  As part of this process, ED is seeking the public’s input on how we understand “civic learning and engagement activities” and how we can best support these activities.  We encourage educators, practitioners, students, researchers, and any other interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the outline below:

A.     How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement”

Activities that help students become informed and engaged members of society by providing nonpartisan opportunities for development of civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.  Civic learning and engagement activities include:

  1. Development, through the study of American history, civics and government, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Participation in interactive activities (e.g., service learning, community-based projects, simulations, media campaigns, advocacy, etc.) that provide students the opportunity to apply their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening understanding of how to apply knowledge to improve societal outcomes. Activities should be selected and organized with input from faculty and students and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government agencies, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

B.     How ED will Support Civic Learning

Of the nine objectives ED is implementing to support civic learning and engagement activities, we specifically request feedback on how to best:

  1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.
  2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.
  3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.
  4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

Please submit all comments to civiclearning@ed.gov or post them on directly on this blog.

This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print: Please understand that posts must be related to Civic Learning Initiative, we encourage posts that are as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support civic learning. We look forward to hearing from you.

69 Comments

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on the Department’s “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy” Road Map. Since participating in the “For Democracy’s Future” kick-off event in January of 2012, I have supported this effort and shared a similar vision for engaging all of our nation’s young people as active, informed citizens. Following is feedback from the National Youth Leadership Council, a leader in the service-learning field for 30 years, in response to the recent call for public input.

    Overall, the Department’s civic learning initiative will have the most significant and lasting impact on young people if it can be aligned with the other priorities schools, districts, and teachers already juggle. There is no one ‘silver bullet’ of education reform, but civic learning is a vital part of a comprehensive education in our democracy. Service-learning is an effective strategy in shaping the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of civic learning as well as in tying civic learning to other priorities in schools.

    A. How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement”

    1. Development, through the study of American history, civics and government, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.

    We support an emphasis on history, civics, government, and social science more broadly but believe that high quality civic learning often happens in other subject areas as well.

    Research has shown that courses in the social sciences are more likely to use engaged and constructivist pedagogies like service-learning. However, this same study noted that science classes weren’t far behind in their use of the same teaching strategies. As schools face expanding priorities to provide better education in STEM, reading, and other subject areas, we must seek out “both-and” solutions for preparing our students for college, career, and citizenship. Service-learning, especially in STEM fields, can help bridge this divide by putting students in leadership positions to use scientific study for public purpose.

    For example, at an NYLC-supported project in the St. Paul Public Schools, Minn., students at Farnsworth Aerospace PreK-8 Magnet School have been monitoring water quality, turbidity, and oxygen content in several lakes in their neighborhood and helping to track populations of invasive carp along with other indicators of health. At the same time, through a service-learning approach, the students also present their findings at community meetings, with public agencies, and with younger students. Students learn that to be a scientist is also to be a member of a democratic community—a message that brings learning to life. In lobbying public agencies for a change of water quality regulations, students may well learn more about the function of government than by reading a textbook in a civics class.

    Another example of an NYLC-supported interdisciplinary project with civic learning outcomes is the Project Ignition teen driver safety initiative at Hoquiam High School in Hoquiam, Wash. Led by the Hoquiam Cheer Team, students assessed the extent of the cell phone use and texting while driving in Hoquiam with an observational survey of motorists in collaboration with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the Hoquiam High School math program. They created awareness about the emerging problem of distracted driving & incorporated advocacy efforts that involved the high school, the law enforcement community and residents of Grays Harbor County.

    Suggested Change:

    Development, through the study of American history, civics and government, across all subject areas, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.

    2. Participation in interactive activities (e.g., service learning, community-based projects, simulations, media campaigns, advocacy, etc.) that provide students themselves the opportunity to apply their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening understanding of how to apply knowledge to improve societal outcomes. Activities should be selected and organized with input from faculty and students and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government agencies, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

    We support the inclusion of service-learning as one of several effective strategies in this emphasis on interactive learning. Beyond this, an element unique to service-learning is the idea of young people as positive contributors. Putting students in roles as community leaders and demonstrating how they have the ability to impact community issues is fundamental to developing an active and engaged citizenry.

    In this draft language, we would encourage community groups to be included alongside faculty and students as those who select and organize activities. Initiatives by schools risk falling into a “missionary ideology” approach to community problems that discounts positive assets of communities and the value, in learning, the experience has for students. An expansion of this language would also include innovative partnerships that schools are creating with community businesses to provide more hands-on study in real-world environments.

    That said, we strongly support the Department’s current equal inclusion of students’ voices, alongside faculty, in selecting and directing activities.

    Furthermore, in describing a new generational approach to civic learning, the Department’s initial Road Map document cites (p. 8-9) the AmeriCorps program as an example of a next-generation service-learning program. NYLC strongly supports the AmeriCorps program, however, AmeriCorps is by definition not a service-learning program and is not currently structured to engage K-12 age youth as participants. This is an important distinction for the service-learning field as Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the only federal program specifically dedicated to service-learning, was de-funded in 2011. AmeriCorps is a valuable experiential program primarily for young adults and some AmeriCorps members even support service-learning as service-learning coordinators in K-12 schools or on college campuses. Yet service-learning requires a link to learning objectives or an academic curriculum that isn’t broadly shared across the AmeriCorps program. Additionally most AmeriCorps participants have already graduated high school or college, as opposed to students themselves being engaged as primary participants in a program.

    Suggested change:

    … Activities should be selected and organized with input from students, faculty, and community members and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government agencies, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

    B. How ED Will Support Civic Learning

    1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.

    First, the Department should specifically emphasize the primacy of students themselves as members in the “education community.” Far too often conferences, discussions, forums, hearings, etc. on education are conducted entirely by adults or engage students only as entertainers or performers. NYLC strongly believes that even young students should have frequent and meaningful opportunities to engage in discussions on education and school reform on a local, state, and national level. Through the civic learning initiative the Department has a tremendous opportunity to model its message of meaningful democratic engagement. Specific suggestions for increasing youth voice are included in response to query #4 below.

    Second, the Department should engage existing networks and events in the education world that already convene these stakeholders and advocates it is trying to reach. For example, the Department could sponsor, provide keynote speakers, support scholarships for Department-affiliated programs and schools to attend or present, etc. NYLC annually convenes the National Service-Learning Conference®, where youth comprise over one-third of our 2,000 participants in a truly intergenerational event. For over 20 years this has been the largest gathering of the national service-learning field. Per our invitation to Secretary Duncan for the March 13-15, 2013 National Service-Learning Conference, we welcome the opportunity to facilitate the Department’s engagement with Conference participants, including youth, K-12 and higher education teachers, faculty and staff, community-based leaders, elected and agency officials, corporations and foundations.

    Third, NYLC strongly supports a focus on high quality practice and encourages the Department to apply rigorous standards to service-learning and other strategies. A common result across program evaluations in the service-learning field is that one of the strongest predictors of positive outcomes for students is the quality of the service-learning experience. Over a multi-year process, NYLC convened the service-learning field to develop and publish the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice that define eight key characteristics of quality service-learning and provide accompanying indicators for each. These have been widely accepted across the field and are used by private, corporate, and public grantmakers to evaluate programs. NYLC encourages the Department to reference the K-12 Service-Learning Standards alongside other resources, and to consider using them as criteria in its own competitive grant programs.

    Fourth, to encourage institutional commitment to high-quality practices for civic learning, the Department should increase resources and focus on professional development for educators. Currently far too many schools allocate bare minimum funding for professional development and splice it between too many competing priorities to provide an effective learning experience for educators. Professional development modes themselves should model the interactive, experiential pedagogies, including service-learning, that are promoted to improve civic learning. To ensure that civics lessons found across broad subject areas like STEM, English, diver’s ed, and more reinforce more traditional civics curricula, professional development should also assist teachers in linking learning and academic objectives for their classes to community service opportunities that reinforce civic skills, behavior, and knowledge.

    2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.

    First, NYLC encourages the Department to include a broader range of questions on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics assessment and the upcoming National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) survey with a stronger focus on participatory behaviors and civic skills. Especially valuable to the service-learning field would be replicating questions about teaching methods (i.e. “How often do you do the following as part of instruction with this class?”) across all NAEP teacher and student surveys, and including the current “Have students participated in community volunteer projects or services” as a response line across grades and subject areas. NYLC would also support asking how often teachers use community resources outside of the school (speakers, nonprofit organizations, etc.) as resources for student instruction. In addition to questions about computer use, NYLC would also support questions about connecting classroom learning to real-world community issues (i.e. students presenting a project to a group outside the school, applying learning to a real-world problem, making a positive difference in the community through school work, feeling like what they are learning has real-world implications, etc.).

    For the NLTS, NYLC supports a similar approach that more broadly measures students’ feelings of self-efficacy and ability to contribute positively to community as indicators of preparation for a life of active citizenship. For example, youth could be asked how often they: socialized with someone of another racial or ethnic group, discussed politics or community issues outside of class, participated in a community meeting, performed volunteer work or service, or played a leadership role in improving the community. Skills and outlook measured should include items such as: self-confidence, leadership ability, ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective, feeling like you have the ability to change the world, etc.

    Second, NYLC recommends that the Department engage with service-learning researchers and research networks as stakeholders in improving civic learning. Research on the efficacy of service-learning as a strategy for achieving quality civic learning has been significant but there is always room for improvement. Unfortunately a promising longitudinal study was cut short with the de-funding of Learn and Serve America at the Corporation for National and Community Service, but much work has already been done. The Department should conduct a review of existing research and evaluation and fund longitudinal research. The Department should also more actively participate in service-learning research networks in both K-12 and higher education sectors to support rigorous standards for research.

    3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.

    NYLC strongly encourages the Department to support revisions to No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act to allow and preference service-learning as a strategy across existing funding streams at the Department, especially in the area of teacher professional development but also in areas such as dropout prevention, 21st century community learning centers, and school improvement programs. Service-learning should also be a preferred strategy for achieving student and school outcomes in newer initiatives like Promise Neighborhoods, Investing in Innovation, and Race to the Top. The Department should publicize such opportunities with the service-learning field through national organizations, presentations at events, via webinars, etc. This approach would allow the Department to utilize limited resources effectively in addressing civic learning objectives alongside other priorities.

    4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

    First, through its outreach and engagement efforts the Department should effectively model a democratic approach and especially tap youth as active participants. A Potential strategy in this area might be structuring significant student voice in directing grant funds through competitive programs through a youth grantmaking board. A model could be State Farm Insurance’s Youth Advisory Board which annually grants up to $5 million to student-led projects. These youth committees should have decision-making power and authority equivalent to adult/staff bodies in order to for the engagement to be authentic and meaningful. The Department should ensure that youth leaders who are tapped in such fashion are adequately prepared for these experiences through rigorous and experiential training. Youth leaders will also need to be adequately supported by staff on an ongoing basis, similar to how nonprofit organizations provide support and facilitation for their Board of Directors.

    Second, even with programs where the Department itself is not convening a youth committee, the Department could include in grant criteria that grantees seeking to make a difference in the lives of young people must engage an active youth leadership cohort to advise or co-direct the work. Best practices for such arrangements exist in the field. Far too often youth themselves aren’t meaningfully engaged in education reforms that ultimately seek to impact them.

    Third, the Department could reinforce and highlight existing awards and recognition given to outstanding students and educators achieving quality civic learning outcomes. For example, NYLC annually recognizes a student group and an educator for outstanding service-learning. If the Department were to share these and other similar opportunities it would help increase publicity for them, both during the nomination process and after the award is made. These sorts of students and educators provide inspiration and an example for others seeking to achieve similar levels of civic learning.

  2. One of the challenges of civic education that takes place in an classroom setting is that it is unclear how well the civic engagement transfers into the daily lives of adults who are juggling multiple responsibilities and priorities. For that reason, World Education developed the Collaborations for Active Communities (CAC) Project, an effort to partner adult education classrooms with community organizations in order to provide a civic “apprenticeship” that also connects adults to community activities that can continue beyond their tenure in the education program.

    The CAC project partnered students in three adult education programs around Massachusetts with community action “mentor” organizations that involved student teams in local organizing and community education campaigns.

    One of these partnerships connected students to an organization working on housing discrimination. After learning about the issue, the students decided to create a bilingual video about it, which was shown in local adult education programs and at the community library.

    Another class partnered with an organization researching the exploitation of day laborers. These students conducted surveys of friends and family, analyzed the data, and contributed their findings to a white paper presented to the state legislature.

    The third class partnered with a local community-based organization to advocate for additional ESL classes in their community.

    The CAC model introduced adult students to real life civics that yielded real impacts. Students were able to see the effect of their efforts to educate, advocate, and work collectively with others to voice their needs. We hope that the Department of Education will support such contextualized, authentic civics projects in adult education settings as well as in secondary and college contexts.

  3. As future higher education professionals and members of Kent State University HIED 66664: Service-Learning in Higher Education course, we are writing to you in regards to the report entitled Engagement in Democracy: A Road Map and Call to Action Road Map and Call to Action written by the Department of Education. We have provided thoughtfully developed feedback and critical questions that we believe need to be explored and considered to better address civic education.

    At first glance, the report makes a convincing argument for improving civic education in the American education system, in order to protect and strengthen democracy. The reports highlights how civic learning develops “21st century competencies” such as critical thinking, collective problem-solving and a global perspective, all in which are valuable to employers and contributes to a better school environment and lower dropout rate. However, as future higher education professionals and more importantly citizens, we were left with several overarching questions that must be addressed before implementing the nine “call to action points” suggested in the report. These overarching questions are:

    • Who defines, designs, implements, and assesses civic education?

    • How do we define, design, implement, and assess civic education?

    From the very start the report claims that, “the return on the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in education each year must be measured not just in terms of individual success in educational attainment and in the job market or even national economic growth. It also must be gauged by how well the next generation of Americans is prepared to solve collective problems creatively and collaboratively” (p. 5). This leads us to our first set of questions: whose role is it to define” a quality education” in the America education systems? How does the Department of Education (DOE) define citizenship or civic education? Ehrlich (2000) defines of civic engagement as, “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and nonpolitical processes” (National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, 2012, p.8). However, the discrepancy is questioned in how the Department of Education gauges the quality of civic education. The report shifts from quality of civic education to examining low proficiency test scores in civics, which is at the mid-20% for several grade levels. The DOE will need to consider how they broadly framing the concept of citizenship and civic education. As a framework of citizenship, the Department of Education can use Eyler and Giles’ (1999)
    dimensions of effective citizenship, which includes values, knowledge, skills, efficacy and commitment. Blended with the definition could be Westheimer and Kahne (2004) conceptualized citizen as three types of citizens: justice-oriented, personally responsible and participatory. It is known the literature on civic engagement is out there and it is suggested that the Department of Education and educators at all levels (regional, state, and national) work to develop a heory-based specialized framework of citizenship and civic education to challenge students to grow as citizens.

    This specifically calls attention for the all education stakeholders to be at the table to define citizenship and civic education. The first three steps calls for a developed civic audit identified civic indicators, and evidence-based best practices for civic learning and democratic engagement approaches. National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (2012) stated that rather than implementing a required college civic course, that the call is for, “ colleges and universities to adopt far more ambitious standards that can be measured over time to indicate whether institutions and their students are becoming more civic-minded” (p.14) . However, we must not forget what organization learning theorist have observed for years, the biggest obstacle to intuitional learning and change is to address the unwillingness to examine the information that may challenge the leaders’ image of themselves as well as for their organization (Argyris, 1977). Which leads us to a sub-question, are American education, business, and government leaders truly ready to address the lack of civic education that exist?

    Overall the report made it clear that the definition of civic education must be redefined to better equip our students. The report states, “Our nation’s citizens must be qualified for the 21st-century jobs that require advanced training and education. They must also be prepared to fulfill their democratic responsibilities to their communities and their nation, and be competent to tackle complex global challenges with diverse groups and within diverse environments needs to be developed to further determine the quality of our education and civics” (p.17). Sadly this argument is support by the HERI survey, which found that only about one-quarter of college seniors report that their understanding of the problems facing their community and their knowledge of people from different races and culture was much stronger at the end of college than at its start” (p. 12). This shared data leads us to our second question of how do we as a society, members of the democracy, or institution of higher learning will we truly gauge or measure the quality of civic education.

    According to Civic Enterprises Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University America’s Promise Alliance (2010) report pulled data that showed that while the percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college has increased to nearly 70 percent, the percentage of young adults (aged 25-29) with a college degree remains at around 30 percent (p. 19). This data emphasis the need for all stakeholders to determine how to measure the quality of civic education which action step three attempts to draw highlight, however the step is lacking specific standards, criteria, and in some ways assumes that post-secondary education communities will be able to identify, assess, and articulate best practices. Overall as higher education professionals, there is desire for additional details in regards to assessing best practices. Specifically, one student states, “The DOE will encourage educators to…,” more clarity and explanation is needed to how educators will be encouraged to truly gauge their strategies” (personnel communication, 2012). This again goes back to how are we defining “best practices” and civic education? Which leads us to our next unanswered question which is who is in charge of developing this plan?

    The fourth action step calls for “leverage between federal investments and public-private partnerships and the fact that that nearly half of the US states no longer require civics education for high school graduation, the question looks at who should truly be in charge of developing a more consistent civic education plan? Is it the collaboration between post-secondary and K-12 educators and administrators? What role should the government or the private sector play? How would this plan look different for each state, region, or local community? Finally we also must consider who is not being considered in this partnership such as student, parents, faculty at all levels, alumni and other community members? These are some of the follow up question we believe will need to be further explored.

    As higher education professionals, we are skeptical of the sustainability of an approach to developing these partnerships. One should question the sustainability when partnerships and resources are dependent on grants funding. One is left to wonder, who are the stakeholders in the development of this civic education plan? With the call-out for public-private partnerships, the report turned to the impact, success rate, and interest in AmeriCorps programs. For example, AmeriCorps (2011) reports that each year AmeriCorps invests more than $150 million in expanding service-learning and campus volunteering—including approximately $40 million in grants to institutions of higher education (p. 9) However, even with highlighted impacts the report failed to address the lack of support which can be found in our very own government for such public-private partnerships. The 2013 Budget Resolution Committee Report (2012) recommendations to Congress are to:
    Eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service. Programs administered out of this agency—which created the oxymoron ‘‘paid volunteer’’—provide funding to students and others who work in certain areas of public service. Participation in these programs is not based on need. The Federal Government already has aid programs focused on low-income students, and paying volunteers is not a core Federal responsibility, especially in times of high deficits and debt. Further, it is much more efficient to have such efforts operate at the State and local level by the community that receives the benefit of the service. (Report 112–421 to accompany H. Con. Res. 112).

    Even with such public-private partnership success, which includes over 80,000 AmeriCorps employed citizens and nearly 60% of those AmeriCorps Alumni returning to non-profit sectors, it is clear that this may not be the best approached to sustainable achievement. For higher education professionals and others the fear is that the definition or approach to public-private partnership and civic education is dependent on federal funding and private profit. This leads us to ask a follow-up question of if all stakeholders are partnership to develop a plan for civic education, who is really in control at the table?

    The next question is when and how should the plan for civic education be implemented? The report did not provide applicable steps that could help the stakeholders generate short-term goals for their specific plan for civic education. As professional there is extra stress to get the students in and get them out as fast as possible. Dey (2009) shared one of the most disturbing findings of A Crucible Moment which is that, “the longer students stay in college, the wider the gap becomes between “their endorsement of social responsibility as a goal of college and their assessment of whether the institution is providing opportunities for growth in this area” (as cited in National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, 2011, p. 12). Again, this data suggest that civic education is a quick process and that the time spent in college is significant.

    A counter-point to this data can be found in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “Does college make you vote?” by Neil Gross . Gross shares a study done by Highton (2009) that showed that there are significant differences in political knowledge between college graduates and non-graduates, but that it was found that these differences were present before high school and did not help people understand our system (Gross, 2009). This data suggest that civic education development happens earlier in the educational process. If this is the case, when reviewing the Dept. of Education’s report, we are stuck wondering if the nine steps are or should be prioritized or listed in order? If not, then where should higher education professionals start? Should professionals following the steps in order?
    Some may further question not only the timing of this new civic education plan but also the approach. For example, action step seven, whereby the Department’s Blueprint presents a plan for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) proposes a new competitive program (Dept. of Ed, 2012. p.19). This effective teaching and learning for a well-rounded education would assist states, local education agencies, and nonprofits in developing, implementing, evaluating, and replicating evidence-based programs that contribute to a well-rounded education—including civics, government, economics, and history (Dept. of Ed, 2012, p.19). Again, this collaborative approach may create for a better program but the original questions must be answered, who and how do we measure the quality of civic education?

    As higher education professionals, it is our civic-responsibility to challenge and question the suggested approached to further develop and define civic education. Overall, we have presented some valuable feedback in regards to civic education in America. This is conversation worth starting and continuing for all citizens of the educational communities. The reported did provide a start of a framework but must further work through some of the proposed remaining questions before one can say the road map is completely drawn out and the call to action announced. It is our hope that our feedback will challenge other’s to join in on the conversation about how we develop civic education and develop a tool that can effectively measure the quality of such import civic education.

    References:

    AmeriCorps (2011). “For Colleges and Universities” For Organizations, Retrieved from: http://www.americorps.gov/for_organizations/highered/index.asp. Argyris, C. (1977). Double loop learning in organization. Harvard Business Review. 55(5): 115-25

    Gross, N. (2012). Does College Make You Vote? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2012/10/31/does-college-make-you-vote/

    National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, Association of American Colleges and Universities, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future (Washington, DC: 2012).

    U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary and Office of Postsecondary Education, Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy: A Road Map and Call to Action, Washington, D.C., 2012. Voice for Service (2012). Legislative Update. Retrieved from: http://voicesforservice.org/legis_update.htm

  4. I believe that our public higher education is the perfect venue for furthering important discussion and planning for civic learning. The four highly implementable steps that seemed to stand out in A Roadmap and Call to Action Report should be part of all grant award acceptance objectives. They were:

    1. Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institution to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement.

    a. This can be done through the core courses (like first year seminar) which every college and university offers as orientation for all programs and includes those seeking certifications in non-academic fields.

    5. Encourage community-based work-study placements

    a. This is the best suggestion that needs to start with a top-down approach. In other words, community leaders—working with colleges and universities—need to encourage hiring and placement of students for work study jobs through the community service areas (i.e. health dept., schools, etc.) for increased interest in civic understanding.

    6. Encourage public service careers among college students and graduates.

    a. Careers like teaching, nursing, etc. need to be in the forefront of careers to be in that are well-paid and important for a community. I think current societal views of these careers are that they are not as well compensated or highly regarded as business careers.

    8. Engage historically Black Colleges and University and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices.

    a. Every college and university that is any of the aforementioned institutions should have suggestions on how to better serve their populations. There is no “one-size-fits-all method of helping every student. Each grant written to assist their demographics should be considered on the merits of their particular needs and data and regarded for how they implement best practices for their populations.

  5. The Department of Education’s January 2012 “Civic Learning and Engagement Initiative” offers encouragement for those of us sensing the urgency of improving the international dimensions of American education, but the document should be much stronger. It does indicate that special skills are needed for participation in the global economy (page 2), it notes the importance of civic learning in global contexts (page 3), and it includes its IFLE programs as one of its several relevant Department programs (page 18). However, it fails to include the IFLE programs in its “Call to Action” for “Enhancing the Department of Education’s Commitment to Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy” (on pages 21 to 26).

    In this era when so many aspects of our lives have international dimensions, an effective “Road Map and Call to Action” for civic engagement should include much more attention to the Department’s international training programs. The IFLE programs are intended to improve the global literacy of all students at U.S. institutions – primarily by “training the trainers” who then strengthen study of the languages, history, and cultures of other countries, and the nature of their relationships to the United States. Through better understanding of other cultures, students learn to make instructive comparisons, to better appreciate other political systems (including democracies) while engaging more effectively in our own, to be more sensitive world citizens, and, when needed, to work – and communicate – effectively abroad. Because the “study abroad” cited on page 18 is a relatively small part of IFLE activity, because only a very small percentage of American students are able to study abroad, and because those who do so with USG funding are normally under the auspices of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies rather than the Department of Education, the Department’s most important international activities are preparation of the majority of students in the U.S. for globally-oriented civic and prfessional lives – which also requires the strongest possible preparation of their teachers, K-12 and postsecondary.

    The IFLE programs are interrelated in their contributions to Americans’ learning about other nations. For example, the International Research and Studies (IRS) and the Language Resource Centers (LRC) programs support foreign language training, materials development, and planning related to all international training programs. The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) program, like the NRC program, fosters foreign language training for the specialists who will train others (possibly at the UISFL, or Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language, programs that add international dimensions to curricula and strengthen foreign language instruction, in both community colleges and four-year institutions) or who will undertake other forms of public service – and civic engagement.

    Although many IFLE-funded programs are located at well-established institutions, even their continued vitality remains fragile and highly dependent on the Department’s financial support, which usually covers but a small part of its grantees’ program costs. The potential funding is a crucial incentive for their internationally-oriented outreach (to other K-16 institutions and the wider public) and for training in low-enrollment, less commonly taught, and critical foreign languages, both of which are low priority in most university budgets.

    “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement” effectively must include much more than minimally maintaining these internationally-oriented programs. Recent cutbacks in the IFLE programs suggest that the Department is interested in making pronouncements such as the January “Road Map” rather than realistically stimulating effective “Action.” The IFLE programs are crucial to activities that further the global, or international, dimensions of civic learning. Funding for the full range of IFLE programs should be increased, and their lessons shared in all related Department of Education programs. This should be a tenth step for the civic education Road Map – or is it implied in the first Road Map step, on page 22, to “…catalyze schools and postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning…”? The Department’s support for IFLE programs should be very explicit, well publicized, and well funded.

  6. MEMO

    To: United States Department of Education

    From: The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, The University of Texas at Austin
    Susan Abravanel, Vice President of Education, YSA (Youth Service America)
    Kelita Svoboda Bak, CEO, National Youth Leadership Council
    Lisa Bardwell, President/CEO, Earth Force
    Twyla Barnes, Superintendent, Educational Service District 112, Vancouver, Washington
    Jill Bass, Director of Curriculum and Teacher Development, Mikva Challenge
    Paul J. Baumann, Director, National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
    Hon. Lyla Berg, Hawai’i State Coordinator, the Center for Civic Education and Kids Voting Hawai’i
    Sheldon Berman, Superintendent, Eugene (OR) School District 4J
    The Blake School
    John Bonaiuto, retired Executive Director, Nebraska Association of School Boards
    Brian Brady, Executive Director, Mikva Challenge
    Lois Brewer, Director, Service-Learning Seattle
    Elizabeth Burmaster, President, Nicolet Area Technical College
    Campus Compact
    CBK Associates
    William Cirone, Superintendent, Santa Barbara County (CA) Education Office
    Randall Collins, Executive Director, District Administration Leadership Institute
    Steve Culbertson, President & CEO, YSA (Youth Service America)
    Jerusha O. Conner, Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University
    Philippe Cousteau, Co-Founder and President, EarthEcho International, Inc.
    Brady Delander, National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
    Mia Demezza, Executive Vice President, EarthEcho International, Inc.
    Nick DiColandrea, Developing Communities/Partnership Specialist, Communities in Schools of North Carolina and the North Carolina Service-Learning Coalition
    Hon. Delaine Eastin, Former Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of California
    Brenda Elliott, Executive Director, Student Services and Character Development, Guilford County (NC) Schools
    Lisa Guilfoile, Project Leader, National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
    Rachel Gunther, Associate Director, Youth On Board
    Patty Hall, President and Co-Founder, H2O for Life
    Stephen Hefner, Superintendent, District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties (Irmo, SC)
    Marilyn Howard, Former Superintendent of Public Instruction, Idaho
    William Hughes, Director of Leadership Development, Schools That Can Milwaukee
    Innovations in Civic Participation
    KIDS Consortium
    Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Director of CIRCLE: the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University
    Meira Levinson, Associate Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Co-convener, Civic and Moral Education Initiative, Harvard University
    National Coalition for Academic Service-Learning
    National Education Association
    North Carolina Service-Learning Coalition
    Glenys Hill Rada, former Superintendent, Kelso (WA) School District
    Roger Rada, Interim Superintendent, Tigard-Tualatin (OR) School District
    Suellen Reed, Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
    RMC Research Corporation
    Molly Ryan, Associate Policy Analyst, National Center for Learning and Citizenship, Education Commission of the States
    Jenny Sazama, Co-Founder and Director, Youth on Board
    Scott Warren, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Generation Citizen
    Hon. Sue Windels, District Education Advocate, Office of Congressman Jared Polis
    Alex Wirth, Member, U.S. National Commission for UNESCO

    RE: Comments on “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy”

    Date: November 30, 2012

    We would like to thank the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for its recent efforts to bolster civic learning and engagement in schools. We enthusiastically encourage ED to continue these efforts through strategic development and implementation of policies and programs that lead to strong outcomes for students’ civic learning and engagement. In response to ED’s request for public input on how ED defines “civic learning and engagement activities” and how ED can best support these activities, we submit the following comments:

    A. How ED defines civic learning and engagement

    As the “Advancing Civic Learning” document already articulates, civic learning and engagement includes a much broader set of competencies than civic knowledge. We are pleased to see that ED has drawn on language from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of School’s list of civic competencies(http://www.civicmissionofschools.org/educators/civic-competencies) in this matter. As ED continues to refine its definition of civic learning and engagement, we recommend that ED return to this document for two critical reasons. First, the document clearly defines the four domains of civic learning and engagement, only one of which is Civic Content Knowledge. (The other three are Civic Skills: Intellectual; Civic Skills: Participatory; and Civic Dispositions.) ED’s consistent use of these domains and their sub-domains would help to clearly convey that ED’s conception of civic learning and engagement is one that is both broad and recognizes that preparing students for civic participation is a critical component of civic learning. Second, the Campaign’s list was developed over many years by a broadly representative group of civic educators. For this reason, there is already much agreement throughout the civic education field that these competencies encompass the critical aspects of civic learning and engagement. ED’s use of these competencies would signal its recognition and support of the existing agreement throughout the field on this matter.

    B. How ED will support civic learning

    1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.

    We suggest that ED pursue three strategies to convene and catalyze the education community.

    First, we suggest that ED work through public-private partnerships to utilize existing meetings and conventions. Many of the groups that ED wishes to bring into its civic learning and engagement activities already meet through existing professional organizations and associations. ED will be more likely to reach larger audiences by bringing information on civic learning to existing venues and meetings rather than by trying to attract participants to new venues. We envision that ED could sponsor or provide speakers for conference sessions, keynotes, etc., and perhaps even establish a “track” of conference sessions within some conferences. We encourage ED to look beyond the existing civic education field if this strategy is selected. ED could potentially reach out to other subject areas (e.g., English, the Arts, Science, Mathematics), role groups (e.g., teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, the business community), and related fields (e.g., youth service, action civics, service-learning, youth philanthropy) when enacting this strategy.

    Second, we suggest that as a mechanism for building a “critical mass” of support, ED engage in sponsoring a one-time national summit on civic learning and engagement and simultaneously promote this cause through a national publicity campaign. Such a national convening and campaign would help to build broad public and cross-sector support of civic learning and engagement, as well as allow those in the field to garner substantial support for their work from educators, policymakers, parents, and youth leaders.

    Third, we suggest that ED enact a comprehensive program of recognition for high-quality civic learning and engagement as a mechanism for catalyzing the education community to action. This program would serve two purposes: (1) to provide recognition for excellence in the field and (2) to identify model programs and practices as exemplars for others in the field. We recommend that ED establish various types of these awards to possibly include school-level awards (similar to the National Blue Ribbon School award), student-level awards (similar to the Presidential Physical Fitness Award), state-level, etc., as well as awards for teacher education programs, professional development programs, curriculum development, etc.

    We recommend that ED ensure that youth have a substantial and substantive role in the development and implementation of all three of these strategies.

    2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.

    Despite substantive and significant research within the field of civic education, the field is far from arrival at a sufficient research base for establishing whether and how civic education practices improve students’ aptitude for and interest in a life of civic engagement. Such a research base is necessary for establishing the accountability structures that are necessary for developing parity between the civic outcomes of schools and the academic outcomes of schools for which there is already substantial investment in accountability structures. In particular, this field is lacking longitudinal, experimental (random control) studies that meet What Works Clearinghouse evidence standards without reservations. Further, while the civic education field has established solid measures for a handful of indicators related to civic learning and engagement (e.g., school engagement, school attachment), the field lacks sufficient measures for other indicators (e.g., civic engagement). We propose that ED begin to address these deficiencies in the research base first by convening a group of key scholars from the field and representatives from IES to identify the existing strengths and weaknesses of the research base for civic learning and engagement. An outcome of this convening would be the development of short- and long-term strategic plans for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to follow in developing a rigorous and more complete research base for the field. Second, we recommend that ED appropriate the necessary funding for IES to carry out these strategic plans.

    3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.
    In its development of funding strategies for civic learning and engagement we suggest that ED make the following considerations:

    a. Funding should be made available for civic learning and engagement initiatives through both existing and new mechanisms. Specifically, we suggest that ED provide opportunities in i3 and Race to the Top for funding that is directed toward civics. We also suggest that ED develop new competitive grant programs (available to states and non-profit organizations) to support civic learning and engagement programs and initiatives.

    b. All funding should be tied to requirements that engender long-term sustainability of civic learning well after the conclusion of the funding cycle.

    c. Given the tendency of schools to resist systemic change, we advocate that federal investments preference active forms of civic learning (such as service-learning and action civics) that will foster wider dissemination and implementation of classroom practices that foster all four domains of civic learning rather than just civic content knowledge.

    4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

    While several of the comments we have already stated address this issue (e.g., publicity campaign, comprehensive program of awards and recognitions), we would like to encourage ED to take an important additional step with this last strategy. We agree that a broad base of support and visibility among community members, students, and stakeholders is necessary to compel educators to adopt and implement an approach to civic learning and engagement that represents all four domains of civic learning. However, public support for the idea alone is insufficient to engender substantive and sufficient change in the practice of educators. Any efforts to promote civic learning and engagement must be accompanied by efforts to support high-quality teaching. Educators, both pre-service and in-service, need sustained, integrated, high-quality professional development if they are to make meaningful change in the civic education practices in which they engage students.

    Conclusion

    We once again thank ED for taking steps to strengthen civic learning and engagement for students in P-12 schools. Should you require any clarification of the comments we present in this memo, or should you wish to engage us further in your efforts, we would warmly welcome the opportunity to engage in further conversations with you.

  7. In its report, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy,” The Department of Education lays out the background and plan for a new initiative on “civic learning and democratic engagement,” which they define as preparation based in knowledge and practice to integrate students into civics, and civics into disciplinary studies . This response encourages the Department to clarify what kind of democracy they hope students will engage in and what kind of citizen will be engaged.

    Similar to many public officials and agencies in the United States, the Department of Education uses the word democracy as if there were a single clear definition. As stated in the text, the Department believes that “…while America’s democratic ideals remain a model for the world, democratic participation in the United States is far from exceptional.” This comment deserves an explanation of these democratic ideals in order to understand why citizens are not engaging in their democratic system. From there, we will see in what ways the US democracy is a model for the world.
    Democracy has taken many forms over time. A helpful resource to trace these variants is a book by David Held called Models of Democracy. Held begins by noting the current near-universal adoption of the term democracy, remarking that almost all countries today call themselves democracies, even though each form is very different, since “democracy appears to legitimate modern political life” . What Held does in his book that I believe would be helpful for all leaders of government is to map different variations of democracy according to their values, ideals, and practices. Every society, culture, and nation interprets the foundational definition of democracy – “rule by the people” – according to their own perceptions of who are the people or citizens, what is ruling, and in what ways can these people rule, or what kind of citizens do we want to develop?

    The US model of democracy – here using the term as Held does, to mean a theoretical construction and not an ideal example, as ED uses it –fits into the classic models of Republican and Liberal Democracy. The Founding Fathers originally instituted a republic and not a direct democracy in order to avoid the masses – including blacks, women, and poor people – from having more control than the elites. What we have now is a representative democracy where the role of the majority of people in actual ruling is limited to a vote. The reason participation is so low in the US might be because this model of democracy is not, in fact, the ideal for many citizens. I would argue that this is not a problem of educating citizens how to be involved in democracy but rather a weakness of the model of democracy and the type of citizen engaging this system.

    Contradictions of Democracy

    Though ED does not specify its ideals of US democracy, implicit values as noted in the text through goals and previous programs highlighted, include individual responsibility for community problems , respect for diversity , and economic equality . While I would agree with these goals and values generally, I see some inherent contradictions.

    The first contradiction is expecting individuals to take responsibility for public problems. While most people in the US have an aversion to big government, some issues like wealth redistribution need federal leadership. Democracy to me means the mechanism of the state is responsive to people’s needs, especially when the populations most in need are those most disenfranchised, marginalized or excluded from the policy making process. Step 4 in this proposal commits public funds to civic learning purposes, but also depends upon the private sector to carry out these programs. My recommendation for implementing this step would be that government take responsibility for the level of education within public institutions instead of relying on the private sector.

    Second, there is an inherent contradiction between the value of respecting diversity and the practice of a competitive, two-party system. Not all opinions, interests or viewpoints can possibly be captured by two main parties who compete to be closer to the political center. In addition, as we just saw in the past election, only one of those parties effectively speaks to racial and ethnic minorities. True diversity means opening space in the political system so that these groups can speak for themselves. The DoE discusses historical moves like the Morrill Act or Title III and Title V that support underserved populations in the educational system. Step 8 of the plan also proposes engaging the universities serving these populations and encouraging students there to identify best practices for all higher education institutions.

    The first question for this Step is, best practices for what? The next question is, in what ways are students of these universities integrated into the mainstream, majority educational and political system in order to strengthen a cohesive democracy instead of one divided by racial and ethnic backgrounds? Rather than impose further burdens on institutions that serve the most marginalized sectors of our community to exploit them for their successful endeavors, I would suggest educating those students privileged enough to attend elite universities about the diversity that exists outside of their own schools. By integrating these polarized communities, all of these students would appreciate the value in learning of diversity.
    In addition, I would suggest a study on the trajectory of students from these “historically” minority-serving institutions versus students from traditionally white public universities in order to assess the role of race and privilege in public service careers.

    As evidence of the huge divide that still needs to be bridged between the dominant sector in the US and racial minorities who have lived generations of discrimination, both indigenous and black student populations, among others, struggle to integrate themselves as equal citizens in the white-dominated society. Robert Whitman writes an important piece on Spokane Indian education in Washington State where the curriculum is developed to teach students to excel in the “real world” of the global capitalist economy outside the reservation, which necessarily means abandoning their own traditions and lifestyle. The pressure to compete means assimilating into the dominant structure. Similarly, Meira Levinson’s monograph No Citizen Left Behind exposes what she calls the undemocratic “civic empowerment gap” that leaves black students – African-American as well as African and Caribbean immigrants – marginalized from mainstream civic culture. Deeply instilled mistrust of a government directed by people with different practices, values, and privileges than their own leaves them feeling unconnected to the democratic process. US democratic education has not valued diversity in any substantive way, but rather has worked to erase diversity in order to create one dominant civic culture.

    The last purported value of democracy is that of economic equality. Much like diversity, there is a radical contradiction between economic equality and competition, in this case prescribed by our capitalist economy. The democracy of the United States tries to reconcile these opposing forces, but in the actual functions of our government, those with economic capital have political power, and they are not interested in relinquishing it for any notion of equality. The reason, Walter Parker might argue, is that instead of developing a democracy of citizens practicing “enlightened political engagement” for the common good, we have a country of “idiots,” or self-serving individuals. Parker’s model of democratic education privileges inclusive dialogue and deliberation towards consensus, not competition, in order to honor diverse perspectives equally.

    None of the steps of ED’s plan address the problem of economic inequality. The text only focuses on the gap that privileged university students have in their civic knowledge, without focusing on the underprivileged youth who do not even arrive to university because of systemic injustices. Parker finishes his book urging equal access to schools that “educate citizens for democratic living in a diverse society” for both impoverished and privileged communities, so that both populations can be educated as principled citizens committed to developing a just society.

    Not all citizens are created equal

    In the US model of democracy, not all citizens have the same access or incentive to engaging in civic culture. If the goal of ED is to increase “democratic engagement” it must first take into account these systemic weaknesses that reduce the responsibility of government, tokenize diversity, and reinforce inequality. Citizens must be willing and well-equipped to take on these structural injustices as part of their civic duty to mold a more democratic nation. That is, we need to educate justice-oriented citizens, to borrow a term from Westheimer and Kahne. Their important article distinguishing three kinds of citizens: the personally responsible citizen, the participatory citizen, and the justice-oriented citizen . While Parker and these two authors advocate for a justice-oriented citizen who works to solve social problems and improve society specifically through mechanisms of advocacy aimed at dismantling structures that perpetuate injustice, the DoE seems to prefer the personally responsible or, at best, participatory citizen.

    In both of these manifestations of citizenship, the individual contributes to or participates in the already-defined structures, establishments, and institutions. The first value of democracy identified above refers to a personally responsible citizen willing to take on the burden of self-governance in the absence of the state. The goal of the DoE to prepare participatory citizens who engage democratic institutions is promoted by Step 9, which would integrate students and family into the decision-making processes of government. While this is an admirable goal, it misses two points: one, how to ensure equal representation of diversity – that is, minority, underprivileged, and marginalized populations – into these processes when their level of participation in government is historically low; and second, what kind of space students and parents have to critique the system as presented to them, and possibly create an alternative, parallel system?

    ED does not use these three categories of citizenship, but they do say that they want to form citizens that know how to “communicate effectively, to work collaboratively, to ask tough questions, and to appreciate diversity” in order to be competitive in the global economy. While not mentioned directly, it seems the civic learning program ought to include elements of global citizenship, or what Martha Nussbaum calls “cosmopolitan education” . She argues that instead of focusing on just a national agenda where one’s own culture, politics, language and preferences are considered “neutral and natural” , students ought to learn to see their perspective as one variation of many throughout history and the world. Just like the variants of democracy, these insights teach that different people interpret the world in unique ways, and one is not superior to another.

    Step 7 in ED’s plan proposes a well-rounded education beyond that of the basic curriculum tied to high-stakes testing. If ED is really committed to producing citizens able to solve global problems cooperatively instead of just perform at a competitive level on standardized testing, it ought to adopt a project of cosmopolitan education based on respect for diversity worldwide, in which students learn that the US method, model, and mode is not the only way or the best way. This would have to start, however, with the DoE recognizing that the US form of democracy is not the only or the best way, either. As Nussbaum contends, cosmopolitan education would allow students to form a well-rounded perspective, recognizing and appreciating diverse ways of seeing the world, which would facilitate dialogue to solve global problems that need international cooperation. In this way, US graduates could take the lead on solving global problems with democratic values.

    In conclusion, ED asks for my own definition of “civic learning and democratic engagement” . My answer would be that it is the deliberate process to develop critical thinking skills in all students to engage the assumptions, mechanisms, and manifestations of democracy in their own world. It would include honest, comparative information about the functioning of government in the United States. It would provide opportunities for all students to participate in elements of public decision-making. And, most importantly, it would open a dialogic, deliberative process where all students – regardless of race, class, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation – could express their vision for their ideal democracy, so they can truly participate in an authentic democracy that is a model for the world.

  8. Since my last “Civics” class was in high school, I began to research just what a civics type course is and what it should be. As the mandates have stated, this is a K-12 initiative, however most of the comments I have seen posted relate to high school and beyond. That is a long time to wait for students to become “good students of character”. Because we do not expect our younger students to participate in citizenship, with the exception of saying the pledge, how can we expect them to take on the role of citizen later?

    As a teacher, we have our hands tied teaching the “important” subjects- reading, math and science. However, can we make more of an effort to tie civics lessons into the total curriculum? What about outside the curriculum? One good way suggested was service type projects. It seems our low-income school is always involved in collecting money for this or that, or clothes and canned goods or other things for people less fortunate. This is one way students are made aware of the wider community they live in.

    Another important focus in schools today is bullying- but if we had more respect for the rights of others, would it be such a problem? What happened to student courts? We have a 6th grade Peer Mediation group where problems are resolved. I think it would be great if the “trials” were broadcast for all our students to see.

    I see a big problem with individual responsibility. We are not allowed to make students “responsible” for doing their homework. If they don’t do their homework, they are given several chances to make it up. Points may be taken off for late work, but we have had parents question this policy. If we are too “harsh” on students and ask for too much or too difficult (challenging) homework, parents make us change our ways. Sometimes responsibility is as simple as getting a student to bring a pencil to class. They expect the teachers to hand out supplies and are angry when we don’t. The students want to put the responsibility on us.

    Responsibility and citizenship begin in the elementary grades. It should be built on at each grade level by the time they get to high school. We can do a better job of training the students, but we have to re-train parents and teachers as well. I think many people would be willing to try to change, and ask for more civics in school. The consequence is if we don’t, we will have a society who does not care.

  9. We are pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Department of Education’s Road Map for civic learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.” ASCD applauds the department’s call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement for students; families; communities; and leaders in education, business, labor, philanthropy, and government. A comprehensive approach to learning recognizes that successful young people are intellectually active, emotionally and physically healthy, motivated, civically inspired, and ready for the world beyond their own borders.

    Launched in 2007, ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative is an effort to change the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term success of each child. Civic learning is a crucial component of a whole child approach to education and is particularly important in ensuring that students gain an understanding of their opportunities in and obligations to their school, their community, and the nation. Although the mantle of citizenship may be acquired by birth or naturalization, becoming an active U.S. citizen must be learned. Our schools are uniquely equipped to provide this learning as well as the opportunities for practicing civic discourse and engagement in a safe and supportive environment.

    Since the founding of the U.S. public school system, students have been taught about the ideals that set our country apart and upon which it is built. Implementation of policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act have forced schools to devote more time to math and language arts instruction and assessment, which means diminished time spent on subjects such as civics. The result is that too many students graduate ignorant of our governmental structure, its historical significance, and their role in ensuring a workable republic. We look forward to working with the Department of Education to reverse this trend.

    There are numerous benefits of school-based civic learning to individuals, schools, and society, including

    • Giving students a voice, particularly those in disadvantaged populations, because they will have greater understanding of the importance of being informed and participating in civic discourse;

    • Instilling 21st century competencies, including communication, collaboration, and appreciation of diversity in opinions;

    • Improving school climate through engagement, thereby reducing school dropout rates;

    • Understanding the need for and increasing participation in community service; and

    • Increasing the accountability of elected officials, because an informed citizenry will and should question and check public decisions.

    According to the Civic Mission of Schools’ Guardian of Democracy Report (PDF), “Students who receive effective civic learning are:

    • More likely to vote and discuss politics at home
    • Four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues
    • More confident in their ability to speak publicly and communicate with their elected representatives.” (p.6)

    The Department of Education asks for feedback on four of its nine objectives to support civic learning. ASCD offers feedback on three of these objectives:

    1. How to best convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities. ASCD proposes the following:

    a. Prioritizing civic learning in federal policy to encourage states, districts, and schools to
    i. Provide classroom instruction in history, government, economics, law, and democracy;
    ii. Encourage discussion of current events and controversial issues;
    iii. Ensure that students have the opportunity to participate in service-learning programs;
    iv. Offer outside-the-classroom opportunities for civic engagement;
    v. Encourage students’ participation in school governance; and
    vi. Provide opportunities for students to participate in simulations of the democratic process.

    b. Ensuring civic learning is recognized as a core academic subject within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

    c. Increasing opportunities for ongoing teacher professional development in civics.

    d. Encouraging states to adopt high standards in civic learning, with student assessments based on these standards that include portfolios and group projects.

    e. Supporting civic learning through federal competitive grant opportunities to fund innovation; research; and dissemination of model programs and best practices, especially for low-income schools and disadvantaged students.

    f. Creating a school award program that best models civic learning achievement by students and schools.

    g. Requiring more frequent administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in civics and history.

    h. Encouraging civic learning in and universities.

    2. How to best identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encourage further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design. ASCD proposes aligning student outcomes with the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, as well as the National Standards for Civics and Government. These standards documents provide schools with a solid framework for instruction, assessment, and teacher professional development, which will help inform research on effective programming.

    3. How to best highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families, and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem solvers in education. ASCD proposes the following:

    a. Requiring schools, districts, and communities to measure and report student and family engagement activities and outcomes (e.g., participation in after-school programming, community-based learning opportunities, and extracurricular activities; volunteer rates; parent involvement data).
    b. Encouraging schools and districts to establish course-credit systems that award
    students’ credit for participating in service learning, internships, and apprenticeships.

    c. Recognizing and rewarding schools and communities that offer students rich and relevant real-world learning experiences.

    ASCD appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Department of Education’s call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement and stands ready to partner with you to further this important work. We look forward to working with you and offer the expertise of our membership and the resources of our association toward that goal.

  10. Educators in New York City are looking forward to proceeding with the Civics Learning initiative described in your announcement.

    I have been a Project Director of Teaching American History grants for the past several years and with my peers have experienced first hand the positive changes that have taken place in teaching our country’s history to the over 1 million students in the New York City Department of Education.

    It is from that perspective that I make the following suggestions regarding the Civic Learning program.

    First, if the program includes professional development for K-12 teachers, the teacher/participant pool should be open to all teachers interested in improving student civic involvement, rather than limiting participation to Social Studies teachers. Civics is for all citizens and all teachers should be allowed to learn how to infuse Civics into their teaching.

    Second, the K-12 component would benefit from partnerships with organizations such as those listed in “Road Map Call To Action,” that provide authentic opportunities for students to actively engage in civic issues. If the grant opportunity includes requests for proposals that present new program models in such partnerships, an opportunity would be created to develop new, possibly exemplary, student civic engagement programs.

    Third, professional development and student participation in the social networking arena that relates to civic participation would improve the sustainability of civic action into the future.

    These suggestions are within the domain of realistic accomplishment, I believe, and include measurable goals.

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to express my ideas.

  11. In response to ED’s request for feedback related to defining civic learning and engagement as well as how to implement its related objectives, we submit the below comments for your consideration:

    Defining “Civic Learning and Engagement”

    Foundations for defining civic learning and engagement already exist in two cornerstone documents, Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools and A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, which agree with ED that civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions are necessary to any discussion of civic learning and engagement. We urge ED to ground its conceptualization of such terms in these reports due to their broad support across the civic education community. Additionally, we posit that high-quality civic learning requires using curricula that are action-oriented, community-based, student-centered, and standards-aligned, imbued with teaching critical thinking skills and doing applied work. Such civic learning opportunities are associated with increases in students’ civic engagement and academic achievement. When conceptualizing civic engagement, we encourage ED to recognize that individuals can be involved in their communities in myriad ways and that there are multiple types of citizens. As illustrated here, ED will find ample support for broadening and deepening the connections between knowledge and dispositions and the civic skills that are at the heart of civic engagement.

    Convene and Catalyze the Education Community and Collaboration

    Throughout the last two decades, numerous private and public groups have begun to work together, identifying for themselves some of the best practices in action civics and civic engagement. The National Action Civics Collaborative, for example, was founded by six organizations to share research, practices, and models for youth civic engagement, especially as applied to closing the civic engagement gap. In response to the need for increased civics knowledge, skills, and dispositions, externally-based action civics programs have arisen to promote student civic and academic outcomes, and were recently applauded by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Action civics curricula aim to teach students about politics and community by giving them a chance to participate in democratic activities, although the specific activities in which students might engage vary across programs. In action civics, students select issues important to them and take action on those issues within a context that promotes reflection, skills development, and other forms of learning.
    Thus, ED might consider that its role as a central participant and/or catalyst may be different than with other initiatives. Rather than simply convene issue-based discussions (e.g., curricular development, defining civic engagement), we encourage ED to convene stakeholder-based discussions that emphasize collaboration across various constituencies (e.g., K-12 schools, non-profit action civics organizations, colleges/universities). While many scholars are currently doing relevant, important work involving action civics at the Kindergarten-12 level and others are doing such work at the post-secondary level, there is often an unintentional disconnect between the two.

    This is not to say that such connections are not being made. Barbara Ferman has illustrated how action civics can be nested within the university setting, and Professor Fitzgerald teaches a freshman seminar to prepare Wagner College students in civic education pedagogical methods who then partner with classroom teachers on Staten Island to implement Generation Citizen. However, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Generation Citizen, which trains college student volunteers to work alongside classroom teachers), many action civics curricula are designed for K-12 teachers to independently implement in their classrooms. ED should consider convening a national conference between action civics organizations and civically engaged colleges and universities (i.e., the signatories to A Crucible Moment), focusing specifically on how to prepare both college and K-12 students to become effective citizens. In doing so, ED could be the catalyst for broader action linking the whole education system toward its goal.

    Nowhere are these conversations more important than with regards to specific efforts for addressing the civic empowerment gap. While generalizable data is certainly important, any serious study of civic learning must have a significant focus on how best to implement action civics curricula in urban settings, where students have historically lower participatory citizenship levels. Again, ED’s role as a connector between institutions of higher education and K-12 schools can be useful in this regard. Some schools and departments of education, such as the one at Wagner College, are actively partnering with low-socioeconomic K-12 schools; leveraging partnerships between them and action civics organizations by providing the space and the funding for civic learning collaborations is an important way to ensure that all students benefit from ED’s initiatives.

    Identifying Measures and Leveraging Partnerships

    Despite the best efforts of the civic education community, there are limited longitudinal and generalizable data from which specific measures can be derived. In addition to convening broader discussions about civic education across the entire curriculum, ED should also partner closely with IES, supporting projects that provide these data. Such collaboration between ED and IES would allow for better integration between civic education scholars, funding sources, and the realities of curricular implementation in K-12 schools.

    In addition to these measures, civic education policymakers must also recognize the reality of standards when encouraging teachers to implement action civics curricula; in particular, how such curricula can align with civics standards, as well as with state English/Language Arts standards and others. Research linking action civics curricula to student success with the Common Core Standards, for example, may act as an incentive for teachers to provide quality implementation. Connecting to these standards must also be an emphasis for assessing action civics; work from the Gates Foundation on badging may provide one alternative assessment strategy beyond the arbitrary, inauthentic, and superficial A-F grading system. Research related to teachers’ practical concerns will support the sustainable implementation of action civics curricula needed for quality measurement.

  12. NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Is the leading association for the advancement of the student affairs profession, dedicated to the promotion of student learning and student success in postsecondary education. Working with a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that facilitate learning and development for a diverse student population, NASPA membership totals nearly 14,000 members in all 50 states, 29 countries, and 8 U.S. Territories.

    Inherent in the mission and work of student affairs is the promotion of values related to the civic development of students. Student affairs practitioners are leaders on their campuses, directing co–‐curriculum experiences including student leadership programming, residence halls, multicultural life and diversity programming, athletics, and fraternities and sorority life. These many points of interaction facilitate the promotion of CLDE through numerous outlets. As a result of student affairs practice and programming, students learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with citizenship including leadership, the ability to work with others, multicultural competency, and community involvement.

    NASPA has a deep commitment to promoting civic learning and democratic engagement. For example, in addition to the association’s contributions to the development and dissemination of A Crucible Moment, NASPA directs the Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (Lead Initiative), a network of 50 colleges and universities committed to co–‐curricular efforts to facilitate students’ civic learning and democratic engagement. Lead Initiative institutions have committed to a series of strategies to work in partnership with on and off campus constituents to influence students’ ongoing commitment to their civic development, including:

    • Building clear and tangible civic learning and democratic engagement activities into student affairs division strategic goals and learning outcomes.

    • Collecting and reporting data on the efficacy of campus efforts using tools that measure gains in civic learning and democratic engagement.

    • Creating strategies in collaboration with students that increase civic learning and help solve community problems through collective action. In addition to the Lead Initiative, NASPA is also offering a new professional development opportunity, a CLDE–‐specific conference to be held June 2013. The conference will feature the civic and democratic work championed by the field of student affairs, elevate successful engagement strategies being employed in the co–‐curriculum, and help to tie the outcomes of CLDE work to the larger purpose of higher education. Designed for those new to civic engagement roles as well as seasoned practitioners, the CLDE conference offers a variety of dynamic learning opportunities to enhance civic engagement work by student affairs practitioners. Participants will acquire knowledge, build skills, utilize best practices and current research to develop their professional competencies and gain a more comprehensive understanding of civic learning and democratic engagement. NASPA’s dedication to, and future plans for, CLDE programming indicate the association’s leadership, expertise, and commitment to CLDE, and with that in mind, NASPA offers the following suggestions for the U.S. Department of Education’s Road Map for Civic Learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.”

    1. Recognize Student Affairs practitioners in the definition of civic learning and engagement.

    The current listing of interactive activities (service–‐learning, community service, leadership programming) and definitions lacks the presence of student affairs practitioners and their important role and reach in promoting the civic development of college students. The ED should recognize the work of student affairs professionals and the explicit role of the co–‐curriculum in promoting and developing citizenship. The ED should work with NASPA to include the field of student affairs in their work around CLDE and expand their conception of CLDE to capture co–‐curricular programs and experiences.

    2. Include Student Affairs practitioners in convenings of the education community.

    NASPA members and affiliates can surely add to the conversation around civic learning and civic education of college students. Additionally, as a member organization, our connection to our constituents can expedite and ensure timely communication between current CLDE initiatives on campuses and national efforts like the ED’s roadmap.

    3. Partner with NASPA to learn about effective program design to promote student learning.

    The Lead Initiative partner institutions are currently collecting, analyzing, and working to understand how campus civic engagement programming contributes to the civic development of college students and the fulfillment of institutional mission. The ED can partner with NASPA as we work to collect, disseminate, and highlight the findings of these campuses. Doing so would leverage the investments ED is making in CLDE, and speed the dissemination of scalable institutional practices that have proven successful at engaging students in their civic development. In sum, ED could add to their leadership in the CLDE space by including student affairs practitioners in their language, programming, and convenings. The important, diverse, and far–‐reaching work of student affairs professionals in the co–‐curriculum is another tool to promote civic development for youth. The ED can affirm and support this role with increased recognition and support for this work. We look forward to future opportunities to collaborate as we all strive to promote the civic development of students to ensure an educated and democratically engaged citizenry.

  13. I applaud your efforts to prepare all students for informed participation in civic and democratic life— and your request for feedback on the Department’s direction to support the five priorities for action that were developed by taskforce groups and enumerated in the “Road Map & Call to Action” issued by Secretary Duncan.

    I’ve included these five priorities and added my feedback below:

    1. Advancing civic learning and democratic engagement in both the U.S. and global contexts by encouraging efforts to make them core expectations for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students—including undergraduate and graduate students.

    While the Department cannot prescribe curricula, it can continue to support K-12 and post-secondary institutions through grant initiatives to specifically focus on engagement in practicum-like learning environments such as campus-community civic partnerships, service-learning programs, community-based learning, and student participation in professional and career programs that include aspects of civic responsibility. Your focus on these areas through grant initiatives will “convene and catalyze” by catching the attention of educators to focus on high-quality civic learning and engagement activities and data-based outcomes.

    2. Developing more robust evidence of civic and other student achievement outcomes of civic learning, and of the impact of school- and campus community partnerships.

    From the outcomes generated from specific grant initiatives, the Department will be able to gather data-based outcomes and “best practices” and disseminate these results in future rounds of grant initiatives to new recipients of funding who will continue to gather and report their best practices as they relate to specific target populations. As was mentioned in the Road Map, “… civic learning and democratic engagement approaches are appropriate targets of intervention for improving academic outcomes.”

    3. Strengthening school- and campus-community connections to address significant community problems and advance a local or regional vision and narrative for civic engagement.

    Your encouragement through grant initiatives, will urge these critical public-private partnerships to develop. Permitting grant funds to be used for activities that raise awareness of civic learning and democratic engagement, requiring data-based outcomes, and allowing for adjustments to program objectives based on the data will further these goals.

    4. Expanding research and the range of public scholarship, with a special emphasis on promoting knowledge creation for the good of society.

    I am heartened and encouraged by statements Secretary Duncan and senior Department officials have made stressing the importance of a well-rounded K–12 curriculum and their opposition to the narrowing of the curriculum that has happened in many schools as a result of high-stakes testing in math and English language arts. In my view, a well-rounded curriculum includes the Arts – music, dance, theatre, forensics as well as civics, government, economics, and history is critical for the good of society.

    5. Deepening civic identity by sharing stories of civic work in social media and organizing deliberative discussions about the roles of higher education in communities across the country, and by creating initiatives in science, arts, and other fields to catalyze civic agency.

    The good of society is not found in textbooks or on standardized exams. It is found in engaging activities in civic work that incorporates participating, giving, and volunteering. And nothing is as engaging as passion that is aroused when one is actively participating in something that they love doing; be it marching in a celebratory parade, playing in the community band, working in a community garden, coaching a high-school forensics team, or participating in a home-build with a low-income family. These are only a few of the many inspirational examples that could be found and promoted in stories or news updates in age appropriate media outlets.

    I am encouraged by the direction the Department of Education is taking and hopeful of the generation to come that had twelve to sixteen or more years of involvement in democratic government principals during their formal education that is accompanied with civic learning and engagement.

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on this important initiative.

  14. University of Maryland
    Discussion on Civic Engagement

    The University of Maryland convened a discussion group of faculty and staff to provide thoughtful opinions about the action items represented in the document, “ A Road Map and Call to Action: Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.” In response to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s request for feedback find below a recommended definition and learning outcomes for civic engagement and reflections on the nine action items:

    Discussion Group: Craig E. Slack, Sue Briggs, James V. Riker , Nina P. Harris, Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, Barbara G. Jacoby, Dave Dessauer, Courtney Holder , Deborah Slosberg, Ali Barlow

    Recommended Civic Engagement Definition and Learning Outcomes:

    Definition

    Civic engagement is “acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities. This includes a wide range of activities, including developing civic sensitivity, participation in building civil society, and benefiting the common good. Civic engagement encompasses the notions of global citizenship and interdependence. Through civic engagement, individuals—as citizens of their communities, their nations, and the world—are empowered as agents of positive social change for a more democratic world.”

    Civic engagement involves one or more of the following:

    1. Learning from others, self, and environment to develop informed perspectives on social issues;

    2. Recognizing and appreciating human diversity and commonality;

    3. Behaving, and working through controversy, with civility;

    4. Taking an active role in the political process;

    5. Participating actively in public life, public problem solving, and community service;

    6. Assuming leadership and membership roles in organizations;

    7. Developing empathy, ethics, values, and sense of social responsibility;

    8. Promoting social justice locally and globally.

    –B. Jacoby & Associates, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2009. Based on the definition framed by the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership

    Civic Learning Outcomes

    Although not widely used today, the UMD Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership developed a comprehensive set of learning outcomes for civic engagement and leadership in 2005. There are 5 broad outcome themes, each accompanied by several specific outcomes that can be used in a wide range of initiatives, including courses, service-learning, internships, student employment, and study abroad.

    Students prepared for civic engagement and leadership can:

    9. Contribute to their communities in ways that are congruent with their values.

    10. Apply their leadership with or without a formal position,

    11. Demonstrate knowledge, awareness, and understanding necessary to contribute to a culturally diverse world

    12. Apply academic and disciplinary knowledge and personal experiences to addressing societal problems

    13. Identify core personal values and base their actions on those values.

    Recommended Implementation Strategies:

    • The Department of Education should continue advocating for full funding of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama but not funded.

    • The Department of Education should provide guidelines to encourage civic audits of K-12 and post-secondary education. The Department of Education should initiate a national review process of civic audit findings; identify gaps in program delivery, assessment and understanding curriculum impact; and allocate resources to support initiatives to address these gaps.

    • The Department of Education should work with federal and state education oversight authorities to review K-12 and post-secondary education general education requirements, class offerings and, pedagogy that advance civic learning.

    • The Department of Education should revisit how federal dollars are being used to support post-secondary students work in the community. Examples are America Reads and trio programs.

    • The Department of Education should offer a bank of learning outcomes for K-12 and post-secondary intuitions could choose from with implementation strategies and measures for learning.

    • The Department of Education should offer a data base of best practices that K-12 and post-secondary institutions could select and adapt to meet their desired civic learning outcomes.

    • The Department of Education could require grants offered by the Department to have civic learning as measurable elements to be considered for funding.

    • The Department of Education should provide financial support for Higher Education to work with K-12 institutions on civic learning.

    • The Department of Education could provide civic learning outcomes based on institutional type (HBCU, Tribal, Private, and Public).

    • The Department of Education should track Federal Work Study monies being used to advance civic engagement (7% Federal Work Study Allocations) by college students and share examples of high impact practices.

    • The Department of Education should initiate dialogues with college and university career center directors on ways to incorporate civic professionalism in career education. The focus would be to ignite students’ awareness so they enter their career with civic purpose.

    • The Department of Education should develop strategies that educators could employ to engage Congress in the conversation about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

    • The Department of Education should host state-wide conferences to look at how educators are bringing civic learning into the curriculum of K-12 and higher education.

    • The Department of Education should disseminate methods for how to relook at ways public higher education may participate in the public political process and infuse action orientated pedagogy in the classroom to situate student learning on topics of civic engagement.

    • The Department of Education should encourage higher education recognize and value faculty involvement in civic learning in the tenure and promotion process.

  15. Below is the feedback requested on Civic Learning initiatives from ED.

    It is crucially important that ED maintain a broad definition of civic learning and engagement to include and stress civic skills and dispositions along with civic content. While students need to understand civic content to be effective citizens, this knowledge alone does not develop the types of engaged citizens necessary for a functioning democracy.

    One reason skills and dispositions are often de-emphasized is due to the complexity in measuring outcomes. For this reason, we recommend that ED support new longitudinal and experimental (random control) studies to measure outcomes. While the civic education field has established some solid measures for a indicators related to civic learning and engagement (e.g., school engagement, school attachment), the field lacks measures for other indicators (e.g., civic engagement). We propose that ED begin to address these deficiencies in the research base first by convening a group of key scholars from field and representatives to identify the existing strengths and weaknesses of the research base for civic learning and engagement. An outcome of this convening would be the development of short- and long-term strategic plans to follow in developing a rigorous and more complete research base for the field. Second, we recommend that ED appropriate the necessary funding to carry out these strategic plans.

    It is important for ED to catalyze the education community to embrace the civic mission of schools. We recommend that ED utilize existing meetings and conventions as a way to reach larger audiences who may not already identify as civic educators and present, through speakers and a series of conference sessions within existing national conferences in the education field. ED could potentially reach out to other subject areas (e.g., English, the Arts, Science, Mathematics) and role groups (e.g., teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, the business community) when enacting this strategy.

    We support ED sponsoring a one-time national summit on civic learning and engagement, and simultaneously promoting this cause through a national publicity campaign. Such a national convening and campaign would help to build broad public support of civic learning and engagement, as well as allow those in the field to garner substantial support for their work from educators, policymakers, and parents.

    Recognition for high-quality civic learning and engagement would be a useful mechanism for catalyzing the education community to action. This program could provide recognition for excellence in the field and identify model programs and practices as exemplars for others in the field. ED could establish various types of awards, to possibly include school-level awards (similar to the National Blue Ribbon School award), student-level awards (similar to the Presidential Physical Fitness Award), state-level, etc., as well as awards for teacher education programs, professional development programs, curriculum development, etc.

    In terms of funding, ED could provide opportunities in i3 and Race to the Top for funding that is directed specifically toward civics. ED could also develop new competitive grant programs (available to states and non-profit organizations) to support civic learning and engagement programs and initiatives. Federal investments should give preference to active forms of civic learning (such as action civics) that will foster wider dissemination and implementation of classroom practices that foster all four domains of civic learning rather than just civic content knowledge.

    Any efforts to promote civic learning and engagement must be accompanied by efforts to support high-quality teaching. Educators, both pre-service and in-service, need sustained, integrated, high-quality professional development if they are to make meaningful change in the civic education practices in which they engage students.

  16. I appreciate receiving the request to provide input on civic engagement and service learning per the Obama Administration’s Road Map regarding advancing civic education and the Department’s involvement.

    In short, I applaud the effort! Not only as a way of increasing student retention, graduation rates, and developing the literacies important for the 21st century, but also for strengthening students’ active citizenry in the world. I often observe a disconnect among low-income students regarding their political understandings in particular of the role that big corporate money plays in the legislative branch of our government. Most students too are woefully unaware of important Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United and the impact that ruling has on political elections. The greater the level of apathy and disinterest in civic matters, the greater the opportunity for big money interests to influence the political process. In the end then, the social justice and public interests of poor Americans are less likely to be advanced in any appreciable way. This all at a time when income disparity between the top 1% of privileged Americans and the lowest wage-earners has reached an all-time high.

    In our TRiO-SSS project at Paul Smith’s College, we regularly incorporate community service as part of the cultural enrichment component of our service delivery model. We usually engage in at least two structured activities each program year. We always do something in conjunction with National TRiO Day and usually one or more activities at other times of the academic year, mostly focusing on assisting vulnerable populations in our local community or elsewhere.

    We are considering developing a more formal civic learning component in our project and piloting it over the remainder of the academic year. We are discussing the involvement of assessment tools to gauge civic literacy, partnering with faculty on service learning projects, and tying a fuller component to eligibility for receiving Grant Aid. We are also considering the use of film and video such as showing documentaries like Park Avenue produced by Independent Lens which recently aired on PBS. We will continue to use TRiO Day as a day of service in support of area food pantries like in the past. We will continue to incorporate our sustainability initiative and related community service activities to educate students about climate change (and the vulnerability of low-income populations across the globe) and other environmental threats and the role of students as change agents.

    One suggestion would be to include civic engagement as a form of permissible services for TRiO programs. Making it a required service would present budget challenges for many long-standing projects which have fiscal challenges given recent cuts. I found many older projects have difficulty fitting any cultural enrichment activities into their service delivery models. It may therefore be helpful to award a small amount of additional funding to projects who plan to incorporate civic learning on an annual basis (step 4). Giving projects ample freedom to pursue a variety of partnerships and allowable use of funds would provide a greater incentive for projects to include this initiative in their grant proposals.

    Regarding Step #5, what if you utilized TRiO programs (when available) to facilitate finding FWS positions in the local community as a form of partnership with their respective civic engagement initiatives?

    There are a lot of opportunities to incorporate financial literacy education (required service) with other permissible services, and step #6 speaks to one of these. I would think the curricula of the respective institution in terms of public service related careers would be a deciding factor in implementing #6.

    What if this initiative was used also for helping low-income families prepare more for increased fuel prices and the threats posed by climate change? It was low-income folks who were left behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now Hurricane Sandy is turning out to be one of the most expensive natural disasters to hit the Atlantic coast. This comes soon after Hurricane Irene devastated parts of the East coast a year earlier. The increase in extreme weather events is being fueled by global warming. Perhaps the Obama Administration can make a greater investment in addressing climate change by tying preparedness through the civic engagement initiative. Strengthening resiliency in neighborhoods would go a long way in weathering the storms and rebuilding in smarter ways.

    Lastly, with all the recent concern about the country falling off the fiscal cliff due to the automatic lifting of the Bush tax cuts combined with domestic spending cuts taking effect on Jan. 2, I see no better opportunity to educate and engage our students on such matters than the present time. The viability and continuity of TRiO programs will be seriously threatened if Congress does not change the rules of sequestration.

  17. As both a doctoral student in education and a teacher, I am disheartened that, in my elementary school, purposeful civic learning is almost nonexistent due to the myopic focus on preparation for tests in literacy and math. As a nation, we have lost our understanding of one of the most important purposes for education, the preparation of all young people to contribute to the common good.

    I applaud these efforts to make civic education a priority in our schools again. However, I would urge decisionmakers to focus on K-12 education and to consider how civic education can be integrated across subject areas and be designed in a way that underlies the entire curriculum. It is important to align this work with other initiatives, such as the current focus on the Common Core. For instance, schools might not only be assessed on standardized test scores, but also how students apply their learning to improve their communities (which would also be a more authentic indicator of 21st century skills development). Earth Force is one organization that has taken this more integrated approach in working with teachers and students.

    Also, I want to echo other contributors’ calls for development of intercultural competencies as part of civic education. It is important to recognize that effective civic engagement today requires the ability to build bridges across lines of difference.

    Thank you!

  18. How the U.S. Department of Education Might Define and Support Civic Learning and Engagement

    A Response from Wagner College

    A. How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement”

    Wagner College has a long history of promoting civic learning and engagement through its highly integrated academic curriculum and its robust co-curricular offerings. At least since the 1998 launch of the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts, the college has demonstrated its commitment to “learning by doing” through clusters of courses called learning communities linked to real-world, community-based problems. Over time, this twin commitment to enriched student learning through community engagement and to utilizing Wagner’s strengths to address a variety of community challenges has only intensified. Civic engagement encompasses a wide array of activities at Wagner College that include close observations of community practitioners, active participation in the work of key community organizations, and neighborhood-based inquiry and research. All of these activities are centered on connecting our students and faculty to the larger community to enrich academic learning and to promote the well-being of our community partners.

    Wagner has learned over time that civic learning and engagement should include the following:

    • Consciously and meaningfully connecting classroom learning to existing community challenges;

    • Encouraging student participation in hands-on, community-based activities that may entail observation, community involvement, or research, and that support authentic college-community collaborations;

    • Systematically preparing for and reflecting on place-based experiences to foster deeper explorations of the roots of community challenges and to help students understand the impact of their own civic contributions;

    • Students as co-authors in defining and developing the College’s civic mission;

    • Increasing appreciation for the value of civic knowledge and collaborating with others to take action in the community to advance the public good.

    For Wagner, then, the richest civic learning and engagement builds on classroom-based theoretical knowledge, deepens student understanding through community-based activity and critical reflection, raises civic consciousness and commitment, and fosters student empowerment through actual, hands-on participation in addressing real issues facing real communities.

    B. How ED will Support Civic learning

    1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.

    Wagner College is engaging in a series of professional development and workshop opportunities to explore the philosophy underlying democratic education and civic engagement and to understand more clearly the pedagogies and community practices that should be adopted to ensure high quality civic opportunities. Community members and college faculty understand how civic engagement deepens learning and critical thinking. They are also familiar with strategies that encourage broad involvement by students and community partners to approach entrenched social problems with greater confidence. The next big step entails fully embedding civic engagement into the curriculum at every level and in both the general curriculum and the requirements for academic majors.

    2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.

    Wagner has learned that there is a strong correlation between students who are active in the community and those who express a high level of satisfaction with the education they are receiving. In addition, there is some evidence that students with especially high levels of motivation and achievement are also those who most frequently seek out civic engagement opportunities. One key measure, which probably can only be captured longitudinally, would be to uncover evidence that those students who are most civically engaged as undergraduates are also more likely to be activists in their professions and in their communities. From a community perspective, Wagner is starting to measure the extent to which problems like low literacy levels, obesity, and economic stagnation can be addressed through joint initiatives between colleges and their surrounding communities, and whether the number of high school students seeking admission to college can be dramatically increased by strengthening college-community partnerships.

    3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.

    The foundation for much of Wagner’s initial civic engagement work came through a 2006 Learn and Serve America Grant that allowed Wagner to launch its Civic Innovations program, connecting six different academic departments to specific community agencies focused on healthcare, education, and economic development. Since that initial federal grant, Wagner has been successful in working with a wide variety of private foundations to leverage funds to sustain and extend civic engagement work. Interestingly, Wagner has probably been most satisfied with the support of its local community funding partners, who have recognized Wagner’s ongoing contributions and have come to appreciate Wagner’s long-term commitment to community renewal. It is worth noting that each of the local bank foundations on Staten Island have supported these efforts. This experience indicates that colleges seeking additional support to deepen this work should focus on cultivating funders and partners in their own regions at least as much they seek funding from nationally known foundations. The next big step for Wagner could come from a large grant to finance the expansion of the Center for Leadership and Engagement so that it might act as a regional or national clearinghouse for best practices, while playing a role in hosting conferences and disseminating research about high impact practices.

    4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families, and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

    Wagner has always assumed that its best and most reliable collaborators in promoting civic learning and engagement are its near-by community partners. Recently, during a planning session, college leaders were invited to identify key stakeholders and it was striking how many of those named were based in the community. Wagner’s orientation continues to be that community partners teach Wagner students as much as Wagner does itself. Thus, community partners are widely regarded as true collaborators in both educating students and in contributing to the community’s renewal. Students, too, are regarded as invaluable collaborators in the educational process and now have a formal role as advisors, thanks to the creation of a Student Advisory Board overseeing one of the College’s key partnerships. Wagner has found that the more students are empowered to participate in formulating civic engagement opportunities, the more eager they are to sustain their civic learning and civic action for the common good.

  19. Our program focus in to share with our students that increased knowledge is a powerful tools in making a difference in a public policy arena. Each year we focus on an Ocean Sciences theme that engages our high school students in learning the underlying science of an ocean science process. This year, given the recent tsunami and related disaster in Japan, we have looked at the ocean process that are moving materials across the ocean to reach the west coast. To provide them a venue within which to apply this acquired knowledge and related skills, we will bring 130-40 students to an Ocean Science Challenge at Oregon State. The focus of the challenge will be to have the teams of students become members of community groups learning about the potential hazards posed by the debris and to decide which are credible. Based on their choice, they will the develop materials and resources that reflects their advocacy–beach clean-up/volunteers, a focus on invasive species, etc…Each team will present their ideas to a larger group of high school students, college students and faculty, and share how they used their scientific understanding to support their recommended programs and goals.

    Of course, we are very aware that underlying this is a strong message supporting civic engagement, college and career readiness, and the role of knowledge in making a difference. And the students gain a variety of critically important skills such as communication, teamwork, persuasion, as well as the experience of working with other like-minded high schoolers as well as college students and faculty. They leave with a sense of Membership at the academy.

    We use the contextual application of knowledge as a motivational tool from grades 4-12. In each topic area we provide a theme and a community context that fosters a sense of membership within a greater community. For elementary age students it might be environmental science, learning about the out-of-doors, becoming a scientist, and applying this knowledge as part of community education–sharing what one has learned with others. At the middle school we have had a historical focus on both invention and the engineering design process where students use their knowledge to meet a community needs, start a business, create an invention, and develop a marketing campaign.

    But core to this is a sense of community membership–and perhaps this is foundational to civic engagement for our students. And this then builds on their capacity and desire to “Make a Difference” and the role of education, knowledge and skills that increase one’s capacity to contribute.

  20. Poverty, dream-killing neighborhoods and, in a virtual time flooded by ads, desires and buying as the lived essential heighten in many children emotional deprivation. Children watch instead of talk, sit instead of do, press buttons instead of touch, see, or listen live, and tune out with Ipads and cell phones. Adults work long hours in automated settings in order to buy and update, expensively, the very digitized frames of reference already directing them and their children to give up their lives to a narrowed, driven speeding. Every Ipad message one receives is delivered with an ad for an Ipad. One possible result of a life-long immersion in the virtual is that the constant internalizing of an un-tactile, invisible, and frictionless distancing affects the future of citizenship in whatever society you might name.

    Because of unquestionable influences from the simple amount of electronics experienced by brains (hours of TV taken in per day, number of ads seen, video games played, radio heard, computers’ formats and speed accumulating in and imprinting each time in a child’s mind), what education and teachers exude toward the young matters more today than in the past. As valuable and flexible and useful as technology is, and particularly because as such a constant it deprives people emotionally, technology and its effects are not good substitutes for care-takers or live teachers. A curious proof that rich and poor societies suggest, and suggest often while the same societies do not comprehend or act logically on these proofs’ growing seriousness, is this. If what teachers feel and exude matters even more profoundly, at this very moment in history in many societies teachers are increasingly maintained as the scapegoats. This is precisely the ambivalence through which scapegoats always function. In the United States, as a curiously legislative form of bullying has re-surfaced via other names toward women and feminist thought and against others who have been kept less powerful, through reorganizations and the distractions of chores, what matters most in education also has become the most rigorously dismissed, as in lodged by various top echelons and consultants into the last seat in the back row of the whole profession.

    An enormous step toward improved civic education and all good education might occur when a society offers long-term, categorical respect for, not industrialized prescriptions about, its teachers. The teachers know more than do CEO’s or jargon-long expertise about how content might affect students. After a long, heady binge of privatization – and a precisely less “flat” world – and its huge powers to imprint and influence, teachers in 2012 must be welcomed to emerge from under a stereophonic volume of alienating, omniscient-voiced agendas. More, this is a volume the megaphones for which today reach into ears and governments around the globe, particularly into ears, fears regarding job security, and governments that feel nervous about keeping up. I make the argument because glib fads are being hammered in via vocabulary, job-security issues, requirements in printed materials, and meetings, Meanwhile the irreducible reality in a classroom is that an affecting teacher has to own and mentor what she or he loves, not what she or he has been compelled to love. An engaged person’s knowledgeable love of her or his content, thoughtfully expressed, is the wonder-working mentor. Therefore imposed categories, formats, vocabulary, tacit 20-page syllabus requirements built not for students but for measurers, rubrics, goals, objectives, other industrialized terms, consultants’ often lobbying versions, tests, a testing industry grown politicized and profitable, documentation chores whose assumption seems to be that recording takes more time than does preparing to teach or teaching, and the culture of deadlines, a requirement of all measurers, that this list compiles about how each plant really grows – these in support of the one-size fits all education monster – are really combining to exert a more false paramount idea. This idea by this point is so influential that it forms the answer in classes to a teacher’s and students’ existential question: why am I here? The paramount idea, the answer to the existential question, is to please measurers. Please interruptive, yesterday distant, invasive, know-better-than-we-can-know-here measurers.

    A question I ask is this one. If pleasing measurers is industry’s fully appropriate code, a code asserted logically when another owns your time because the other is in fact paying you, is then the actual quest today within the education vocation – now renamed, in part through unionization, as an industry – to own young minds? I ask for a reason. Whether within just a few elite-educated foundations as a phenomenal growth in income and tax-law inequities today are legislated in, hard-wiring the future of millions of children, or within graduate school or community college syllabuses or pre-school classes in which documentation and experts can seem more celebrated than is the children’s play or development of motor skills, the “please-the-measurer” idea elevated to be this paramount is one of the worst. It is one of the worst in a democratic society because the idea’s instruction is this. The instruction is to dominate less powerful local persons and standards on behalf of a dismiss-what-is-local, more powerful invasion. The mood of a dictating model pervades not only on testing days. The model is the oxygen and circulatory systems – precisely those into which all other systems daily have to feed. The metaphor being experienced by young eyes is that might is right. There is a bullying that is being allowed to stay un-named. The model’s instruction is anathema to effective teaching and to children’s development. The point is not complicated. As an adult, as soon as an omniscient tone, hidden structure, or look becomes steadily clear as the real measurer of me, I curl away. I fake the rest. Since no one is really hearing, I have room in which to fake. Students have curled away for years: precisely in the manner that many phases of their educations are training them to do. I am not the first to suggest that the dropout rates among teenagers are perhaps an indicator of the success of this compiling pedagogy.

    Equally serious, though, in human minds scheduled by nature to make meaning and to find moments of comfort in the meanings that are made, the meaning-making constantly imprinted by “please-the measurer” is the exact dynamic through the hours of schooling as is the dynamic about meaning-making imprinted by malls, ads, and a consumerist ocean beyond schooling. For in the mirroring dynamics I question, the mind or content for itself – as sacred, as important, unique, and particular, as intrinsically valuable and worthy of respect – the mind and content entering it are never actually being presented as good nourishment toward free agency. Instead, in retail America, one of the world’s biggest markets, the dynamic in school that means everything, that all agree with and promote and present and fill you wish, and the dynamic after school too as represented by ads’ psychology, TV shows’ affluent settings, and money’s power to drive you, is conditionality. Can you rank? Can you buy? The question in “can you buy?” is a bigger form of or more thorough norming of” please the measurer”. In retail America your agency, your value as a citizen, has been turned by systems which together are complicit in dwarfing you daily into your capacity to earn money and to consume. School, a place that exists for you, affirming your free mind, a place presented to you as the best way for you, a growing citizen, to make meaning, has become a place the routines in which take adults’ and children’s civic meaning away. More, by feeling required to respond to a contextualizing mirroring of “please the measurer” from absolutely everywhere, children’s minds, before these minds can comprehend what is happening, are being exploited to acquiesce more and more to an opposite ideal: less and less free agency.

    Where does civic education begin and how can schools support its growth? Civic education begins very early in homes. For example, are girls and boys treated as equals? Are infants and toddlers offered kindly structures or severe ones? Are voices and body language intimidating or kind? Do men and boys know how to, and do they, clean dishes and diapers and do laundry, dust, and make beds? Are the meals shared? Are the culture’s table manners taught? Is a child read to steadily before sleep comes? Most importantly, does anyone in a home make the time to do these? Is the model in a home power, size, distance, quickness, one-upping, or is the model vulnerability and fairness? The question in a child is whether the mentor and system of authority presented by it feels accepting or dismissive, safe or not. Long before they talk, as a cat does, tiny boys and girls internalize and make part of them the really lived cues around them. Finally, there is no doubt that it is mainly men, perhaps incapacitated about this early but afterward also nesting in cultures’ rather time-honored, institutionalized routines of machismo and/or patriarchy, the war masks required by the contests, wars, and nationalistic races for profit and control of resources, and sometimes required by actual external threats. . . who fail to understand this point.

    In schools the model ought not to be more faces of “please the measurer.” In the mirrors, more such faces amount to an added colonization by conditionality as candied over by the consumer goods so long as you can borrow more and buy – and there-bye can prove, incessantly in response to ads and to the lived cues from your education at school, that you are never inadequate. . . Children are keeping up with ones Jones after another. If they cannot, they lose; are named as losers. In schools a model that is self-confident and rigorously dedicated to the precise content and to the development of a free mind, as in a conscience, would be a model more dedicated to an unconditional acceptance of each child. Steady acceptance is the emotional setting through time, the sacred space, in which safe children feel confident and therefore can take risks and learn.

    Next, though, what this meaning-making acceptance as a mood throughout schools and during a child’s school career requires is the irreplaceable gift of existence and confident teachers’ – not merely remembered to be celebrated teachers, after-thoughts, during managers’ moments in the sun – truly confident teachers’ freedom to offer an affirming, risky gift day after day for a long time. To the degree that teachers, authentic mediums of the loved content, are given daily space and time to express dignity, so do children’s mind and persons, as responding agents, experience and there-bye gain dignity. Outside of emergencies, no matter how well-intended, expert presences interrupting classrooms or industrializing syllabuses are arrogant, expensive, and wasteful distractions. Just as they do very early in homes, children up through graduate years take in the steady love that has gone into what is presented. – That is, love for actual, precise content; not for airy do-good generalizations or prescriptions which really amount to mouthing clichés. Thus it is love and respect for precise content daily as it makes meaning in teachers and is expressed authentically – not theoretical or imposed paraphernalia designed by various measurers for the sake of their measuring, no matter how well-intended – it is the teachers’ love and respect for precise content that loves the children. A gift of existence is always local. Both the quality of education and of civic education is constructed through cues about equality and acceptance being nurtured and compiled sensibly. These cues are the teachers’ gifts of existence that are steadfastly freed to be offered in subject and after subject over a long period.

    As one example of this value in a broader society I will cite from South Africa an organization whose primary idea models this kind of respect. – A respect for and nurturing of, in this case, the poor and hungry in neighborhoods, neighborhoods labeled as “informal settlements.” I cite the Community Development Foundation WesternCape (CDF WCape) ,founded and led by Beulah Fredericks. I cite CDF WCape not because no other organization or country acts in this manner. I cite it because I happen to know about CDFWCape and believe it is an example that carries my questions about “please-the measurer” as a guiding standard out into a third area, local communities in a society. CDF WCape accomplishes this by allocating time and resources in order to: 1) listen to local communities; 2 )learn how to aid in organizing the projects identified through this listening; 3) support and guide neighborhoods as they author and propose local projects concerning their own neighborhoods. In CDF Scape’s concept sheet appears this: “. . . the CDF WCape places a high premium on encouraging the emergence of CBO’s, their leaders, networks and civil society structures in order to link the community to the necessary resources and opportunities available within and outside its boundaries.” I cite CDF WCape because it too reflects in the way it operates attention to the gift of existence. The workers and community members are the actual authors of the local projects.

    What can summarize? For the contexts of home, schooling, and communities, I have implied behaviors that could help and have suggested a different standard, another architecture, as the big guide for decisions at many levels, for policies, practices, union negotiations, and community work; and, during privatization’s tops-eliding era, management’s quite top-heavy certainty about its supremacy as reflected by its pay. As well, in a virtual, blurring period I have objected to a military-industrial-financial-education complex through which the idea of tops and profits, as in the .1 percent, as an intrinsic good playing out in a billion ways, have become more aligned and potent globally to the increasing detriment of all else. Indeed has played out so powerfully in the billion eliding ways that the word “vocation” now sounds quaint, light-weight, and sentimental about an education “industry.” I ask where the light weight is thriving. Having taught well, if imperfectly, for years; having served dedicated teachers as a dean; having labored on some unpopular topics to bring content-based seminars and institutes to teachers; and having been funded to attempt school-related projects in informal settlements and rural districts, I have gained respect for what I call a carefully approached de-industrialization of thinking. That is, for the firm objection to the market’s edgy conditionality as the paramount idea structuring education, free agency, conscience, civility, citizenship, and civic education. First is the gift of existence, the local that should always be watered. All children all their lives need the sun and water. The other impositions can seem more dedicated to maintaining measurers in their head-of-the-line positions forever: an institutionalized form of real childishness, I suggest, that offers a harmful inner model for thinking and for growing citizens to follow.

  21. With respect to the development of indicators- It would be very helpful for the Department of Education to pull together those who are doing this work so that best practices can be shared. I imagine a set of conversations like the ones put together by the Kettering Foundation, where institutional researchers at the community colleges can be together with other researchers interested in the subject to share instruments and develop some model assessment instruments to be used broadly.

    It would also be helpful to get Department of Education funding for some best practices on civic engagement across the curriculum. Students get civics in government classes and many colleges have service learning where students learn disciplinary knowledge connected to public service, but there needs to be more progress on how all teachers can connect their disciplines with the ways that their disciplinary knowledge helps as part of the civic landscape. If we want to develop global citizenship in our students faculty in all disciplines need to model what it means from where they sit to be a good citizen.

    It would be terrific to have a faculty institute where people doing this work and thinking about doing it can come together to share ideas and develop approaches. It would also be great to fund some pilot programs in this area.

  22. Feedback on Civic Learning and Engagement from the University at Buffalo SSS and McNair Scholars Program Directors, November 8, 2012

    Definition of civic learning/engagement: From our reading of the provided documents, we caution the ED not to conflate civic learning/engagement with service learning. Perhaps look at financial literacy as example of defining a complex concept. The definition lends itself to having several points under a broader definition. When discussing civic learning, one must be careful not to limit it to voting or contacting elected representatives.

    Why Trio and Civic Engagement? Because civic learning/engagement has been shown to increase academic performance, it fits TRiO’s objectives of retention/graduation and academic achievement. By attaching civic engagement to TRiO, ED could build on federal resources that already exist, tap a community of students already connected to their civic communities, use the pipeline of growth already established (i.e., from TS to UB, to SSS, to McNair), and rely on existing networks of support with potential to create more connections.

    What (we) TRiO does now: The following is a partial list of events and program activities, in place at the University at Buffalo TRiO programs, that fall under the term civic learning and engagement:

    TRiO Day: one day where area TRiO students gather to celebrate achievement, learn about themselves as members of TRiO program, create mutually beneficial networks, complete community service, and write to their national representatives about their experiences in TRiO.

    Policy Seminar: TRiO staff and students visit DC for three days to meet with and inform national representatives about TRiO and its accomplishments. Participants also engage in a training day to help them communicate a central message effectively.

    History of TRiO: students and staff continuously learn how TRiO programs were formed and why, and how they have evolved over time.
    Community Service: Students and staff engage in several opportunities per semester to help others in need.

    Civic Internships Promoted to TRiO Students: For example, all TRiO students at the University at Buffalo learn about internships in the state and federal capitals geared toward TRiO students, among other opportunities to learn about how government operates.

    Visiting Local Representatives: TRiO staff have communicated with local offices of national representatives to inform them about TRiO activities.

    Web Sites and Social Media: TRiO students and staff utilize twitter feeds, blogs, web sites, facebook groups, and other evolving social media as a means to educate and engage in civics.

    TRiO Program Newsletters: in print and electronic formats, are circulated widely within and externally to the University at Buffalo to inform publics about federal programs at work.

    Advising: TRiO staff advise students into co-curricular learning opportunities (e.g., internships, e-board positions, community service programs) that put students to work for their wider communities.

    Mentoring: TRiO college students mentor Upward Bound students.

    Cultural events: Events, such as touring local stops on the Underground Railroad and listening to a Native-American Storyteller, help TRiO students at the University at Buffalo learn about their communities’ history and foster engagement in their communities.

    What TRiO could do: The following are suggestions that would assist ED in achieving its goal of increasing civic learning and engagement: see TRiO programs as one possible location of civic learning and engagement by making civic learning/engagement a required service in TRiO programs (similar to how financial literacy has become a required service, with measurable learning outcomes); require reports (i.e., APR) to include number of students who participated in civic learning/engagement; use TRiO as a means to increase civic learning/engagement to lower-income and disadvantaged students; use TRiO communities to share existing best practices that foster civic learning/engagement; promote the notion of “gap year” experience (such as AmeriCorps) to help students find direction in life; build on the existing individualized services in TRiO to foster reflection and self-assessment, through individual conversations, writing, and group discussions, on students’ civic learning/engagement.

  23. In order to prepare American students to be responsible 21st century citizens, we need to give them the opportunity to study foreign languages and cultures throughout their elementary, secondary and college / university education. Learning a second language will help students communicate with people across the globe. They will become more open minded so they can engage multiple points of view and build bridges across differences. They will learn mutual respect for others. They will gain a global perspective rather than an ethnocentric one. Language learning also encourages critical thinking such as inquiry, comparison, and analysis.

    For too long, Americans have relied on other people to learn our language to communicate with us. But this puts Americans at a significant disadvantage when negotiating, traveling, competing for jobs, understanding cultural situations, and dealing with international affairs. It is time for Americans to become well-prepared, competent communicators by learning at least one (preferably more) foreign language.

    Most students in the U.S. don’t start learning a foreign language until high school or college. This is better than never, but too late for most students to become competent and proficient at a foreign language. Some students never learn any language beyond English. Early and continuous foreign language and culture instruction can prepare students for careers and help them to be responsible world citizens.

  24. The Adrian College TRIO SSSP program, Excel, provides many opportunities for participants to contribute to their community and I am happy to share a couple of them.

    Our SSSP Disability Services Specialist sponsors the PRIDE group (Promoting Rights of Individuals with Disabilities Everywhere), and many of our TRIO students are active in this group. Community outreach activities of our PRIDE group are ongoing through a strong partnership with the Hope Center, which serves individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities. This year, PRIDE’S support of the Hope Center includes a fundraising event, a euchre tournament, and hosting a prom for Hope Center clients. Many of our TRIO students also participate in Disability Awareness Week.

    Our Disability Services Specialist also recruits a good number of our TRIO SSSP members to take part in the Polar Plunge, which supports Special Olympics.

    This fall, I am including three of our SSSP students in the Lenawee County College Access Network (LCAN) organization that is working to improve the numbers of Lenawee County citizens who achieve post-secondary credentials. Through our students’ perspectives, we are able to hear what is most important to keeping students in college through graduation.

  25. Thank you for the opportunity to share a few ideas about the kinds of skills that we as educators ought to help our students develop so that they may participate broadly and productively in a global economic community. In my experience as an educator at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2006-2012) and, now, at the College of William & Mary (August 2012-present), I am happy to say that my students are very good at finding information. However, I would like to suggest that we need to better prepare students to evaluate sources. Our students have more access than ever to a rich variety of print and digital media, but they do not always know how to determine the reliability of the information or how to analyze conflicting accounts.

    I shared this email with a few colleagues, and they agreed that it was important to equip students to navigate a changing landscape of information. They also suggested that we might better educate our students about the basics of government — the nitty-gritty details of how a bill becomes a law, for instance, so that our students might better understand their roles and clarify their expectations as voters.

  26. Suggestions for increasing civic learning are as follows:

    Take a group of students to the city government offices/courthouse etc to learn about the careers there.

    Have speakers from government and local agencies such as the lead agency.

    Post volunteer opportunities in the community on the college website.
    Have students email a congressman about a local concern.

  27. Ideas about how the Department of Education can implement the steps to enhance and expand its longstanding support for civic learning and democratic engagement.

    1) Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement.

    My experience in school improvement projects has shown me how effective is peer learning from promising practice. So, one could identify, fund and use as a learning site best practices in civic learning and engagement.

    2) Identify promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement—and encourage further research to learn what works.

    In the process of research, action research should be encouraged.

    3) Support civic learning for a well-rounded K–12 curriculum.

    There are many ways of promoting civic learning. I have learned from practical experience that the best ways to support civic learning is not through direct teaching but by creating school practices that support civic actions. For example, service activities, respect for students opinions, and for diversity. So I propose that civic learning should not be an extra course, but should be deeply integrated across the curriculum, as well as on school’s every day activities.

    4) Engage Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions—including Hispanic Serving Institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities—in a national dialogue to identify best practices.

    Puerto Rico will be very willing to participate in this dialogue. Indeed as part of our College Access Challenge Grant Program, we are collaboratively funding a Center that works in motivating, counseling and preparing low income students so that they can follow university studies. The Center is staffed with university students. The experience of helping and getting to know the school students have been a great lesson in civic learning for the university students. We are in the process of developing an evaluation tool to measure students’ civic learning through this experience.

  28. As a recently retired school principal and school teacher, I have long felt that in general that US students across the country are unaware of our diversity and geographic problems. I believe that ALL students should “give back” to our country and would propose that for one year students should be relocated to another part of our country to do volunteer work. I am not sure how we would finance that but I do believe the benefits would be huge. I was the recipient of many Fulbright Teacher Programs (to Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and India) and bringing the knowledge of these countries and people back to my students and community members had a profound impact on my school and community.

  29. Our society seems to be more polarized than ever before. These nine steps to Civic Learning and Engagement are so needed as a culture. I work for a TRIO-SSS program and would deem it imperative to have the first step be a part of our program. We can also start encouraging our students to find careers in public service, as posed in step six. One final recommendation would be to include debate in step seven. Our youth should learn how to argue with and listen to each other in a civilized manner.

  30. I am providing the following comments on the Civic Engagement Initiative:

    1. Though you are looking for input on the definition of civic learning and engagement, there is already such a definition in footnote one. Not sure why that one won’t work.

    2. Curricular decisions are supposed to be the purview of the teaching faculty at a given institution within the higher education community. If you are asking the higher education community what they think should be included, that’s fine for the federal government to be involved and even lead the discussion; however, the actual curricular decisions should be made by the higher education community. The facilitative role is a good one for the Department to play, especially if it involves K-12 and higher education folks but the role should not go any further in determining the agenda. The state should make the determination about the K-12 schools and the higher education institutions about their curriculum.

    3. Community service and service learning are NOT the same thing though they seem to be used interchangeably within the document.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  31. In order to insure that these learning objectives are furthered it is essential that educators make civic engagement part of their syllabus and classroom activities. An easy way to do this is through project based learning where the activity becomes part of a larger question that students must answer; inclusive in the project is service learning or civic engagement.

  32. At the post-secondary level, collaborative endeavors with the Association of American Colleges and Universities would enhance the impact and cost-effectiveness of initiatives, as the AACU has already conducted much work in this area: http://www.aacu.org/press_room/press_releases/2009/civicresponsibility.cfm

    I would like to call special attention to the essential learning outcomes identified by the AACU, which include “intercultural knowledge and competence” and civic knowledge and engagement at local, national, and global levels. As stated in their report “Civic Responsibility: What Is the Campus Climate for Learning?”: “The United States—as a democracy that is diverse, globally engaged, and dependent on citizen responsibility—requires college graduates to have an informed concern for the larger good and the ability to understand and navigate morally complex issues in a dynamic and often volatile world.”

  33. A PRACTICAL course on Civic Duties and Engagement should be mandatory in high school curriculum. U.S. high school students should be taught HOW to vote responsibly (eg. courses should teach and PRACTICE researching issues, positions, motivations, etc.), HOW to file taxes, ways to ACTIVELY participate in community problem-solving.

  34. I agree with some of the previous comments; the best education is well-rounded, and not just in an academic sense of how much a student learns from sitting in a classroom. More civic engagement should be encouraged, maybe even required. For example, at my university, there is a general education course about American history and government and part of the course is a 10-hour service project over the course of a semester. As a result of working with other community members via local organizations, the student is better able to see how his/her role as a citizen on a local community level while also learning about the structure of local, state, and national governments and organizations. Rather than what he/she learns being applicable in an abstract, theoretical way, the learning becomes personal and tangible, making the learning experience much more memorable and long-lasting.

  35. As a teacher, I feel that students should learn civic engagement by participating “hands on”. In these difficult economic times, many college students have 1 and 2 jobs to support themselves during their college years. Many extracurricular clubs and organizations are not able to hold the student support due to the above mentioned. My suggestion is to create courses OR include in already existing courses a manner in which students can participate AND receive college credit for their participation in civic engagement activities. I saw in the evening news 2 days ago that a local elementary school was had created mock elections and ALL the students in the school were involved…from the political speeches to the
    campaigning, all the way to the final vote. I sat there thinking..it’s about time!! (in the past these types of activities have been organized in high school
    we need to begin earlier in a student’s life.). Volunteering ..is already in place in the college life, but we need students learning about the importance of participating/lending a voice in a Democratic society.

  36. From experience with college students, and even grad students in a public university, I can diagnose the problem as a failure of the educational system to work.

    People have learned to think with their liver: justify what they “feel” is right. Once they’ve taken a position, they stay in it, and defend it no matter what. They have also learned to think in black and white: either you’re all for something or all against something. Every issue is very quickly turned into an antagonistic fight.

    Balanced thinking in terms of listing pros and cons, and then making a nuanced statement is woefully absent.

    Sounds familiar? Yes, the result is unproductive partisan gridlock of the type we’ve seen in politics.

    What is needed is not civic classes per se, but an infusion of any class throughout the system (K-12 and college) with a strong dose of teaching how to think in a nuanced way.

    It’s as simple as teachers modeling this behavior during class discussions: writing down pros and cons of the issue debated on the black (white or smart) board.

    Getting the students beyond antagonism and positions they are vested in to defend no matter what, to think clearly and weigh all sides of an issue.

    Encourage those who initially could think only of cons, to find some pros and vice versa.

    If you get this promoted, I think there is hope for the nation.

  37. I think the idea of civic learning and engagement in Democracy is a great idea. However, as a political science teacher I know it is most difficult to have the students engage in something in which they have very little knowledge.

    In many colleges and universities today it is not a general education requirement that students take a course in American Government. Yet we will require that they take courses in subjects which are nice but not critical to getting them aware of the political system and their civic role in society.

    When students are unable to even identify the 3 branches of government or even know who the Vice Presidnet of the U.S. is, why should we expect them to be interested in Civic Learning and Engagement?

  38. I am an ED Grantee responding to the request for comments on the implementation of the Civic Learning and Engagement Initiative. (I received the Foreign Language Area Studies Grant to study intensive Estonian language at the University of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2012.)

    First, I suggest that the definition of “civic learning and engagement” should go beyond learning the basic structure of our government and what characterizes a democracy. Civic learning and engagement should be classified as education in how to be an active and informed member of society that is prepared to contribute to the betterment of the community rather than operate at a level of self-interest that does not go beyond the ballot box.

    Having reviewed the Nine Points to Enhancing the ED’s Commitment to CLE in Democracy, I submit the following comments on points 2, 3, 6, and 7:

    Point 2: Identify Additional Civic Indicators: This point is an excellent goal for ED. This generation of students, as well as the previous one, are often labeled as being “civically apathetic,” but very little is said as to why this is the case. Researching multiple areas of student life will allow ED to both understand and explain why students have high or low democratic engagement, and why they succeed or fail incertain areas of civic knowledge tests. How best to implement Point

    2: Although it is time consuming, conducting research with students that goes beyond surveys– i.e. qualitative research– will reveal much more in depth information than surveys and tests alone. Conducting focus groups and interviews with children of all ages, from all backgrounds, from all types of school districts will take lots of time and effort, but the fruits of the labor will be large. Recent academic literature into education has found that teenagers often feel like no one listens to them or asks their opinions, and that when someone does talk to them and ask their opinions, there is much useful data to be gathered. Young people are not merely “citizens in waiting” or “empty vessels into which knowledge is poured”– these kids have agency. Talk to them.

    Point 3: Identify Promising Practices in Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement: The key to advancing democratic engagement and increasing the level of civic learning in students is to understand what reaches them. A rigorous investigation of which programs and initiatives have the largest involvement will allow ED to know which strategies are working and should be continued, which strategies aren’t working and should be pruned, and what future initiatives should look like. How best to implement

    Point 3: Emphasize to IHEs and secondary schools the need for their feedback about programs that succeed and fail. The on-the-ground feedback of the schools– the primary place where civic learning is taking place– will be the best indicator of promising practices in civic learning.

    Point 6: Encourage Public Service Careers Among College Students and Graduates– The various student loan forgiveness programs are key to attracting students to public service careers. The draw of the private sector lies in the financial compensation that the public sector cannot provide, but providing student loan forgiveness has the potential to be an extremely effective enticement to join the public sector. But these student loan forgiveness programs are woefully under publicized– I myself did not know about them until reading this report.

    How best to implement Point 6: An agressive campaign to educate college students and graduates about these student loan forgiveness programs must be implemented in order for Point 6 to have meaningful impact.

    Point 7: Support Civic Learning for a Well-Rounded K-12 Curriculum– The importance of a well-rounded curriculum cannot be overstated. Curriculum in the United States, due largely to survey results that characterize America as “falling behind”, has unfortunately veered sharply in the direction of classifying math and English as the only “important” subjects that will put America on the path to continued economic leadership in the globalized world. This trend is extremely dangerous. The positive development of societies throughout history has been characterized by equal respect for the physical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. History has proven that societies that focus their efforts on only one academic area are doomed to eventual decline and failure. K-12 curriculum must stop teaching towards standardized testing and emphasize to students that only a well-rounded knowledge base of many subjects will provide them with the tools to succeed in the future.

    How to implement Point 7: Craft curriculum plans that put equal weight on physical and social sciences, as well as arts/humanities. Also, do not tie teacher compensation to student performance on standardized testing.

  39. I’m a filmaker and city planner deeply interested in civic engagement and community collaboration. Of course this means it should also be taught in the curriculum — film as a tool for social documentation and civic communication; urban planning or at least local/state legislation/policy that directly effects land use and development (such as Prop 13 in CA). What about media as being part of ‘well-rounded’?

    There so little education or discussion on the very environment most youth live in and go to school. If you want real civic engagement, youth have to have real civic discoveries. Why not start with the community?

  40. You asked for my thoughts. I read with increasing respect for the authors of this endeavor, President Obama and Sec. Duncan.

    In reading the nine steps outlined in the Obama administration’s “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy”, I find cohesive, clearly-articulated steps that found well-integrated revisions to our educational systems.

    Our public school systems are in need of revitalization coordinated from the national level, and our students, their families, and our teachers are in need of reinvigorated hope that it will bring, certainly.

    If I may venture an observation, one set of ideas strikes me as underlying the nine steps, and best summarized by the title of one of the sessions hosted at the White House in its event, “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission”. The session was called “Build and Strengthen Community-Campus Connections”.

    It is interaction between the school and the community that needs to be built, from local to global levels, it is involvement of community in school affairs that will make school relevant, it is getting acquainted across socio-economic lines that will make us aware if new opportunities, and optimally so.

    If a school has a building, it has a campus. If it has a campus in the United States, it is serving more than one community. In many neighborhoods in our nation’s cities, one can cross a street and find oneself in completely different cultural setting only a few spare yards away. Commensurately, our nation’s small towns, while losing population draw new residents from those who’ve been displaced by life’s vagaries.

    Each and every school, therefore, must meet unique needs. Likewise, every school culture casts its own stamp of hopes and aspirations. The only experts qualified to identify those needs are people from within the communities serving and being served by the school. People who are moderators are needed to keep the dialogue active. They are important, also, as spokepeople who convey the most poignant ideas from the local to the national level.

    The ideas that the moderators dispatch are the life-blood of education’s success. We must not hesitate to consider them and use them well. Step 4 on the ‘Roadmap”, is to “Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships”. It represents the community-school interaction at the national level, and is the development in education that will see the greatest gain yet, historically.

    When we become acquainted with one another, we realize how much we have in common, and furthermore, how logical it is that we feel such kinship. At that point we are made aware of how much opportunity we provide to one another.

  41. As a Social Studies teacher, I would recommend the following in teaching about Civic Education:

    1. Use of IPADs with the Constitution app.

    2. Hands-on with signing documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and making a celebration of it

    3. Arranging field trips to voting poll places, national parks and monuments and the LIberty Bell Museum

    4. Learning and using the Common Core Standards.

  42. It very important for young Americans to learn to lead in the developmental years. The concept should focus on the understanding of what public policy is, how it is formed and institute and how it leads to issues and responsible citizenship. Learning to lead should prepare a new generation of individuals with the knowledge and skills to lead in a time of rapid demographic, social, economic, and global change.

  43. As a parent and educator, I am pleased to see that efforts are being made to revitalize the American pride and synergy in today’s students. September 11 did more to our psyche than we realize. Although schools say the Pledge of Allegiance every day, something is missing. I saw it in the eyes of the Olympic athletes and on some of the faces of professional athletes as the national anthem is played or sung at ball games. Lately, it seems as if most people reflect strongly on the “land of the free,” but not so much the on the “home of the brave.” We must be bold enough to say and believe that we live in one of the greatest countries. And drilling deeper, we must also feel that way about our states and cities in which we live. That’s truly where the deep-rooted pride is instilled.

    In noticing that there was a focus on college students, the endeavor could also include the younger children as well. The city where I grew up (Savannah, GA) like others hasimplemented a community service component for every high school student. Not only must they perform community service each year, but they also have to write a report on what they learned. Some students started out just doing the work and ended up really enjoying themselves and committing to do more than the required time. High school students are donating blood on a regular basis. Some capable adults are not even doing that. Students are spending time at nursing homes and hospitals. They are cleaning up their communities and attending youth county and city leadership committee meetings.

    Perhaps this is being done already, but just like students are rewarded for academic and athletic accomplishments, perhaps a certificate from the President would be incentive. Or perhaps allowing them to submit their pictures on a website or video them “in action” performing a service learning project.

    There is much good to be done. This is just a start, and a really good one. Good luck!

  44. Hello Civic Learning:

    This is a bullet pointed synopsis of ideas brainstormed that may help promote the aims of the Civic Engagement Road Map:

    • IU East is currently requiring freshman seminar students to read : Listening is Act of Love . As a common reading, the story of StoryCorps from Dave Isay is very insightful and a good history tool. The book and Story Corps interviews allow every day Americans to share their unique American story. I encourage participation in Story Corps as I believe the active collection of stories and oral history will give students on the college campus more appreciation for their country.

    • Encourage American Government or Intro to American Politics be a required staple of a college students general education.

    • Encourage College /big business collaboration through SIFE(Students for Independent and Free Enterprise). SIFE is very active on the IU East campus. The interaction students have with business leaders as they craft business plans and learn the nature of a democratic capitalist society is invaluable.

    • Create a National Survey of Student Engagement like Assessment to measure a student’s civics knowledge base. This would be similar to assessments completed at the secondary level.. Using the data to create benchmarks of what a college student should know in the economics, history, government arenas would be helpful to the goals for the road map.

    • At the University Of Indianapolis, students earning degrees there can also earn a service learning diploma. Recommending service learning is not enough to foster civic engagement in higher education. Requiring service learning ensures civics lessons taught in the classroom are applied to the real world.

  45. I totally support the work of Secretary Duncan and his team regarding the importance of our youth participating in civic learning. All nine points are excellent, impressive, and very concise.

    As a director of GEAR UP, I seen direct success of using federal grants to support public/private partnerships. Incorporating civic learning and democratic engagement along with financial literacy for our cohorts and their parents just makes sense with our partners.

    MiraCosta College has done a remarkable job with community -based work-study placements and has been very helpful in assisting our GEAR UP program to implement service learning with both of our GEAR UP cohorts.

    Thank you for your work on this pivotal need in our country.

  46. The Department should be commended for recommending, “Participation in interactive activities (e.g., service learning, community-based projects, simulations, media campaigns, advocacy, etc.) that provide students the opportunity to apply their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening understanding of how to apply knowledge to improve societal outcomes.”

    NAEP Civics data show that these activities are fairly rare, especially in low-income schools, and they are not important elements of ,most states’ social studies standards. One of the obstacles to making them more common is assessment: state and district leaders often say that interactive civic experiences are not “assessable.” In our view, these activities can be assessed both validly and reliably. However, it is true that ready-made, standardized assessments are not available. A particularly valuable federal role would to develop (or collaborate on developing) reasonably inexpensive, valid, standardized assessments of students’ ability to work in groups to “apply knowledge to improve societal outcomes.” Computer games and simulations and digital portfolios offer promising opportunities.

  47. At the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and at Drexel University (DU), in the course of the Department of Education funded project “Fusing Green Energy into Manufacturing Engineering Education to Cultivate Technical Success and Leadership Excellence among Hispanic Engineering Students,” the project leaders and participants will perform activities that align with President Obama’s Road Map for civic learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.”

    Of the 9 practices that will increase Civic Learning and Engagement, the UTEP Green Energy Manufacturing will particularly participate in four:

    1. Convene and catalyze schools and postsecondary institutions to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement.

    The UTEP project will offer students a Leadership Workshop Series and a Seminar Series on green energy that will use the strength of local relationships with the large green energy/manufacturing industry base in the border region and Philadelphia area, inviting leading industrial and academic advocates who are knowledgeable on green energy and manufacturing to build a seminar series and implement student outreach activities. The seminar series will also provide an opportunity to the students to listen to the experts in the industry and increase their exposure to more problems and areas for potential research. A Leadership Challenge Workshop will enable students to take their newly acquired leadership skills along with their engineering skills and chart their careers public servants, entrepreneurs or experts in the industry.

    6. Encourage public service careers among college students and graduates.

    The UTEP / DU Green Energy Manufacturing project will offer students advice on how to make a positive difference in the nation’s environmental practices through advice given and interactions that will occur in the Leadership Workshop Series and Seminar Series.

    8. Engage Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions

    Drexel University (DU) and UTEP have developed programs to increase the number of underrepresented, minorities and women students in engineering and science fields. DU is known far and wide for its commitment to integrating relevant technology into every aspect of academics. DU’s technological focus has one goal: to establish the most effective platforms for teaching and learning, scholarship and service.
    The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) at DU is part of a national effort to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who successfully complete baccalaureate and advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), a Minority Serving Institution (MSI), has a similarly funded Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), designed to increase Hispanic participation in higher education and service.

    Funding for the LSAMP program is provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). DU is one of nine institutions that comprise the consortium called the Greater Philadelphia Region Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. This consortium represents a diverse partnership of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), both public and private two- and four-year., research and non-research institutions. The LSAMP program at DU partners with student groups, community-based organizations as well as University stakeholders. Furthermore, the Bridge to the Doctorate (BTD) Fellowship Program funded by the NSF is committed to engaging students from underrepresented populations (African American, Native American and Latino) in graduate study within STEM fields of study. The BTD Fellowship program encourages students’ interest in graduate study by demystifying the graduate admissions process and removing the financial barriers associated with continued study.

    9. Highlight and promote student and family participation in education programs and policies at the federal and local levels.

    The Green Energy Manufacturing project will emphasize ways in which federal and state policy decisions can be shaped by a new and proactive generation of university graduates who are prepared to contribute to policy determination in the environmental and manufacturing sectors, as well as in education.

    The outlook and the promise of Green Energy Manufacturing leadership is that tomorrow’s university graduates will be prepared and engaged in the civic activities that will immediately begin creating beneficial improvements in our nation’s environmental and technological policies, as well as in education leadership practices that shape the next generations of citizens.

  48. As a long time Louisiana educator, I am most dismayed by the lack of critical thinking skills, and most of all, the lack of civic engagement demonstrated by the college students with whom I work. The current trends in social media are creating a large number of 18 to 22 year olds who either are passive and uncaring about the great issues that they will face in the next half century, or worse, are led around in their thinking by political extremists from both the left and the right. The Common Core State Standards Initiative, recently adopted for Louisiana public schools, can provide our students with the capacity to develop early in life the ability to make thoughtful and informed decisions regarding local, state and federal issues that impact their lives. The federal TRIO programs that work with middle school and high school students must redouble their efforts to support schools not only in memory skills, but also in critical thinking skills.

    TRIO and other ED programs must provide students with reasons and motivation to use social media as more than entertainment. Children are tuning out necessary learning for music and communication that emphasizes crude emotional expression and de-emphasizes critical thinking skills. Schools often ban instruments of social media; kids have got be engaged with social media in the learning outside of the classroom that can add to their ability to read, write and think. ED needs to work with the states to provide the proper education for 21st century life, or this nation will lose its ability to lead the world by its educational pre-eminence.

  49. 1. Identify promising practices in civic learning and democratic engagement—and encourage further research to learn what works.

    The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (FDFF) is developing a human trafficking education program with Mayor Bloomberg’s office and NYC Public Schools. The purpose of the program is 1) Prevention – to reduce the chance of children becoming involved, either as victims or perpetrators, in human trafficking and, 2) Empowerment – to help young people understand that they’re able to effect real change in their communities on an issue that is global in scope. This makes them believe they can accomplish anything in their own lives. This is a service-learning program for which FDFF, along with partners such as UNICEF, C.A.A.S.E., Yale University and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, develops curriculum that teaches about contemporary slavery in the context of history. We then ask students to use digital media to raise awareness on the issue.

    2. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships

    We believe in building partnerships between as many community pillars as possible: educational institutions, corporations, NGOs, and government agencies. The more collaboration we have with important partners in the community, the more important students feel the project must be. Building an Honorary Board of Directors is a good way assemble influential personalities and to raise funds for a program like NYC’s. Student programs are a great justification for creating alliances.

    3. Encourage public service careers among college students and graduates.

    Our human trafficking education curricula is designed for secondary school students age 13 years and above. The general subject matter looks at the issue of contemporary slavery by providing a context of history and the history of slavery. In conjunction with an organization called, Historians Against Slavery, we are encouraging some universities, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to adopt a new field of study with the same subject matter so that students that become interested in the subject in high school can follow it through college. From there students can follow career paths that help to develop an infrastructure to fight human trafficking in our communities such as: law enforcement, heath care, psychiatry, law and legislators.

    4. Support civic learning for a well-rounded K–12 curriculum

    We believe that a well-rounded curriculum must include a service component. Students love to engage with their communities especially when it’s meaningful engagement. When students work with us, they believe they’re changing the world and they are. We want to see a national student-led movement that demands and takes action on human trafficking. Our 100 Days to Freedom project, currently underway, is just that. Students are 1) studying history – the Emancipation Proclamation, 2) Helping to create a New Proclamation of Freedom that asks the US Dept. of Education to help facilitate a national human trafficking education program as a means for ultimately reducing trafficking in our communities then 3) Students will promote a Change.org online petition that will gather thousands signatures to support the document. Our hope is to have President Obama sign the document on January 1, 2013 just like President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in the White House exactly 150 years earlier. Whether he does or doesn’t, we’ll have students, teachers, anti-trafficking experts and others in DC on January 1st for celebrations. Right now there are over 100 schools using the curriculum. The more schools we have the greater impact we can make in student’s lives.

    We’re making a version of the Road Map work right now, but, with resources, we could make it happen bigger and faster. FYI – FDFF’s Chairwoman, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the great great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass and the great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington. Her son is our President. Combining solid programming with this incredible legacy makes for an exciting civic learning option.

  50. I have been a teacher for more than a decade. I have never felt more underappreciated than I do now. Parents blame me when I don’t inform them about their child’s performance. They hold me more accountable than they do their own kids. My principal walks down the hall every day to chat it up with the new head football coach, then yells at the rest of us for letting too many of our kids out of class to use the bathroom. I just feel as if my whole life as a teacher is bound up every single day in useless, mundane details, such as filling out more and more paperwork: absentee forms, endless amounts of parent contacts, etc. Is this really all there is to life as a teacher? What am I doing wrong?

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