SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: January 2020 – Social Studies & Civics

By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow

In the new year, the D.C. State Board of Education will continues its “Research Roundup” series in an effort to increase the focus on selected education research and policy concepts, with a specific emphasis on the implications of research and policy on stakeholders in our communities.

This January 2020 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features two reports: one from the Center for American Progress that examines state civics requirements and one from the National Congress of American Indians that examines state efforts to implement high-quality curriculum about Native American people and culture.

As we have done previously, the State Board will discuss the key findings of each report and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities.

This month, both reports relate to social studies and civics. The State Board is currently embarking on a process to update the District’s social studies standards under the leadership of Ward 6 Representative Jessica Sutter. The state social studies standards have not been updated since 2006.

“Strengthening Democracy with a Modern Civics Education”, Center for American Progress, December 2019

Summary: Written by Ashley Jeffrey and Scott Sargrad at the Center for American Progress (CAP), this report examines states’ civic and U.S. government requirements, which vary by state and typically include anything from the number of civics course credits, the Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics (AP USGP) exam, and community service hours requirement. They authors also looked at five key elements of a robust civics curriculum. These elements are an explanation of democracy, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, public participation, information on voting rights, and media literacy. Their main findings include:

  • Most states require at least a semester’s worth of standalone civics courses

  • Twenty states requires students to take some sort of civics exam to demonstrate competency

  • Twenty six states employ a robust civics curriculum and/or standards

  • Community service is rarely required

  • There does not appear to be a clear relationship between course requirements, civics exam requirements, or curriculum standards and scores on the AP USGP exam

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