Civics Education Resource Site

Middle School Implementation

According to the Illinois Civics Mandate Guidance Document, the legislation led to questions about options for how the civics requirement can be addressed within the middle school structure while still maintaining compliance. Many districts and schools have questions about whether civics is now mandated to be a stand-alone course or if it can be incorporated within existing course structures.

  • It is NOT a requirement for the civics coursework to be a stand-alone course. The coursework is required to be at least a semester, but required coursework may be incorporated into existing course structures.
  • The content can be in a stand-alone civics course of at least one semester or (one-half year) in length or at least one semester’s worth of civics (one-half year) can be woven across grades 6,7 and 8.
  • The minimum of one semester of civics content in sixth, seventh, or eighth grades shall be in accordance with the Illinois Learning Standards for social science.

Proven Practices Outlined in the Middle School Mandate

  • Government institutions: This may include ideas of discussing foundations of our American government, branches of government, and other institutions per the Illinois civics content standards 6- 8.
  • Discussion of current and societal issues: Current and societal issue discussions may link issues to core curricular goals as well as address meaningful and timely essential questions about public policy issues that deserve the attention of students and the community.
  • Service-learning: Service learning addresses the idea of taking informed action upon learning; service learning MUST connect to the content within the classroom. This can take the form of a traditional service project in civil society and/or advocacy for public policy at the local, state, or federal levels of government. Service learning does NOT refer to having students gather community service hours or volunteering.
  • Simulations of the democratic process: The goal of simulations is to engage students in practices of citizenship and promote a deeper understanding of the workings of government institutions through role-playing, scenario consideration, or problem-based case solutions.

Standards Alignment

Each of the proven practices of civic education delineated in the bill has a direct alignment to other important school initiatives like the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, the Danielson Framework for Effective Teaching, the Illinois Social Science Standards, and 21st-Century Skills.

Implementation Resources

Like the implementation of the high school course, The Robert R. McCormick Foundation proposes a three-year, $3 million plan ($1 million annually) to help middle school teachers, schools, and districts incorporate a civics course in grades 6, 7, or 8. Highlights include:

  • Ongoing teacher professional development opportunities, both in-person and online, are central to our proposed effort. They are offered in partnership with civic education nonprofits and institutional partners, including universities and regional offices of education.
  • To ensure that expertise on best practices in civic education is embedded in Illinois middle schools, we recruited regional Civics Instructional Coaches to train educators in each school and/ or district serving students in grades 6-8.
  • As was true of our high school efforts, we partnered with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University to evaluate the impact of our teacher professional development offerings and, reciprocally, the fidelity by which teachers, schools, and districts implement the middle school course requirement. At the end of the implementation period, we will also evaluate the impact the course has on student civic development, measuring growth in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.