Guidelines for Administrators
Responsibility for statewide implementation of the middle and high school civics requirements lie with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), its Regional Offices of Education, individual school districts, and ultimately schools and teachers within them. Central to this implementation effort is the need for teacher professional development opportunities and access to classroom resources. Both Public Act 99-0434 and Public Act 101-0254 specify that “School districts may utilize private funding available for the purposes of offering civics education.”
- ISBE is responsible for interpreting the course requirements; ensuring that districts are in compliance with it; and establishing new learning standards for social science, which will include guidance on civics course instruction and content.
- ISBE Regional Offices of Education are responsible for hosting and promoting professional development opportunities for teachers, schools, and districts in Illinois.
- Individual School Districts are responsible for ensuring that both middle and high schools offer and students successfully complete a semester of civics embedded with proven civic learning practices including direct instruction, discussion, service-learning, and simulations.
Alignment of Civics Legislation with Other Educational Initiatives
Schools implementing the Illinois Social Science standards with fidelity, as well as best practices associated with Social Emotional Learning, the Common Core State Standards, and 21st Century Skills, are well-positioned to meet new civic mandates.
There are four proven pedagogies in the mandate for you to consider as you develop your civic education curriculum. We’ve assembled a description of each for you to examine and its alignment with other educational initiatives.
1. Direct Instruction
Teachers can provide instruction in civics and government, history, economics, geography, law, and democracy. Formal instruction in these subjects increases civic knowledge and increases young people’s tendency to engage in civic and political activities over the long term. Avoid teaching only rote facts about dry procedures, which is unlikely to benefit students and may actually alienate them from civic engagement.
2. Simulation of Democratic Processes and Practices
Teachers can encourage students to participate in simulations of democratic processes and procedures. Evidence shows that simulations of voting, trials, legislative deliberation and democracy, leads to heightened civic/political knowledge and interest.
3. Service Learning
Teachers can design and implement programs that provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learn through performing informed action that is linked to the formal curriculum and classroom instruction.
4. Current and Controversial Issues Discussions
Teachers can incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events in to the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives. When students have an opportunity to discuss current issues in a classroom setting, they tend to have a greater interest in civic life and politics as well as improved critical thinking and communication skills.