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Illinois Civic Education Laws and Standards

Middle School Civics Bill (2019)

This spring, legislation to require a semester of civics within grades 6, 7, or 8 (Public Act 101-0254), passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan supermajorities in both chambers. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law in Summer 2019, with the middle school mandate set to be implemented beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

High School Civics Bill (2015)

On August 21, 2015, Governor Rauner signed House Bill (HB) 4025 (Public Act 99-0434) into law, requiring that future Illinois high school students complete a stand-alone, semester-long civics course. Course content must include instruction on government institutions, current and controversial issues discussions, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes.

A separate law (Public Act 099-0485) was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Governor Rauner provided further clarity on HB 4025’s effective date. The course mandate took effect on July 1, 2016, and applied to incoming freshmen for the 2016-17 school year.

For additional information on the law, please see the Illinois State Board of Education’s Guidance Document for State Graduation Requirements.

Social Studies Standards

Among the recommendations of the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education was a call for revisions to the current Illinois Social Science Standards, last updated in 1997, with guidance from the National Council for the Social Studies College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework.

On August 27, 2014 the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) instructed the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, convened by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, to create and lead and task force in partnership with the Midwest Comprehensive Center at American Institutes for Research and deliver new social studies standards for ISBE’s consideration by June 2015.

The Social Science Standards Revision Task Force was comprised primarily of classroom practitioners representative of the various social studies disciplines, grade bands, and geographic regions of Illinois. A number of Illinois-based universities and social studies organizations also were represented on the task force. The Illinois Social Science Standards are designed to ensure that students across Illinois focus on a common set of standards and have the opportunity to develop the knowledge, dispositions, and skills necessary for success in college, career, and civic life in the 21st century. The vision supporting this design is to produce Illinois graduates who are civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware, and financially literate.

The new Illinois Social Science Standards contain a civics strand across the K-12 continuum. The grade-banded strand for high school will help inform the design, teaching and learning, and student outcomes in the newly required civics course.

For more information, visit the Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science pages at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) site.

Revisions to the Illinois Social Science Standards for the 2022-23 School Year

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee created by the Illinois General Assembly, approved revisions to the K-12 Illinois Social Science standards. The changes were created by a committee of educators representing the diversity of the Land of Lincoln under the leadership of Elizabeth Hiler, Principal Consultant of Social Science, and Erica Thieman, Director Of K-12 Curriculum and Instruction at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The current social science standards continue to shape the school curriculum for the 2021-22 school year. The revised standards impact the 2022-23 school year. The Illinois Civics Hub has created a google document for each grade band, placing the current standards, proposed revisions, and final revisions and additions side by side to help planning for curriculum shifts.  A copy of each google document is linked below.

For more background on the standards revision process, please review the blog post linked below.