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Elements of Democracy Schools

Elements of Democracy Schools

To sustain a school-wide commitment to civic learning, research identifies learning experiences and elements of organizational culture that need to be in place. These elements build upon research from the Illinois Civic Blueprint, 2nd edition and now embed a “Lived Civics” framework, which centers race, identity, and the lived experiences of young people as core elements of civic education efforts.

Design/Teaching Strategy

The underpinnings of schoolwide civics; the practices, skills, and dispositions that frame civic learning in the classroom and with extracurricular activities.


Foundational Civic Knowledge

Learning of core civic concepts across disciplines, exploring the role and responsibilities of citizens and government


Current and Controversial Issues

Intentional discussion of emerging topics and topics of tension in our society emphasizing discourse with multiple points of view.



Opportunities for students to participate in role-playing, problem solving, interactive case studies, and online games which invoke civic learning and engagement.


Informed Action and Service-Learning

Opportunities for all students, regardless of academic skill or ability, to engage in civic action by using knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs on a school, local, regional, state or broader level through preparation, action and reflection.


Extracurricular Activities

Clubs and organizations foster civic learning and engagement which are representative of student needs, interests, and identities.

School Climate

Schools create and maintain a positive and democratic school climate that promotes students’ civic development, engagement and sense of belonging.


Student Voice

Schools provide formal, informal, and regular opportunities for student voice and student decision-making that is impactful at various of the school community.


Vision and Leadership

School leaders have a clear commitment to the civic mission of the school, dedicate necessary resources to sustain this vision, and ensure all students have equitable access to civic learning.


Teacher Hiring, Assessment, and Professional Development

School leaders have a commitment to hiring, assessing, and developing a staff that can carry out the civic mission of the school as well as attend to equity and teachers’ and students’ identity and lived experiences.


School-Community Partnerships

School leaders and staff ensure that the school and its community are a resource for each other and that there are frequent and meaningful interactions with families and community partners.