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A Healthy Democracy

A healthy democracy–one that truly thrives, not just survives—depends on the informed and active participation of all citizens. Yet, civic learning experiences have nearly vanished from many of our schools—especially those schools whose demographics are largely made up of students of color—leaving the next generation ill-prepared for meaningful engagement in public life.

The Democracy Schools Initiative

The Illinois Democracy Schools Initiative supports a growing network of high schools that are committed to reversing this trend, and empowering students to nurture and sustain our democracy, especially when a growing civic empowerment gap exists between students of color and white peers in Illinois. We believe that expanding and prioritizing civic learning opportunities and experiences for schools will help to close the civic empowerment gap and improve overall democratic outcomes in our state.

The Democracy Schools Initiative

Our Approach

High-quality civic learning experiences allow young people to develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions that facilitate informed participation in public life. Research has shown that these experiences also promote civic equality, build 21st century competencies, improve school climate and reduce high school drop-out rates. The Illinois Democracy Schools Initiative was launched to recognize and support high schools that are dedicated to expanding and improving civic learning experiences across the curriculum.

Lived Civics

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 a “Lived Civics” framework, which centers race, identity, and the lived experiences of young people as core elements of civic education efforts.

Democracy Schools Network

Recognized schools join the Democracy Schools Network, a community of faculty and administrators that supports sustained commitment to civic learning through peer-to-peer learning, resources sharing, professional development opportunities, and collaboration between schools. Member schools also receive financial support from the to pursue civic learning improvement plans.