Civics Education Resource Site

Guidelines for School Admnistrators

Background

Responsibility for statewide implementation of a high school civics course lies with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), its Regional Offices of Education, individual school districts, and ultimately high schools and teachers within them. Central to this implementation effort is the need for teacher professional development opportunities and access to classroom resources. Public Act 99-0434 specifics that “School districts may utilize private funding available for the purposes of offering civics education.”

  • ISBE is responsible for interpreting the course requirement; 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 high schools offer and students successfully complete a semester-long civics course embedded with proven civic learning practices including direct instruction, discussion, service-learning, and simulations.

See ISBE Rollout Information.

Before the passage of Public Act 99-0434, Illinois required that high school students successfully complete two years of social studies. The requirement stated that one year must be dedicated to U.S. history, or a combination of U.S. history and government. Although many high schools (60%) do require that students take a civics course, the state never mandated it until now. This new mandate requires that one semester of those two years of social studies to be dedicated to a stand-along civics course.

Based upon ICMC research, 60% of Illinois public high schools currently require at least one semester of civics and/ or government in order to graduate. An additional 27% of Illinois public high schools offer (but do not require) a course that can be categorized as civics or government. Thirteen percent have no existing course or their curricular offerings in this subject area are unknown.

Schools without a required civics course are distributed throughout the state, but the highest concentration is in the City of Chicago (96% of CPS high schools do not require civics or government). This percentage drops significantly in suburban Chicago (37.6% without) and in Illinois’ other regions (Northwest: 16.8%; West Central: 25.3%; East Central: 26.9%; Southwest: 24.3%; and Southeast: 26.0%).

Current American Government Courses May Meet the Requirement

Existing American government courses satisfy the civics course requirement, but with two important caveats:

  • First, qualifying government courses must address the content specified in the law, including instruction on government institutions, current and controversial issues discussions, service-learning, and simulations of democratic processes.
  • Second, this course must be offered in addition to the existing one-credit U.S. history and/or government requirement.

See Social Studies Standards.

Available Resources for Teachers

Teachers at all Illinois public high schools are welcome to access online professional development through IllinoisCivics.org and classroom resources offered over the course of the three-year implementation period.

See our calendar for upcoming dates for trainings statewide.

Additionally, a teacher mentor program will provide direct support to schools and educators. Forty teacher mentors we be available statewide (by June 2016) and responsible for providing guidance on course implementation in their assigned region. The mentors’ primary responsibility will be providing direct support to schools with no current course requirement, facilitating professional development workshops, visiting classrooms and connecting teachers and schools to resources and best practices.

Find a mentor in my area. 

Over the next several years, the ICMC plans to address the teacher training pipeline from college to classroom and incorporate an evaluation plan of this effort.

For more information, contact Shawn Healy, Chair, Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, at shealy@illinoiscivics.org.