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Educating for American Democracy Roadmap

What is EAD? 

The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative provides national guidance that states, local school districts, and educators can use to transform the teaching of civics and history to sustain our constitutional democracy and meet the needs of a diverse 21st-century K–12 student body. The initiative includes a Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy and accompanying documents that give suggested educational strategies and suggested content for history and civics at every grade level—along with strategies for implementation in schools—so that each state and district can fit the needs of their own, unique communities. The EAD initiative is committed to providing instructional strategies and content for all learners to ensure that excellent history and civic learning opportunities are delivered equitably throughout the country.

How does this align with social studies and civics instruction in Illinois?

The EAD Roadmap and EAD Pedagogy Companion provide support to districts to implement the Illinois K-12 Social Science standards and civics course requirements with resources, a pedagogy guide, and vertically aligned themes for inquiry that address today’s curricular design challenges.

To learn more, visit the Illinois Civics Hub (ICH) Webinar Archives and Professional Development calendar to explore how the EAD Roadmap and  EAD Pedagogy Companion can enhance your classroom practice.

You can also peruse our Illinois Civics Hub Lesson Plans that are aligned to the EAD Roadmap Themes, IL Social Science Standards, and CCSS ELA standards.

Why Now? 

  • Civics education is a cross-partisan, popular issue -According to a survey by Frank Luntz, civic education polled higher than any other issue as having the greatest potential positive benefit on strengthening our national common identity.  Responding to the question, ‘What would have the MOST positive and meaningful impact on strengthening the American identity?’, 56% of Democrats and Republicans agreed on the choice of civics education. This choice outpolled less money in politics, stricter regulation of social media, easier access to voting, and more participation in religious activities for both self-identified Democrats and Republicans.
  • Lack of knowledge on the part of youth is a pervasive problem – Only 24 percent of 8th graders scored proficient in the 2018 NAEP in Civics exam, the results of which were released April 2020 and nearly three-fourths of eighth-grade students report low to moderate levels of confidence in their civics-related knowledge and skills in 2018.
  • Declining trust in institutions and declining investment in communities are deepening with time – The Civics Deserts report from the National Conference on Citizenship highlights concerning examples of civic decay. The public has lost trust in key institutions and leaders including the media and branches of government and volunteering declined by more than 15 percent between 2005 and 2015., 
  • Lack of foundation for civic friendship and unity threaten our country – According to a January 2021 CBS News poll, 40 percent of Democrats and more than half of all Republicans tend to think of the other party as “enemies,” rather than “political opponents”. A majority of Americans identify other Americans as the greatest national threat.  A January 2021 American Enterprise Institute survey found that just over a fourth of all Americans, including 39% of Republicans, agreed that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” The same survey highlighted that a majority of Republican voters agreed with the statement that the “traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”
  • Lack of national investment makes the support of the discipline more difficult- Today, the federal government spends approximately $50 per student per year on STEM education. Yet, the same government is spending only 5 cents per student per year on civics education.
  • Lack of commitment to schools’ civic missions reduces focus– 59 of the 100 largest districts in the United States do not mention civics or citizenship, or democracy at all in their mission statements (Pondiscio & Stringer, 2015).
  • Lack of time invested makes teaching civics and history more difficult, and challenges are greatest for our youngest learners–  Just over 3 out of 5 elementary school principals felt they spent too little time on civics compared to 57% and 41% respectively in middle and high school grades.
  • Lack of support for educators in schools communicates lack of importance – A 2018 Brown Center Report on American Education found that high school social studies teachers are among the least supported teachers in schools. The Brown Center report found these educators taking on more non-teaching responsibilities like coaching school sports than other teachers and teaching a larger number of students.
  • Lack of inspiring learning experiences reduces student motivation and engagement – A 2013 Gallup poll of 500,000 students in grades five through 12 found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students were “engaged” with school, that is, attentive, inquisitive, and generally optimistic. By high school, the number dropped to four in 10. A 2015 follow-up study found that less than a third of 11th-graders felt engaged. When Gallup asked teens in 2004 to select the top three words that describe how they feel in school from a list of 14 adjectives, “bored” was chosen most often by half the students, 
  • Lack of access that reflects national, social, and economic gaps – According to an analysis by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg at CIRCLE, students from systemically disadvantaged communities, including low income and Hispanic students, simultaneously scored much lower on NAEP civics exams and reported less exposure to high-quality civic education products such as simulations, debates, and discussion.

                  We all have a role to play              


  • Practice interacting with those who disagree with your perspectives.
  • Deepen your engagement with our constitutional democracy by learning how to exercise and understand civil rights and responsibilities.
  • Engage in student government, in-school activities, and other practices that strengthen your understanding of your individual civil rights and those of your peers.


  • Engage and collaborate on civic activities together.
  • Support passionate yet respectful discussions of current events at the table.
  • Introduce your children to civic activities (from service to voting).
  • Critically assess media sources together with your children.


  • Ensure teaching civics and history are firmly integrated into strategic plans, including the development of civic learning plans.
  • Increase financial investment in professional development, materials, and staff to ensure civics and history are seen as priorities.
  • Adopt and purchase curricula that emphasize the inquiry-based, interdisciplinary approach advanced by EAD.
  • Recruit and support staff with a commitment to the school and district’s civic mission.
  • Support the development and use of formative and summative assessments that gauge students’ civic knowledge and skills.
  • Forge outside partnerships with families, community leaders, museums, libraries, and other organizations that can support high-quality civic learning. 


  • Set ambitious goals to ensure that all students have access to opportunities for excellent civic-learning opportunities.
  • Support educator professional development by building networks across LEAs and by promoting pre-service civic learning,
  • Integrate the Civic Learning Plan data within state accountability systems as a component of school performance indicators.


What actions can educators take to enhance their current practice?

Actions to promote Excellence for All

  • Affirm diverse identities and provide inclusive instruction and examples.
  • Communicate clear expectations and express support and care to students.
  • Provide opportunities for students to deepen and synthesize learning.
  • Differentiate and scaffold instruction to ensure accessibility for all learners.
  • Join professional learning communities focused on support, sharing resources, and mentoring to promote a continuous cycle of improvement and courageous engagement in dialogues and discussions that result from teaching the EAD Roadmap.
  • Seek out training and integrate meaningful civics and history content and inquiry in early elementary grades.

Actions to promote Growth Mindset & Capacity Building

  • Engage in professional development about EAD Principles and Design Challenges, EAD Teacher components, Deepening content learning through deep inquiries in EAD Roadmap
  • Gather formal and informal student feedback on their learning experience to understand individual needs and strengths. Engage in self-reflection to identify and address implicit biases and practices that may interfere with some students’ learning processes.
  • Seek out professional development and utilize resources to provide a historical context that is inclusive of historically underrepresented groups.
  • Use formative assessments and other forms of feedback to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of students’ learning and support improvement by giving them a chance to reflect and revise their work.
  • Learn about activities to cultivate student motivations to improve and develop a growth mindset, 

Actions to promote EAD Classrooms & Schools: 

  • Intentionally seek to learn more about students and their families and strive to build relationships with and among students. 
  • Create opportunities through a variety of discussion structures and protocols for students to understand diverse perspectives.
  • Help students engage productively with disagreements and solve conflicts.
  • Support students to process emotionally difficult events using different modes of expression, including dialogue, writing, and creating art.

Actions to promote Deep & Critical Inquiry: 

  • Design lessons that uncover the complexity of an event, dynamic, social group, or leading individual, Actions to promote Deep & Critical Inquiry: Incorporate opportunities to analyze diverse forms of evidence, including images as well as texts.
  • Introduce new concepts by building on background knowledge, Actions to promote Deep & Critical Inquiry: Engage students in historical thinking skills.
  •  Build student engagement with media literacy.

Actions to help Practice Constitutional Democracy & Agency: 

  • Provide students the opportunity to practice democratic skills in the classroom.
  • Facilitate opportunities for students to interact with community leaders, initiatives, and issues.
  • Facilitate opportunities for students to take informed action in their communities.
  • Design lessons to support student research skills including data collection, conducting interviews and reporting findings.

 Actions to Reflect, Assess, and Improve:

  • Check for understanding and depth of comprehension throughout lessons/units.
  • Assess student knowledge and skills using visual arts/representation.
  • Assess students’ civic skills and agency.
  • Seek out student feedback to facilitate self-reflection and growth in meeting the needs of all students.
  • Use formal and informal assessment and feedback to help students cultivate a growth mindset

What can you do?