state policies for civics: it’s all about implementation

Just published: Peter Levine & Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, “State Policies for Civic Education,” in Esther Thorson, Mitchell S. McKinney, and Dhavan Shah, eds., Political Socialization in a Media-Saturated World (New York: Peter Lang, 2016), pp. 113-24.

Abstract: Several large cross-sectional surveys confirm the same patterns: high-quality forms of school-based civic education (such as moderated discussion of controversial current topics) are related to students’ civic knowledge and engagement, but state policies that mandate various forms of civics are not related to civic knowledge or engagement for their young adult populations. We explore the possibilities that: 1) the existing state policies are not satisfactory, 2) state policies cannot reliably influence educational practices, or 3) support for implementation is essential.

I think the last point is most important, and that’s why we have been working closely with Florida Partnership for Civic Learning and the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition to support local stakeholders (district leaders, academics and teacher educators, nonprofits, and state officials) to implement their respective states’ policies for k12 civics. A good law may be necessary, but it is insufficient without continuous attention to implementation: producing a good test every year, supporting current and future civics teachers, selecting and recommending materials, analyzing data from tests, surveys, and interviews to learn what’s working, and using the resulting insights to improve standards, tests, materials, and professional development–in a continuous cycle.