Thursday, October 11, 2012
Standards, course requirements, and mandatory assessments relevant to civic education
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has analyzed the standards, course requirements, and mandatory assessments relevant to civic education in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. This is the first such scan in 5 years. The full analysis is summarized in a new fact sheet entitled State Civic Education Requirements, and a spreadsheet provides details on each state.
Some of the highlights:
• All states have standards for social studies, a broad category that includes civics/government along with other disciplines such as history and geography. The civics theme of power, authority, and government is included in all 51 states’ social studies standards (including the District of Columbia’s). The theme of civic ideals and practices is found in every state’s standard except Missouri’s
• Thirty-nine states require at least one course in American government or civics
• In the 2012-13 school year, 21 states require a state-designed social studies test. This is a similar number as in 2006 but a dramatic reduction compared to 2001, when 34 states conducted regular assessments on social studies subjects.. Two states, Maryland and Florida, have recently instituted new social studies assessments, not yet required this year.
• Just nine states require students to pass a social studies test in order to graduate from high school: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Georgia’s assessment will be phased out but Maryland and Florida will add high-stakes tests.
• Eight states have statewide, standardized tests specifically in civics/American government: California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. Of those, Ohio and Virginia are the only ones that require students to pass that test to graduate from high school.
• Social studies assessments have shifted from a combination of multiple-choice and performance tasks to almost exclusively multiple-choice exams since 2000.
• The previous scan of state standards, requirements and laws relating to civic education was conducted more than five years ago. In the past decade, education policy has changed rapidly, due, in part, to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), Race to the Top, and other federal policies. In 2008, CIRCLE found little change in the amount of time devoted to social studies, but more recent research suggests that states have shifted educational resources away from social studies toward subjects that are included on state-wide assessments. The pendulum may be swinging back as several states are now reforming their requirements for civic education.