Recently the results of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics assessment were released. The results were mixed.

It was encouraging to see that the performance of fourth graders improved since 2006 – and that this increase was reflected through all demographic groups and all skill levels. It is also worth noting that teaching the Constitution and civics worked! Elementary students performed much better when their teachers made a point to emphasize the Constitution and our foundations as a nation, the role of citizens, and politics and government.

At the middle and high school levels, results were less encouraging. The performance of eighth graders has not changed since the 2006 or 1998 assessment – despite the fact that eighth graders report being taught more frequently about a wide range of civics topics, including the presidency, the judiciary, and political parties and elections. More disappointing, the performance of twelfth graders has declined – as has the amount of instruction they have received on the Constitution, among other civics topics.

This raises a question: Has a shift in certain civic education topics from high school to middle school failed to result in any educational benefit to middle school students, while diminishing the civic education of high school students? What other factors might be contributing to these disappointing results?  What remedies can you suggest to move policy-makers in the right direction?

Teachers, please weigh in on this important question.

Posted in Staff Updates


55 Responses to “Calling for a Teacher Discussion of the Nation’s Civics Report Card”

  1. Stephanie says:

    It makes me wonder if social studies is being ignored in the classroom because it’s not a tested subject like math and reading and science. The elementary age students in Florida get very little instruction time in SS. If SS was a tested subject, and I’m not advocating for more testing, would people respect it more?

    • Jason Ross says:

      Stephanie- Thanks for the comment. I hear that from a lot of social studies teachers. On the one hand, they are wary of how high stakes testing sometimes narrows instruction. But on the other hand, they see how testing indicates a public commitment to teaching certain subjects.

      • Kim says:

        I teach Civics and Economics at the high school level. This is currently a state tested class. I think the high stakes test has hurt my ability to truly teach the Constitution in depth. Because of a lengthy curriculum and time constraints, it is difficult just to “cover” the material; much less make it meaningful for the students. This year is the last year that the state will test this course – this is going to open up so many possibilities for next year- I am excited to see if the students become more engaged with some of the activities that I will now have time to do. By focusing less on rote facts and more on the constitution’s impact on our lives, I think (hope) students will take more from the class.

        • Theresa says:

          I agree with Kim here. When we can let go of “covering” the content for a test and make the Constitution and citizenship more meaningful for our students, they will remember the content. When my 8th graders can see the impact of a law passed by our legislature impacts their life it is much more meaningful than just how a bill becomes a law.

    • Becky says:

      If elementary students are more educated about civics, it’s because teachers have worked really hard to find appropriate materials. There isn’t a whole lot written at the 2nd – 4th grade level. I’ve had to adapt higher level materials for my 3rd graders.

    • Gala says:

      I agree, the same thing is happening here in Cleveland, social studies/history is being sacrificed for ELA, Math and now science. And when students have to take the state social studies test, they do horrible on it because they have had very little quality social studies instruction until they get to high school.

  2. J says:

    1) Reduce the number of survey courses taught in K-12, and increase the number of in-depth,focused studies/classes (save them for college);

    2) Rely more on primary texts, and educate children from Kindergarten on up about the importance of these texts/documents

    3) Make civics relevant through experiential learning (we do it for science, why not for more for social studies?)

    • Jason Ross says:

      J- I do agree that teaching primary sources is critical. This is why all of our course materials contain primary sources, with questions and activities designed to support learners of various levels.

      I’d like to hear more about your thought about experimental learning in civics.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. nate breen says:

    Look what Congress did with the funding for the Center for Civic Education … the Center was deemed an “earmark” and lost its funding creating a crisis for not only programs such as We the People, but also closing important professional development programs for teachers. Nationally, civics education (and the social studies) are not given priority and not seen as an important part of our curricula. Even Congress has a limited understanding of what is in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Could it be that in some circles that social studies in general and civics education specifically, are considered subversive.

  4. Gayle Boshek says:

    I can tell you as a teacher of 12th graders that enough emphasis is not placed on teaching American Government. We are on block schedule and, as a result, teach nine weeks of Economics and nine weeks of Government. I would love to see each of the subjects taught for a full semester but it just doesn’t appear to be an option. There are those students that get excited about learning about their government and, unfortunately, those that take all that we have for granted. All we can do is keep at it and hope to reach more.

  5. Kim Brinson says:

    It has been my experience that students need to hear information often. We cannot expect to educate our kids with a bit here and a bit there. I try to bring up the Constitution in conversations across the board, in all the grades/classes that I teach; it is relevant to more than just SS.

    I do want to use more hands-on learning and am working on that. Pencil and paper only go so far before the eyes glaze over.

    One thing I did in a Civics class (this really stuck with the kids – they are STILL talking about it two years later!) was to make a phone call to our Senator’s office. I wanted the students to see how easy it is to call and make one’s voice heard. I used the speaker phone so everyone could hear and informed the intern answering the phone that I had a class listening in. The students were shocked at some of the responses I got from the intern … very enlightening and very interesting for 8th graders … time well spent.

  6. Brian says:

    In the 2010-2011 school year New York State eliminate a social studies assessment in the elementary schools. Social studies instruction dropped as more time was spent on ELA and Math because those are the assessments that will be used to evaluate the elementary teachers and Principals under the new evaluation system adopted by the New York Board of Regents last month. The clause that allows the NY state assessments to could for up to 40% of a teacher and principal’s evaluation has sounded the death knell for social studies education at all. In the words of our outgoing Commissioner of Education in New York -”what’s tested is taught”.

  7. Yes, this is a situation that needs much Improvement. As you know, many studies contend that a high percentage of Harvard graduates do not know James Madison wrote the Constitution.

    Moreover, it seems that a back to basics study of the Founding seems to get mired in political correctness. This period of history then becomes controversial and menial.

    In my classroom, we read parts of the Federalist Papers in both 10th and 11th grade. We also read parts of Tocqueville.

    • Tom O'Hare says:

      James Madison may be considered the Father of the Constitution, but I would hardly think he can be called an “author”. Those Harvard kids are right – he was not the “author” of The Constitution. He played a significant role of course, but it was certainly the pen and ideas of many men, not just Madison.

  8. Barbara Harte says:

    First of all there is a huge problem with middle school in general. I speak from a position of experience as I have taught 6th – 12th grades. While I understand and appreciate the need to be aware of the social emotional challenges that middle school students are experiencing, I don’t think the answer is to lower expectations academically and we have. Students in the middle school largely use watered down activities based textbooks that require little in the way of extended reading. When these students reach high school the lack of continued progress in reading is notable in all content areas. So my first suggestion is to beef up the expectations across the board in all content areas in middle school.

    Secondly, in my state (Michigan) a number of years ago there was a push to move senior government down to 9th grade and call it “civics”. My department at Seaholm High School in Birmingham refused to comply and left government and AP Government in the senior year. Nearly one half of all of our students select AP Government (which is two trimesters) over the single trimester required government course. Our students perform extremely well on the AP tests and I suspect all of our seniors would perform better than students who learned about US government and the Constitution in the ninth grade. Seniors are close to becoming voting citizens (some of them actually turn 18 and register to vote as part of their government course) and are far more capable of understanding the importance and complexities of our system of government and it’s origins.

  9. Alan Siegel says:

    In California civics is only a half year course taught in the 12th grade. It is not part of the high stakes testing.

    If you cannot find ways to make history and civics come alive today…

  10. Doug Thacker says:

    In Georgia, Social Studies is tested. I believe
    teachers do a great job in 5th, 8th and 9th grades of teaching the Constitution. A problem is that students have CIvics as 9th graders.
    Georgia no longer teaches 12th grade Government. This is difficult to understand,
    since 18 year olds are getting ready to vote the
    first time. 12th grade Government should be restored as a requitred course. DT

  11. Jen Jolley says:

    Dear Jason,

    Our curriculum standards have changed in FL. Next school year, we will incorporate a Civics course in 7th grade, 8th grade US History topics will range from Pre-Columbian to the Civil War, while 11th grade US History will begin at the Civil War. Students will not have a complete picture of the US Constitution until they take American Government their 12th grade year.

    I applaud the integration of middle school civics curriculum. I believe that middle school students will embrace experimental learning goals. They will start to think about efficacy and how they can solve problems. They will turn these ideas into real service projects. As they enter high school they will start to see the importance of joining clubs in high school, understanding how our government works, registering to vote, and continuing their service projects for the community.

    Stephanie – I do understand your point. At the HS level, End of the Course Exams for 11th grade US History will incur due to our merit based system in FL next school year.

  12. MJ says:

    I have to agree with Stephanie’s comments regarding the issue of Social Studies not being a tested subject area. In addition, the emphasis from the federal government on down is on math, science, and language arts. Social Studies continually seems relegated to a back seat, and beyond a minimum history requirement, much of the Social Studies curricula is subsequently offered through electives. When faced with a choice between Pop Culture, Sociology, and Civics, students often forgo the latter in favor of the “cooler” choices.

    From my point of view, every senior should be required to take civics before graduating. Most will turn 18 shortly after graduation, if not before, and will thus become a member of the voting population. If we are ever to have a truly educated electorate, a much stronger emphasis needs to be placed on civics education. Also, I think the timing is important; the curriculum is more valuable to a 17 or 18-year old who can immediately put that knowledge to use.

    MJ

  13. JD says:

    One big problem I see is that government class is only a ONE SEMESTER required course! At present I am fighting to keep it a full year course at my school. I have to continually say that just because it is only required one semester, doesn’t mean that is all the students need. Government is also not a tested subject so there is little incentive to leave it as a priority if a student decides to transfer to a different class at semester’s end.

    I tried teaching the Constitution during the second semester. I wanted to teach about the history behind the Constitution as well. How Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance & Reformation as well as the Enlightenment and English history was looked back upon to gain wisdom when writing the Constitution. This bogged me down a lot because I was having to do all the research and try to put it together in a fashion that would interest the students. There was only a couple of pages about this in the textbook and it only touched on a few things. I had a hard time accomplishing what I wanted to because I didn’t have time to dedicate to it with 5 other subjects to prep for each day also. I looked for materials but found very little that dealt indepth with this history and its influence.

    I think my students did come away with a little better understanding of what the Founders were thinking when they wrote certain things in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because they could see how history had influenced their thinking. So really I think what I was able to get across helped them understand history as well as government and how knowing about each can safeguard their rights so history doesn’t repeat itself. Helping them make that connection was my sincere hope and desire when I set out to teach about the Constitution and the long history behind it the way I did.

  14. Our government education system is truly more interested in teaching children what to think rather than how to think. I have seen a rapid decline in teaching the fundamental education skills and a rapid increase in teaching morally declining lifestyle trends and socialistic thoughts. I believe it is deliberate to NOT educate our young people through social studies because if we deprive our students from knowing their heritage, it is easier to take it away from them as we move into an increasingly more hostile environment toward American Patriotism and Constitutional Freedom. It seems to me if we get the socialistic agenda out of the curriculum and go back to focusing on basic skills without indoctrination, and focus on higher reasoning skills that our high school students would be better prepared for college and to defend living in a free society. I choose to home school my children because of these very issues.

    I could go into extensive communication as to the effects of teaching children how to become followers versus leaders, workers versus business owners, mindless entertainment driven people versus thoughtful readers, writers, and inventors, but I’ll spare you the expository.

    • Deborah Montoya says:

      We make the mistake of using jargon to push a political agenda. The whole premise of the constitution began with enlightenment theory that considered a person’s right to think. The government does not push a contradictory theory. It is the teacher’s job to teach critical thinking. No where in the Constitution does it say that we are a Capitalist country. It is tradition only. We in fact have practiced a mixed form of economy which includes Socialism since big business figured out that taking care of their workers was in their own best interest. You are right about the deliberate exclusion of Civic Ed. I’ve heard some people say that like religion and sex, civics should only be taught at home. Yet, according to early American educational theorists, an educated and informed citizenry able to fully participate in democracy is the foundation of our educational system. If we are teaching our children to be critical thinkers then we are including all of this and more information so they can make their own decisions.
      We should also include all definitions of socialism; political, social and economic as we should do with all economic, political and social systems. Our job is not to give or exclude any one ideology. Parents, teachers, politicians and citizens need to understand this.

  15. Terri Messing says:

    With the call for having national standards and common assessments in all core subjects, social studies is taking a back seat because it is too difficult to find a common ground in regards to what is impartnat for students to know. Washington State requires students in fifth, eighth, and eleventh grade tohave to complete a civics based assessment. I teach junior high, and rarely do I get students that have any social studies knowledge beyond the Pilgrims. Many educators do not see how easily social studies content can be intertwined with other curriculum, and/or there is so much emphasis on math and science that social studies is swept out of the classroom. Interact Simulations hasK-12 curriculum that teaches various historical content including Civics. There are many other sites on the Web that contain curriculum that can be adapted for any classroom. It will take teachers, parents, and community memebers to take a stand and demand that social studies be taught at all grade levels.

  16. Michael Trammell says:

    In the state of Texas, Government is only an one semester course. I have 18 weeks to teach my students as much I can about our government and nation while at the same time try to ensure that they retain that knowledge. Another big problem I face in teaching is that students are constantly absent during the school day for school related functions and extra curricular activities.

    I would also have to agree with an early post in the regards to social studies instruction at the primary school levels. There has been so much focus placed upon math, science, and reading (all important) that teachers at my school district will tell you they spend very little time on social studies. They do activities about the first Thanksgiving and decorate the halls and other events in history but very little focus on the Constitution and other important concepts, ideas, and framework documents.

  17. Sharolyn Griffith says:

    We do not test social studies students in Wyoming, though I don’t think that is the solution. It saddens me to see the lack of emphasis on social studies education. I also worry about the efforts to obtain excellent teachers in the upper level grades. I was told by an administrator in my district, “I don’t get complaints about a bad history teacher, but I do when the football team is not winning.”

    Teachers, we must hold the bar high and continually emphasize the need for better teachers and standards for them. I am a teacher, and while most (I hope) do an amazing job, some are warm bodies.

    And lastly, our communities must foster more civility. We live in a republic, not a democracy. The loud ones are not always right, and civility and courtesy are needed more in our communities, state and national governments to achieve compromise and progress.

  18. Craig Taylor says:

    I taught six classes of Gov and Politics this past year and started each the same way: I handed each student a copy of the US Citizenship test (questions only) and a pocket Constitution. I also assigned a value for replacement if their Constitution is lost – $10,000. We used this constantly over the course as I had the kiddos look up various language and direction as we looked at our ongoing governmental experiment. By the end of the course, I would notice students reaching for the book to help explain or reinforce a concept.
    I think if you can get copies from your local rep and hand them out, and stress their value you give the kids some ownership in the process. I was pleased with the response.
    Oh, and I also have the government classes register voters in our school. I am VERY BIG on citizen participation.

  19. Renee Serrao says:

    In Virginia, U.S. and Va. Government is a graduation requirement and is taken for a full year during the 12th grade. It is not a part of our statewide testing.

    Those two components mean that we are able to teach a fully enriched, current-events based course right at the time when kids are registering to vote for the first time. We have time for debates, emailing legislators, simulations, getting letters to the editor published, and constant reinforcement of Constitutional learning. I would absolutely suggest this model for other states searching for a way to fortify their teaching of civics.

    But in an era of budget cuts, it may not be an attainable option. Good luck, folks!

  20. Jennie Bremer says:

    In California, the teaching of American History is totally disjointed. In 5th grade, they learn about the Revolution and begin to learn about the Constitution. Then, it completely drops off their radar until 8th grade where they learn from the Revolution through Reconstruction- including the Constitution. Then, no American HIstory or civics until 3 years later in 11th and 12th grades! Students retain little of their proir learning because of the huge time lapses between classes.
    I teach middle school social studies and our testing takes place in 8th grade and covers all social studies standards for 6,7 &8 grades- Ancient Civ, World History and US History. TOTALLY UNRELATED STANDARDS. The test is just a jumble of unrelated factoids with no critical thinking involved- just an unmanagable amount of rote memorization. AND, because 8th grade tachers must review 3 years of standards before the test, they have to “rush through” the curricullum- including the Constitution. In California, we need to change the test and test only wha was covered for that testing year- not material the students have not seen for almost 3 years!
    One more thing- testing is useless unless students are held accountable for heir scores. Currently in California, if a student does not pass a state test, the only person who feels the heat is the teacher- not the parents and not the student. I belive they should pair down social studies testing to an 8th grade test that covers the US Constitution and that passing should be a requirement for promotion into high school. Let’s face it- this is the material that is the most essential to our students’ futures. They NEED to know it.

  21. Diane Anderson says:

    National History Day is an incredible program for students in grades 5-12. The experience requires critical thinking, primary as well as secondary research, creative applications, and choice of topic as it relates to the annual theme. Students may work as individuals or in teams up to 5 students. They are actively engaged in historical thinking with lasting results for themselves and their peers. It’s a meanful way to incorporate all the disciplines within social studies.

  22. Tom O'Hare says:

    I think we all need to be careful about finding fault in the bureaucratic and societal flaws invovled in making students more civic minded and competent. Foremost, we need to remind ourselves that however passionate we as teachers may be about our government, in the turbulent mind of 15, 16, 17 year olds, an interest in government can only be formented by developing a trust and relationship with our students that leads to learning. All the policy and standards written up in office buildings mean nothing if, in the end, students are not in a classroom with a teacher that has mastered the art of teaching. I know that statistics, data, testing, studies, and policy all have their place in education. But the simple fact is for those of us who in a classroom who care deeply about civic education, our foremost priority has to be how we teach. I really do not concern myself with all the other stuff.

  23. ken orgera says:

    I’m not sure if this is a new problem. I can’t remember much from high school government or civics. And its obvious our politician are extremely ignorant of the Const. and Gov.
    I think of the comments made by Palin, Bachmann, and Alexander Haig. This ignorance takes in society as a whole and it had been with for quite a while.

  24. Susan Earl says:

    Having taught in three different school districts in two different states over the past 12 years I can speculate that some of the reason for the declining performance among high school seniors is the fact that Civics/American Government is taught at the 9th grade level in many districts to meet state standards in Social Studies education. In conversations with other teachers across the country I see a trend to teach economics at the senior level unless students are taking an AP Government class. It is also assumed that when students enter American History courses that they have already been taught the American Foundings and Constitutional history. To expedite matters so that high school teachers can cover the ever-expanding realm of American history the responsibilities of teaching the Revolutionary Era and the Early Government Era are often put on the middle school teacher’s list of responsible content. I teach a combined course of American History from 1787-1898 and American Government. In one year I must cover the functioning of the US government and teach the US history during the proscribed period. When they move on to the next level of American history, there is no focus on the Consitution except as movements call for Constitutional amendments. Those same students spend their next year learning about World History (a survey course) and then their senior year they take Contemporary Social Studies (CSS) which focuses on economics and civil responsibility. The old Problems of American Democracy classes have been replaced with courses that focus on economics so that state standards can be addressed. Those state standards do not provide tests that measure civil responsibility, civic pride, or civic duty. As a matter of fact, many state do not even have a state standardized test for Civics or American History.

  25. Flora says:

    I am a big advocate of social studies because despite it not being tested like math, reading, and writing. I strongly believe that social studies teaches CHARACTER, RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, PRIDE, AND LEADERSHIP. People need to realize that this content is more than paper and pencil…learning how to work together as an individual or a group. If we don’t teach this content, then we as people, will never understand what this country stands for.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Flora – we at the Bill of Rights Institute couldn’t agree more that responsible citizenship goes hand-in-hand with character. Thanks for your dedication in the classroom!

  26. Emma Humphries says:

    Maybe there’s a problem with the test.

    I realize that such a claim may be overly simplistic, but hear me out: Civic education is about teaching the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of democratic citizenship. I would argue that good civic education, and the kind of civic education we are trying to foster in middle school classrooms in Florida, focuses more on the latter two elements. Unfortunately, the NAEP test and other state-level standardized tests only evaluate the first element.

    I have spent a lot of time in middle school civics classroom in Florida over the past three years and have seen some pretty amazing teaching and learning taking place. More importantly, I have seen 13 and 14 year old students get really fired up about politics and government, and I truly believe that these students are going to play an active role in state, local, and maybe even national politics one day. Unfortunately, we have not figured out a way to test that.

    Despite all of the wonderful things happening in classrooms across my state (and many other states, I am sure), I know that we are going to see very disappointing results on our inaugural End of Course exam that will be administered next Spring.

    Many will say that civics isn’t working. I say that the test isn’t working.

  27. Gregg says:

    I think that you can comprehensively teach the Constitution within high stakes testing by integrating civic education in all classes. I don’t know about most of your schools, but our district blatenly ignores Constitution Day, not that one day will change much. We need to stop ignoring the teaching of Civics/social studies in elementary schools which sets up the foundation for the subject in later years!

    • Gregg – Thanks for your great comment! We agree that civics should and can be integrated across multiple classes in order to give students a great exposure to these constitutional principles. We know that Constitution Day is a great way to set aside some time and dig into these ideas with students – hope you are able to use some of our resources for Constitution Day this year.

  28. Monique Taylor says:

    In high school, Ciivics in Colorado is only a semester course. This makes it very difficult to spend the needed time on the Constitution.

  29. Navasart Michael Mardoyan says:

    I think Social Studies has been on the back burner for well over two to three decades. I realize and emphasize that reading comprehension is the backbone of any education system. If a students does not comprehend what s/he is reading, the effort will be very difficult to achieve. US history should eb taught on the backdrop of the Constitution for Middle and High School students, while the fundamentals of civics should ebtaught in the fourth and fifth grades.

  30. In New York we have eliminated SS tests at 4th and 8th grade. So I agree that SS is being put aside because of test centered state assessment in ELA and Math. Civics is extremely important and should be taught as a matter of national pride. Every year I teach a unit on Government and Civics to 3rd graders. We examine the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It needs to be valued and taught in every classroom. Here’s the irony: I’m a British citizen and I respect and ensure that U.S. culture, heritage and civics are imbedded in my curriculum. I think children need to understand their past in order to change their future!

  31. This is great to hear your thoughts about the NAEP civics results, but also the attention that civics receives in your states overall. We at the Bill of Rights Institute know that you are doing an important job in the classroom and know that your students are better off for having you – keep up the great work!

  32. Claire Falk says:

    As a high school teacher in Chicago Public Schools, if it isn’t tested, it isn’t important. The only time we can really teach history unhindered is when we get sophomores ready to take the Constitution test. We have freshmen coming in that have had almost no social studies at all. If it isn’t reading and math it isn’t important.

  33. Barb Fowler says:

    Civics/Government education goes far beyond what can be measured on a standardized test. Teaching students to be caring,compassionate individuals who understand the importance of participating in and being responsible members of a community is far more important then trivial facts that how up on state tests. Overall I believe that students who understand why and how our government is relevant to them and participate in community service opportunities are more prevalent than in the past.

  34. Margaret Bonds says:

    America’s young people are still thinking that the government is “them” not “us”. Until we can inspire school districts to allow the teachers of Social Sciences to have the time and use the resources available to teach the constitution and the Bill of Rights, our yourg will continue to believe that the government is not an entity over which they have control. This could herald the end of the republic. I am thankful for the Bill of Rights Institute.

  35. Deborah Montoya says:

    Hi Jason, thanks for allowing teachers to give voice to some critical issues. Research has shown that most dropouts in our country dropout in the 10th grade. Many school districts do not offer any civics or government until the 12th grade. Would it then not make sense to make sure that kids know how to vote before they drop out? In Colorado, recently, Trial Lawyers began a discussion with teachers on the importance of an informed citizenry especially in regards to the jury system. Their fear is that the jury system is becoming obsolete as citizens neither understand the importance of it or simply don’t want to participate. We as Social Studies teachers have the responsibility to ensure that our constitution lives on through our citizens. Some kind of Civics and/or government should be taught at every grade level. I know your organization and others continue to lobby for Civics Ed. Thank you.

  36. Kari Blauser says:

    I believe that civics is lost to many junior high and high school students because of the broad range of knowledge that they come into contact with. I think that more detailed discussion on single topics would help them increase their retention of information. We as educators expect children to know a little about a lot, but retention comes form knowing a lot about very little. I have used lesson plans from iCivics.com to teach fifth graders about the Constitution. The lesson plans are informative and have deep discussions about civics incorporated in them.

    • Toni Perry says:

      Thanks for sharing the website of iCivics.com. I’ll check it out. we need good resources and lesson plans that will help students retain information and apply what they have learned.

    • Kari & Toni – We at the Bill of Rights Institute also have lots of engaging resources for students to help them stay engaged with the Founding documents. Check out our games and detailed look at the Bill of Rights. We also send out weekly lessons relating to current events and their relationship to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

  37. Mike Turner says:

    Jason;
    In Oklahoma, civics/government use to be a part of the middle school experience but in the last several years it has been moved to the high schools. I concur with Claire Faulk, we don’t have enough time at the middle school level to teach the constitution with any rigor so those freshman go to the high school untrained in a government that they are expected to one day participate in!!! And we can’t figure out why test scores are down as a whole!

  38. Tom Siembor says:

    As a teacher of 12th Graders in New York State, I can say we require students to pass a semester course on government in their senior years. With the allure of eye-catching media, we have to work constantly to make the Constitution relevent throughout the course. Thanks Bill of Rights Institute! We we as a nation spent as much time with the law as with Angry Birds, we’d all be scholars !

    • You are right Tom – it is an uphill battle to “catch” people’s attention, especially students. We hope you can use our resources and games to engage your students! Thanks for your dedication in the classroom!

      P.S. – If you can think of a way to teach constitutional principles through Angry Birds, we are on board with helping to make the game! :)

  39. Sabrina says:

    I’ve heard from elementary teachers across our state (WV) that social studies is not a priority in their classroom and resources and professional development for history or civics lags far behind other subjects.
    Our CSOs embed civics and government along with several other topics across all grade levels in social studies but like others have said covering all you have to cover makes it difficult to make everything meaningful.
    On a positive note, civics has been reinstated (a couple years ago) for 12th grade as a graduation requirement.

  40. shelly r. jennings says:

    This fall I will be entering my 6th year of teaching. The first 2 years I taught Middle School Math, the last 3 years I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Social Studies. To say there is a difference in staff development between these two subject areas is an understatement. I have read through some of the comments on this blog and, sadly, they all say the same thing. Social Studies is only important when it relates to reading and writing skills. One of the most absurd things I have discovered while teaching Social Studies is at the Special Education Level. Students who have minutes for writing take those minutes with their Special Education Language Arts teacher, yet they are put into the regular education Social Studies classes. In my district we give them two district level writing projects a year. When I inquired as to why they were not in the Special Education Social Studies rooms, the answer was because they only had minutes for writing. I don’t know, this policy seems unfair to the student……..But it made me realize how low the emphasis is on Social Studies as compared to the “other” three.

  41. Mark Terry says:

    Rachel, thanks for the forum. At our school our 5th/6th graders receive dedicated time to learn about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and especially the events pre-, during, and post-Revoutionary War. We emphasize ‘hands-on,” experienced-based learning. Our students, teachers, and parents present events like Colonial Day and the “Ketchup War” to make it stick with our kids. Our results have been encouraging. To the commentators who bash schools for not teaching about out Founding Fathers and citizen rights…they are ignorant of what we give our kids.

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