ERIC Number: ED498663
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Apr
Reference Count: 7
Citizenship Education Policy at the School District Level. Issue Paper
Miller, Jeffery J.
Education Commission of the States (NJ1)
At a time when the ongoing effort to reform public education in the United States is strongly influenced by requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), policymakers and education leaders at all levels are focused on improving student achievement in math and reading. Emphasis on these two areas, however, is generating concern among many educators, policymakers and public education advocates that public education's historical function of training young people for democratic citizenship is being pushed aside. No one disputes that public education must provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to establish careers and participate in today's economy, but many people feel also that schools still must teach the skills and values needed to participate in community life and in local, state and national politics. During 2003, the Education Commission of the States' National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC) invited 22 school districts across the country to complete surveys on their efforts to teach citizenship as part of a larger project examining the "line of sight" between state policy and school practice. School districts represent a key leverage point in education policy because of their ability to mediate and interpret state and federal policy according to local conditions. Districts were selected for this study based on recommendations from the National Center for Learning and Citizenship's (NCLC) national and state partners and on the center's previous work with some of the districts and their staffs. Fourteen of 22 districts returned surveys. Respondents included small, rural districts, affluent suburban districts and two of the country's largest urban districts. The majority of survey respondents said citizenship education is important, and nearly all of them offer opportunities for students to acquire some of the knowledge and skills that effective citizens need through civics courses. When asked about the specific knowledge, skills and dispositions of citizenship, however, nearly all respondents described opportunities for students to obtain at least some civic competencies outside these courses. Citizenship education is supported through state standards and local school board missions, with a number of districts also either requiring or expressing official support for the use of service-learning. These official policies are supported in a number of districts by local leaders' belief that civic engagement and involvement in the community are important qualifications for teachers and other education staff, by systems for shared decision-making among school and district staff, and by programs and unofficial opportunities for students to participate in district and school decision-making. While the small number of districts included cannot represent the array of approaches to citizenship education in the roughly 15,000 U.S. school districts, the findings do provide useful information for district and state leaders seeking to support schools in preparing young people to participate in their communities and in the American democratic system of governance. [Support for this paper was provided by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).]
Descriptors: Citizen Participation, Federal Legislation, Democracy, Citizenship Education, State Standards, School Districts, Educational Change, Boards of Education, Board of Education Policy, Educational Policy, Public Education, Educational Legislation, Democratic Values, Student Participation, Civics, Curriculum Development, Leadership Responsibility, Accountability, School Community Relationship, Evaluation Methods
Education Commission of the States. ECS Distribution Center, 700 Broadway Suite 1200, Denver, CO 80203-3460. Tel: 303-299-3692; Fax: 303-296-8332; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://www.ecs.org
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Education Commission of the States, Denver, CO.
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001