July | August 2017








CSG Convenes Civics Education Leadership Team

By Elizabeth Whitehouse, director of education and workforce development
The Council of State Governments and the National Center on Learning and Civic Engagement, or NCLCE, jointly convened a leadership team of state officials from across the country to develop a toolkit around civic education May 1-2. This civic education initiative will enable state leaders to increase knowledge of civics and federalism among constituents and students.
“We are excited to be working with CSG on supporting states’ efforts to strengthen civic learning outcomes for every student,” said Paul Baumann, executive director of NCLCE. “While the field has produced many valuable civic education resources for state policy leaders, this work will help to ensure that these resources get to our members and constituents in a useable and convenient format.”
The Civics Education Leadership Team will work to develop strategies to equip state leaders with the tools they need to improve civics and federalism outcomes in education as well as general citizen understanding. The team will guide the development of resources such as research materials, a state toolkit and communications outreach.
The state toolkit on civic education will focus on the three branches of state government and incorporate actionable policy tools for state leaders to identify gaps in service and education, draft policy and legislation, and implement or strengthen civic education deliverables in their state including curriculum, materials and teacher resources. The Civics Education Leadership Team met for an intensive two-day meeting in Lexington, Kentucky and will meet at the CSG 2017 National Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in December to launch the state toolkit.
During the May meeting, the Civics Education Leadership Team discussed strategies to promote civic education and federalism in the states and identified components of the state civic education toolkit. The leadership team is aiming for a draft of the toolkit to be completed by June 2017.
Illinois state Rep. Elgie Sims, a member of the Civics Education Leadership Team, spoke to the group about an initiative in his district that he established to engage students in government. The initiative, “State Rep. for a Day,” is an essay contest for students.
“A quality education means thinking about how to engage the world around us as well as individual classroom assignments,” Sims said. “I host a writing contest to get students thinking critically about ways to improve our state, and offer winners a chance to see policymaking in action during the spring session.”
The most recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, shows 23 percent of eighth graders attained proficient status in civics. In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center released a survey that highlighted the lack of knowledge about government in the United States. Of the 1,416 respondents, 36 percent could name all three branches of government, and 35 percent of participants were unable to name any branch of government.
Civic education is the key to the next generation of Americans learning about his or her responsibilities within the American democratic process and role within our democratic republic. Increased civic engagement also helps keep public officials accountable, which guards against corruption and preserves the integrity of the democratic system. Engaged citizens are involved in their communities, work with others to make a difference and express themselves in the public arena.
“The knowledge and skills obtained through civic education are critical to participating in the democratic system,” said CSG Executive Director David Adkins. “The choice to invest—or not to invest—in civic education has a significant impact on our states and economies. But perhaps more important is the impact such an investment has on the future civic engagement of the next generation of Americans and those most vulnerable to having their voices lost within the political process.”
CSG’s civic education initiative is an extension of CSG’s Federalism Task Force convened in 2013 and 2014, which was a multiyear effort aimed at strengthening CSG’s role in advancing the role of the states in our federal system. The Federalism Task Force put a spotlight on the importance of civics and civic education as key next step for CSG.