College Board Celebrates Recent Innovations in Civic Education
College Board Celebrates Recent Innovations in Civic EducationStefanie Sanford, Chief, Global Policy and External Relations, The College Board
After decades of comparative inattention, civic education is ready for its close-up. The American Enterprise Institute wondered if civics is having a “sputnik moment.” The Aspen Institute, the Newseum, and Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch have all had recent gatherings and appearances to explore remedies to what Pew data have been showing for years: American civic knowledge is at a low ebb, and our polarized times call for action.
Some recent survey data illustrate why this topic is so important:
- Nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot name all three branches of government. Yet three in four people can name all of the Three Stooges (Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education 2011).
- Less than half of the public can name a single Supreme Court justice. And only 15% of Americans can correctly name John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States; 78% don't know. Yet two-thirds of Americans (66%) knew at least one of the judges on the Fox television show American Idol (Annenberg Public Policy Center).
- Nearly a quarter of young Americans think that a democratic form of government is bad or very bad (Foa, R. and Mounk, Y., 2017).
Innovation is essential to making civic education a priority again. Following her retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to give this kind of advancement a home, and the result—iCivics—has since become the leader in online civic learning.
Last week iCivics debuted an exciting new offering: a revamped DBQuest platform, which provides free resources to engage students and their teachers in meaningful civic learning. By asking students to determine the usefulness and perspective of primary sources—including video, documents, and images—the platform gives students the opportunity to sharpen their analysis skills, while deepening their civic knowledge. As part of the upgrade, iCivics re-released its original learning module about the Nashville Civil Rights Sit-In Movement of 1960 and unveiled a new learning module on the preambles of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution.
You can explore these resources and learn more about DBQuest on the iCivics website, or by watching the trailer below.
We believe that it will take a focused effort by multiple organizations and stakeholders to turn the tide on civic education. The College Board shares iCivics’s conviction that civic education is an essential priority to maintain the health of our nation.
In addition to participating in convenings and conversations about how we can collectively do more, the College Board has centered redesigns of our key instructional and assessment offerings around civics.
For instance, the recently redesigned AP Government and Politics course puts an emphasis on the U.S. founding documents and other pivotal primary sources. A specified set of 15 Supreme Court cases and 9 foundational documents—including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—are now required study for the course. And every time students sit for the recently redesigned SAT or PSAT/NMSQT, they encounter a passage from either the American founding documents or the Great Global Conversation they inspired. Just by taking one of these assessments, more than seven million students were exposed to the fundamental framework of our nation last year.
As the College Board, iCivics, and our other partners develop more high-quality resources to support civic education, we’ll continue to share updates here on All Access.