Office of Citizen
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Office of Citizen

What is the latest with Educating for American Democracy?

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On Monday, June 13, Grantmakers for Thriving Youth, PACE, and Grantmakers for Education hosted a webinar for funders entitled, “Educating for American Democracy: More Important than Ever.” A year ago, a group of scholars, teachers and other stakeholders from across the ideological spectrum released the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap, presenting a broad vision for the integration of history and civics education throughout grades K–12. This webinar provided an update on the progress since launch; featured speakers Louise Dubé, Executive Director, iCivics; Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Newhouse Director at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University; Tiffanye McCoy-Thomas, Curriculum Supervisor for Social Studies at the East Baton Rouge Parish School System; and Pragya Upreti, Race to Learn Research Coordinator with the Kentucky Student Voice Team, shared progress reports and examples of projects and engaged organizations at the national and state levels.

Louise gave a broad overview of the vision and scope of the work. She described EAD as the roadmap for a diverse and inclusive United States with young people at the center. Over 300 contributors with a plurality of points of view defined a new way to educate young people to sustain a diverse and pluralistic constitutional democracy. Louise emphasized that EAD asks students to wrestle with essential questions that emphasize depth over breadth. EAD will be more successful if it works within the federalist governance structure to create a decentralized yet comprehensive movement across the country to center young people in the work of educating for self-governance and a thriving constitutional democracy. Rather than providing prescriptive lesson plans, EAD is centered around helping students ask, explore, investigate, and articulate the answers to deep questions about American history and democracy. The theory of change guiding the effort is that investing in the capacity of educators, strengthening resources for schools and districts, and moving administrative and legislative policy at the state and federal levels are all necessary components for progress. Louise also described implementation work already underway in 7 states and at the national level. The work of movement and field-building requires significant additional funding at the federal and state levels, including from philanthropy. Ongoing needs include aligning research protocols, organizing data collection and dissemination, and scaling the work beyond pilot projects.

Building on this overview, Kei emphasized that creating a rigorous, high-quality pool of evidence is essential to the work. In addition, strong and coordinated communication planning is needed across the country to share findings that will lead to deep change. The process for research includes planning and development, innovation, validation, and testing for how and whether EAD is improving civic knowledge and impacting literacy. Although practice-focused pilots are underway to begin developing, evaluating, and validating new programs, funding is needed to add in measure testing and evaluation components to ongoing pilots and refine and scale interventions and measures, and to establish and support a research-practice ecosystem that strengthen the link between research, policy and practice amidst a shifting political and education landscape.

Tiffanye and Pragya shared in depth about state-level work that is underway in Louisiana and Kentucky from a teacher and student’s perspective, respectively. In Louisiana, they have developed a new state-wide framework for K-12 social studies standards. Through a collaborative and inclusive process, they developed tools for district-level leaders to adapt to their local schools and communities, using EAD. At the center are a series of questions that educators, students, and their communities can use for shared learning about the full histories of their communities and state, as well as national history and civics. Pragya described a robust student-led research, communication, and advocacy initiative underway in Kentucky, where over 10,000 students across the state participated in a race, ethnicity, and student climate survey. The Kentucky Student Voice Team released the data to the students, public, educators, and policymakers through a series of press conferences, social media campaigns, and lobbying efforts to create public school classrooms that are dynamic places to have important conversations about race, ethnicity, inclusion, and civic engagement.

In summary, the presenters agreed that centering youth, working with local communities and educators, coordinating and disseminating high quality research and evidence, and mobilizing significant additional funding are necessary components if EAD’s is to successfully become a national movement with high impact for the sake of our democracy.

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Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is a network of funders who believe our democracy will be healthier, more resilient, and productive with the office of citizen at its center. This diverse range of stories come from PACE members, partners, and guest contributors.

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