Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 13
Fla., public schools, agreed. "I think there's a
straight correlation between civic education
and volunteering," Viana said. "Meaningful
civic education should have that approach
where you tell the students, 'This is how your
government works; this is what happens in a
community; what are you going to do about
it?' However, when you tell a child, 'Listen, this
is a mandate, you have to do this to graduate,'
I don't know how well that works."
Volunteering can be a more substantive part
of civics education, she and other experts say, if
teachers tie service opportunities into broader
discussions of social problems and how students can solve them. In Miami-Dade, 20 secondary schools participate in Project Citizen,
an initiative by the Center on Civics Education
in which students research a specific problem
in their community, identify possible solutions,
and work to change local or state laws.
"You have to teach content, how the government works," she said, "but as a civics teacher,
I also felt it was my duty to teach students the
ways they can be active in their community,
where they can actively put what they learn
Tying volunteering to content can also help
schools find time for more service activities,
Bloom noted. In Minnesota, civics competes
with a wide array of history and economics
courses in the high school social studies curriculum.
"When we talk about volunteering, I really
want to stress that it's everybody's responsibility in a school to have respect and care about
classmates and the community and to see the
RATES BY STATE
While 29 percent of high
school students across
the country spend time
volunteering or donating
to charities, the rates vary
dramatically among states.
Maine tops the scale, with
a high school volunteer rate
of 44 percent. In Louisiana,
the state with the lowest
rate, just under 14 percent
of students volunteered in
opportunities to help out. That's not limited to
civics," Bloom said. "But I'm always looking for
what's the connection to what we already have
to do in our very limited amount of time."
The Do Good study also suggests schools may
benefit from more intergenerational volunteering
Parenting-age adults, those between 35 to 54,
have seen an even sharper decline in volunteer-
n Top 10 States
SOURCE: "Good Intentions, Gap in
Action," Do Good Institute Research Brief
did not impact
How, if at all, has the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.,
impacted engagement of students at your school around
civics-related issues like gun control?
High School Students Volunteering Rates (2012-15)
ing than high-school-and-college-age Americans,
the study found, but teenagers whose parents
volunteered were significantly more likely to do
Susan Ellis, the president of the volunteer-coordinating group Energize Inc., argued that educators should work more closely with community
volunteer groups when developing service learning and school-sponsored volunteering days. "The
stand-alone course. Instead, it is
often combined with other social
studies subjects, such as history or
geography. And the vast majority of
principals-75 percent-said their
schools devote 25 percent or less of
their history or social studies curriculum to civics.
High schoolers get more civics instruction than elementary students.
The median amount of time that
high school students spend on civics education is 10 hours a month,
as compared to 6.5 hours in middle
school and five hours in elementary,
according to the survey.
Keane, the Burlington principal,
wishes his students got a healthier
dose of civics instruction early.
"I think civics education can't
be restricted to high schools," he
said. "I think there's way too much
emphasis on reading, writing,
and math, and a lot of good oldfashioned ethics and values are
not being addressed because the
teacher doesn't want to get into
controversy and they don't want to
give up the time because it's not a
tested subject. That's not just Iowa.
In fact, principals surveyed overwhelmingly said the pressure to
focus on other subjects that are
tested or emphasized is one of the
main reasons that civics education
gets shorter shrift than they'd like.
Asked to rate some of the challenges to civics learning, more than
half of the principals said they found
it "challenging" or "very challenging"
to focus on civics when schools are
held accountable primarily for reading and math test scores. Another
28 percent said the focus on other
problem is the service-learning movement was
started by academics and pushed by education at
the state level ... so it is focused entirely on school
perspectives," Ellis said.
"But people need to understand there are a lot
of ways kids, young adults, and older people can
serve their communities together," she added.
"When you keep 'service learning' and 'volunteering' in separate tracks, that's a loss."
subjects is "somewhat challenging"
when it comes to getting attention
If we want something
different, we have to
teach our kids to do
Principal, Murphy Junior High School,
The results of reading and math
tests "are the scores that get published in the newspaper," said Dan
Rispens, the principal of East Valley Middle School in East Helena,
Mont., a small town just outside
the state capital.
And 59 percent said they found it
"somewhat challenging," "challenging," or "very challenging" to focus
on civics because it isn't a district or
"Most people look at history and
say, 'You can Google it.' If you want
to know something about government, you can Google it," said Bob
Priest, the principal of Van Wert
High School in western Ohio. "You
don't need to know it, you can
Google it. Many people don't see
the relevance of it. There's so much
more to civics than what people give
A little more than a quarter of the
principals surveyed say finding resources for civics education is either
"challenging" or "very challenging."
Another 36 percent say that it's
Civics education is "the first thing
to go when there's budget cuts," said
Roberts of Denver's STRIVE-Prep
Rise charter school.
And slightly more than 50 percent
of principals surveyed said that it
was at least "somewhat challenging" to delve into civics education
because it can touch on controversial or politically charged topics.
"How do you teach some of these
concepts without offending half the
people in the room?" asked Brent Anderson, the principal of Murphy Junior High in Plainfield, Ill., near Chicago. "You have to be cognizant of your
community. How can you approach a
topic in a way that's acceptable?"
But principals also say teaching
students how to have productive
conversations about touchy topics
is a key goal of civics education. It
is not something they can shy away
from, particularly as the national
political debate becomes increasingly fractious and polarized.
"I look at adult behavior [in civic
discourse] right now, and I think
'That person would be in my office,' "
Putnam said. "If we want something
different, we have to teach our kids
to do something different."
Read the full report.
SOURCE: Education Week Research Center
EDUCATION WEEK | July 18, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 13