How To Engage Today’s Students in Civics

Key points:

At this point, we have all heard about the learning gaps in math and reading scores these past few years. Unfortunately, stats are even worse in other subjects. In 2022, only 22% of students scored “proficient” or higher on a nationwide civics assessment. And one in three scored below basic understanding of the subject.

Restoring the City on a Hill: U.S. History and Civics in American Schools is a new book that details the decline of history and civics knowledge among students — and offers a plan for how states and local school districts can foster understanding of and curiosity about our nation’s history.

I had a conversation with Chris Sinacola, co-editor of Restoring the City on a Hill to break down some solutions. Chris emphasizes the importance of a strong foundation in the two subjects for long-term student success. The book calls for a bottom-up approach and delves into recommendations for state and community leaders to reform U.S. history and civics standards.

Among the book’s recommendations:

  • Require students to pass the U.S. citizenship test as a criterion for high school graduation.
  • Develop a curriculum that incorporates the reading of U.S. history in every grade, with a focus on primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and The Federalist Papers.
  • Increase investment in professional development programs for educators.
  • Establish an open, inclusive process for parent and community input in the curriculum through panels, surveys, and regional meetings.

Chris is director of communications and media relations at Pioneer Institute. He as more than 35 years of experience in journalism and freelance writing and was a reporter and editor at Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette from 1987 until 2015. He is the author of Images of America: Sutton (2004) and Images of America: Millbury (2013). He has also served as editor of Pioneer Institute’s The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation (2018); A Vision of Hope: Catholic Schooling in Massachusetts (2021); Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’s National Model Vocational-Technical Schools (2022); and now Restoring the City on a Hill: U.S. History & Civics in America’s Schools (2023).

Kevin Hogan
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