Jul 11, 2019 / E-news, Project Citizen
The Center for Civic Education has received a three-year grant for the Project Citizen Research Program. The three-year grant will engage teachers from across the country in professional development and will measure the effects of the professional development on them and on their students, just as the James Madison Legacy Project did with We the People teachers and students.
In each of the three years, the Project Citizen Research Program grant will provide for four regional professional development institutes for 25 teachers apiece, ultimately reaching 300 teachers and their students over the course of the grant. The Center for Civic Education expects the Project Citizen Research Program to yield significant results and increase civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions, just as the James Madison Legacy Project did.
Students at Douglas Freeman High School in Virginia participated in Project Citizen in 2019.
Project Citizen is an interdisciplinary curricular program that promotes competent and responsible participation in local and state government. Students focus on principles and values of democracy, tolerance, and political efficacy while working together to identify an issue in their community that they care about. They create potential solutions to make a positive difference in their community before settling on one final policy solution.
Many classes and groups attend city council meetings, contact their representatives, and petition government to pass legislation that solves problems ranging from litter reduction in their neighborhoods to providing aid to homeless populations to dress codes in their schools.
Learn more about Project Citizen here.
Jul 11, 2019 / Civics in the News, E-news, We the People
Civic education advocates in Nevada and around the country are celebrating with the passage of Nevada state bill 193, signed by Governor Steve Sisolak on June 7, 2019. SB193 appropriates funds for the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement to support the continuation of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Governor Steve Sisolak signs SB193.
Nevada state Senator Joyce Woodhouse created the bill, and it was sponsored by Senator David Parks, Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop, Senator Scott Hammond, Assemblyman Jason Frierson, and Assemblywoman Dina Neal. All sponsors attended the governor’s bill signing, as well as the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement’s board members: Justice Elissa Cadish, Professor Sondra Cosgrove, and Professor Michael Green.
Many students, alumni, teachers, judges, and civic education supporters testified in support of the bill in March. Teachers spoke of the program’s benefit to their classes, and students spoke of the depth of understanding they gained when studying the Constitution, democracy, and the rights of citizens. You can watch their testimony in front of the Nevada Senate Committee on Finance here.
“Our civic education programs in elementary, middle, and high schools involve parents, educators, attorneys, and others, expanding their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and current events,” said Kathleen Dickinson, the Nevada We the People state coordinator and program director of the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement. “This bill being signed into law is great for strengthening NvCCE’s present and future presence [in the state].”
You can find more information about the We the People program at the Center for Civic Education site.
Jul 11, 2019 / E-news, We the People
The “A Community Thrives” grant program from the USA Today Network and the Gannett Foundation announced its sixteen winners this June, including the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement which will receive $50,000.
With this funding, the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement (NvCCE) will be able to continue in its mission to increase civic engagement in the state’s communities, and it will give 800 youth from 34 high schools the support to participate in the We the People program and its competitions.
Kathleen Dickinson, the NvCCE program director and Nevada state coordinator for the We the People program, is focused on expanding educational resources to all who need it. “NvCCE will bring our teacher trainings to the rural areas of Nevada rather than having the teachers needing to travel to Las Vegas or Reno for the trainings,” she said. “We also hope to increase We the People and Project Citizen exposure in the elementary and middle schools throughout Nevada.”
The We the People program offers civic education curricula that teaches students about the history of the United States and its ideas about democracy, the Constitution and its ideals, and how to apply this knowledge critically to contemporary issues. Project Citizen also focuses on these concepts, while encouraging students to address issues in their own communities using policy and civic engagement to make a positive difference.
Participants at the We the People Nevada state competition in 2019.
Civic education is so important, Dickinson says, because it “increases critical thinking, communication skills, and community involvement encouraging citizen participation on all levels. Professors tell us that students exposed to We the People are better ready for college than students who have not been exposed to We the People.”
You can also support civic education and the Nevada Center for Civic Engagement by donating here.
Jul 11, 2019 / E-news, We the People
The reliable civic education lessons and curriculum of the We the People program now appear as e-books for middle and high school classes on the Actively Learn platform. The level one book for elementary students will also arrive at Actively Learn in spring 2020. All three e-books offer interactive tools for teachers and students, such as translation of text, highlighting and note taking, and manageable classroom accounts, that are adaptable for every classroom’s needs.
Actively Learn has further enhanced the e-books with upgrades that benefit teachers with diverse classroom management features. Now, teachers can assign individual sections of the textbook to their students, making it easier for the curriculum to be taught in an order unique to the class using it. However, all of these features are adaptable—teachers can assign the whole textbook if they choose instead of individual sections.
In addition, e-book licenses can be managed to fit unique user needs. One student license is no longer restricted to one student only in a year-long span of time. Instead, multiple students can use one license that is broken up into individual months to match the actual usage of the license.
Find more helpful tips on how to use the Actively Learn grade book, import your own complementary content, and give feedback to students on their assignments on the Actively Learn site. Middle school and high school learners and teachers can test the platform with a free lesson, as well as explore the books’ pricing and features.
May 14, 2019 / E-news, We the People
President of the AFT Teacher’s Union, Randi Weingarten, spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 18, in a speech titled “The Freedom to Teach.”
Her address centered around the reasons that teachers feel called to teach—to change the world, to encourage curiosity, to make our democracy better. “Teaching is unlike any other profession in terms of mission, importance, complexity, impact, and fulfillment,” she said. “Teachers get the importance of their work. So do parents and the public.”
However, she cited statistics showing that teachers and other public school employees are leaving their professions, and there aren’t enough teachers. At the root of this problem and others, according to Weingarten, is disinvestment and deprofessionalization.
Weingarten offers solutions to these problems, too. Some include a culture of collaboration, the creation and maintenance of proper teaching and learning conditions, and the assurance that teachers have voice and agency befitting their profession.
The We the People program, of which Weingarten was a teacher, is one example where teachers are allowed creativity and agency. As a result, she saw “powerful learning” within students. “We’d spend hours after school—working in teams, deciding their best arguments, practicing and polishing. We developed deep relationships with each other and a meaningful understanding of the Constitution.”
It is the personal investment of teachers and students, the creativity, and the learning that drew her to the We the People program. Her speech ends with an emphasis on these qualities, as well as a call for better treatment for teachers. To teachers she said, “You are making a difference not only in your classrooms but in reclaiming our profession.”
Read the full speech here.
May 14, 2019 / E-news, We the People
Before We the People students attend the We the People National Finals or Invitational, they spend all year preparing by studying the textbook, learning about history and current events, and practicing their answers to the hearing questions. They compete in local and state competitions. One class from North Smithfield High School in Rhode Island even had help from their congressman!
Congressman David Cicilline visited the North Smithfield class and teacher Natalie O’Brien on April 18 to assist them with unit four questions. In preparation, students compiled questions about the For The People Act (H.R.1), updating the Voting Rights Act, and filibuster in the Senate.
Congressman Cicilline visits a We the People class in Rhode Island.
“The Congressman also shared some information from the Congressional Research Office; it was incredibly useful. There were some nuanced ideas about how government works that students had not learned from their research,” said O’Brien. For example, a student asked about an eight-hour speech given by Nancy Pelosi about immigration in the 115th Congress, and Cicilline explained the “Magic Minute”—individuals in key leadership positions in the House have an opportunity to speak on the floor about an issue for as long as they want. Although it is called the “Magic Minute,” the Congressman said that the minute never ends.
The Unit 4 team also shared their formal presentation of Question 3 in front of Congressman Cicilline. He offered feedback, giving the students their first direct experience with a judge who could give a first-hand account of the operation of government in Congress.
“The students left energized and more excited than ever,” said O’Brien. “However, I must say that the best resource is really the We the People textbook. It is the foundation of their knowledge and has led to a greater understanding of government and the necessary knowledge to encourage further research.”
May 14, 2019 / E-news, We the People
More than a thousand We the People students traveled to Washington, D.C., for the We the People national competitions this April and May, impressing panels of judges with knowledge of the Constitution and its application.
Denver East High School captured the national championship at the National Finals. Second place went to Amador Valley High School of Pleasanton, California, and third place was awarded to Grant High School of Portland, Oregon. You can find the complete National Finals results on the National Finals results page.
Read the rest of this entry »
Apr 21, 2019 / E-news, We the People
We the People students from all over the country will soon converge in Washington, D.C., to compete in simulated congressional hearings and explore the history of the nation’s capital.
High school teams will compete in the We the People National Finals from April 26 to April 29, and middle school teams will compete in the We the People National Invitational from May 3 to May 6. Both competitions will be held at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, near the capital.
These competitions are annual culminations of the We the People program, in which students learn about American representative democracy, history, and founding documents. Classes study the six units of the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution textbook before being organized into teams around each unit and its concept. Each unit of the book deals with one aspect of American constitutionalism.
Students preparing to testify at the 2018 We the People National Finals.
High school classes compete at the local and state levels before attending the national competitions. At both the middle and high school competitions, each team of students is asked challenging questions about constitutional issues and current events by a panel of expert judges made of accomplished scholars, attorneys, and public officials, among others.
When not participating in the competition, students will tour Washington, D.C.’s monuments and learn about its history.
At the National Finals, the guest speaker is John Tinker, of the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines—a topic of study for We the People students. One school will be presented with a special Tinker Award for its response to Unit 5, Question 3. The award is sponsored by the John F. Tinker Foundation.
To keep track of this year’s competitions, follow the Center for Civic Education on social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr! The awards ceremony and speeches will also be livestreamed on Facebook.
Jan 17, 2019 / E-news, We the People
In states across the country, students are competing for a chance to show off their constitutional knowledge in Washington, D.C., this April at the 32nd Annual We the People National Finals!
The We the People state finals challenge students to participate in simulated congressional hearings, putting their knowledge into practice. After spending the school year studying the Constitution and the fundamental principles of American representative democracy, students answer questions about American government from knowledgeable community leaders and professionals, such as lawyers, professors, and historians, who serve as competition judges.
The North Dakota State Finals took place in January. Century High School in Bismarck was the first-place winner.
In anticipation of this year’s state finals, participants study and practice with state hearing questions that address questions that include the following concepts:
- Equal vs. proportional representation in Congress
- Due process of law
- The role of political parties
- How contemporary issues are linked with history
Winners of the We the People state finals have the opportunity to attend the National Finals in Washington, D.C., from April 26-29. Teams can start preparing with the National Finals hearing questions when they are posted on January 31.
Are you interested in keeping up with the results of this year’s competitive state finals? The competition dates and results are available here, and more information about individual competitions can be found by contacting the appropriate state coordinator.
Nov 16, 2018 / Project Citizen, We the People
In April of this year, Cheryl Cook-Kallio assumed the mantle of state coordinator for the We the People Programs, including both We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution and We the People: Project Citizen.
“My entire adult life has been about civic engagement,” says Cook-Kallio. She began teaching Project Citizen and We the People at the middle school level in the early nineties before she became a James Madison Fellow, which allowed her to increase her constitutional content knowledge and work with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the federal courts. She eventually moved to teaching at the high school level, specifically to teach a We the People competition class.
“All these things led my former and current students to encourage me to run for public office in 2006. I retired from teaching in 2015 after 39 years. I will never retire from encouraging excellent civic education.”
State and congressional district coordinators are responsible for ensuring that students and teachers throughout the United States have access to sets of We the People textbooks, providing exemplary professional development, and helping classes conduct simulated congressional hearings. Cook-Kallio has both the hands-on experience and enthusiasm for civic education to excel as the California State Coordinator.
“[We the People and Project Citizen] encourage students to learn for the sake of learning. That is a teacher’s dream,” says Cook-Kallio. She sees the programs as a platform for civil discussion that places value on diversity of opinion based on fact, and these principles are essential in the encouragement of participatory democracy. It makes sense, then, that her favorite Founder is James Madison, who “was a pragmatist. If one suggestion didn’t work, he had another. He had a brilliant political mind and little ego. He was someone who learned for the sake of learning.”