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Civic Knowledge

For the importance of knowledge as a precondition for civic action, please see the NACE statement.

A Teacher's Perspective on Closing the Civic Gap

Meira Levinson, a teacher and a scholar, documents evidence of a growing civic achievement gap between students of different races and socio-economic and immigration status in her new CIRCLE Working Paper (#51) The Civic Achievement Gap . She maintains that this gap will lead to serious political disadvantages for many young immigrants and students of color.

The Working Paper is drawn from a forthcoming book by the author. Using previous research and her own experience as a teacher in urban schools in Boston and Atlanta , Dr. Levinson shows that poor non-white students demonstrate lower levels of civic and political knowledge, skills, positive attitudes toward the state, and participation, than their wealthier and white counterparts.

Download her CIRCLE Working Paper from here:

Exploring the Link Between Math and Civic Engagement

New exploratory research by Roderick Watts and Omar Guessous of Georgia State University investigates the link between math and civic engagement. The research is based on an evaluation of the Young People's Project (YPP)a national program that recruits, trains, and deploys high school and college Math Literacy Workers for mentoring middle and elementary school students. Learn more by downloading:

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Skills for Effective Civic Action

Written for educators and researchers alike, “CIRCLE Working
Paper 06: The Role of Civic Skills in Fostering Civic Engagement”
by Dr. Mary Kirlin takes a look at what we know and don’t know
about the skills that are crucial for active participation in civic life.
The paper gives a comprehensive snapshot of the broad and varied
research findings on civic skills—skills that enable people to
take effective civic action such as writing letters to a member of
Congress or defending a position on a public issue. In addition,
the paper includes a new typology of civic skills and provides
direction for future research.


State of Knowledge

On the NAEP Civics assessment conducted in 1998, 75% of the nation’s students performed at basic or below-basic levels.

  • At the 4th grade level, 74% of students knew that in the U.S. laws must be applied evenly but only 15% were able to name two services that the government pays for with taxes.
  • At the 8th grade level, 81% of students were able to identify Martin Luther King as someone who was concerned about the injustice of segregation laws. Yet, only 6% were able to describe two ways that countries benefit from having a constitution.
  • At the 12th grade level, 90% of students understood that Social Security is an issue of primary concern to the elderly, yet only 9% of the students could list two ways that democratic society benefits from the active participation of its citizens.