This spring, legislation to require a semester of civics within grades 6, 7, or 8 (House Bill 2265), passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan supermajorities in both chambers. It moves next to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval.
Four years earlier, lawmakers required a semester of civics in high school for the graduating class of 2020 and beyond. House Bill (HB) 2265 drives the same high-quality civic learning practices down to the middle grades, with parallel language infusing instruction on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes into the new course beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
Keys to the successful “CivicsInTheMiddle" legislative campaign included:
- Our statewide network of educators and their students making their voices heard in the General Assembly, filing nearly 900 electronic witness slips for the bill in committee and reaching out directly to their Representatives and Senators as it moved to the floors of the respective chambers.
- Strong organizational support for HB 2265 from the private, nonprofit, and civic sectors, rallied by McCormick Foundation President and CEO David Hiller.
- Favorable media coverage, including strategically-placed letters to the editor and timely endorsements from The Rock Island Dispatch Argus and the Rockford Register Star.
- A proven track record of implementing the high school requirement, with more than 1,100 hours of professional development provided to 8,200-plus teachers since October 2015.
- A promise to make middle school civics a funded mandate through a three-year, privately-funded $3 million plan ($1 million annually) to support middle school teachers, schools, and districts to incorporate a civics course in grades 6, 7, or 8.
As HB 2265 moves to Governor Pritzker’s desk by June 22, you can voice your support for the legislation by contacting him via both e/mail and phone. Upon arrival, the Governor has sixty days to sign or veto HB 2265, so please act today.
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-6830 or 217-782-6831
Turning to presumptive implementation of middle school civics, we currently have a survey in the field to assess the needs of Illinois middle school social studies teachers and administrators. The results, combined with our high school experience and evaluation results, will further shape our initial plans.
Current highlights include:
- Ongoing teacher professional development opportunities, both in person and online, will be offered in partnership with civic education nonprofits and institutional partners, including universities and regional offices of education.
- We are especially excited about a new partnership with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to develop high-production learning modules for teachers centered on proven civic learning practices. Participating teachers will earn microcredentials in each practice. We anticipate the first module, focused on discussion of current and controversial issues, to launch this fall.
- Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors have been central to our high school course implementation efforts, and we intend to continue the program with modifications to account for lessons learned and the unique needs of middle schools.
- As was true of our high school efforts, we will partner with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to evaluate the impact of our teacher professional development offerings and, reciprocally, the fidelity of middle school course implementation. At the end of the implementation period, we will also assess the impact the course has on students’ civic development, measuring growth in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.