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Civics education and Common Core

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) recently completed a study of the iCivics computer-based teaching module called Drafting Board. iCivics is an online civic education platform founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that seeks to prepare “young Americans to become knowledgeable, engaged 21st century citizens” by providing educational video games and teaching materials available at its website.

The CIRCLE study looks specifically at a new iCivics program called “Drafting Board,” which was designed “to teach students to conduct research and craft arguments on key civics topics” and is aligned to the Common Core State Standards in History and Social Studies. The results of the study showed that the iCivics program had a significant impact on students’ writing skills. CIRCLE explains:

Students were randomly assigned to use Drafting Board or the regular curriculum; 3,700 students then wrote persuasive letters on school policy that were blind-graded by trained research assistants at Tufts University. The experimental students performed better than the control students to a statistically significant degree. After accounting for race, ethnicity, gender, free or reduced-price lunch eligibility and use of outlines and drafts, we found that the intervention still had a significant and positive effect on essay scores. When differences in the students’ schools and neighborhoods (e.g., student/teacher ratios, size of schools, and poverty rates) were also taken into consideration, the students who used Drafting Board still performed better. Students used Drafting Board for only 2-3 class periods, but it had a significant impact on their writing skills.

These results are important because they show the interdisciplinary benefits of strong civic education and they provide a proven way for teachers to meet Common Core standards that integrate social studies and civics with other subjects, such as writing. Read more about the study and its results here. And to learn more about the future of Common Core, check out next Thursday’s (January 10) event at AEI, “Common Core: What’s next for School Systems?”