<< The Body Politic

Charter Schools and Civic Education

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

YES PrepThe National Alliance for Public Charter Schools spotlights our recent work on charters and civic education, as well as the Center for Education Policy’s analysis of the national civics assessment to compare charters to district schools:

With the focus on mathematics and reading in the NCLB era of accountability, it may seem like other subject areas are overlooked. There’s particular concern about lack of attention to social studies, including civics, government, geography, economics, and history, and this assumption is not entirely wrong. Nationwide, one third or more of fourth and eighth graders were proficient in math and reading on the most recent NAEP, while only 27 percent of fourth graders and 22 percent of eighth graders were proficient in civics. And the Common Core State Standards may not improve the situation, since there are standards and skills for Language Arts literacy in history and social studies, but the standards do not apply to the social studies subject areas themselves. As one reporter put it, “Across the spectrum of corporate leaders, colleges, and education advocacy groups—those that have either built the accountability bandwagon, jumped aboard it, or criticized its dominance—the need to educate young people to become active participants in the nation’s political life is seldom mentioned.”

Over the last couple of years, a series of reports have focused attention on the teaching of civics education in public charter schools. The reports raise interesting questions about whether charter schools are doing anything different than traditional public schools, and whether charter schools can be laboratories of innovation for incorporating civics education back into schools. Two organizations have spearheaded the research on civics in charter schools: the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center on Education Policy (CEP).

The post goes on to discuss our recent case studies of charters with a strong civic mission—two more of which will be forthcoming soon. Watch this space as later this month we will release studies of YES Prep Public Schools and Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy.