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Raising the Bar for Civic Education

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

The Program on American Citizenship is pleased to announce the release of a new volume:

Trendsetting Charter Schools: Raising the Bar for Civic Education

Edited by Gary J. Schmitt and Cheryl Miller
(April, 2015)


This  For more information about AEI’s Program on American Citizenship, visit www.citizenship-aei.org.


“If civic education concerns you, you will be challenged, provoked, and inspired by the laboratories of democracy presented in the vivid pages of Trendsetting Charter Schools: Raising the Bar for Civic Education. Drawing on models from Saul Alinsky to Milton Friedman (and from the U.S. Constitution to modern South Korea), these charter schools provide strikingly diverse examples that will stimulate debate and imitation.”  —Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Tisch College, Tufts University


“These case studies demonstrate that schools do not have to choose between high academic standards and preparing their students for the responsibilities of citizenship. May these schools inspire educators everywhere to follow their lead!” —David E. Campbell, director, Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and professor of political science, University of Notre Dame


Trendsetting Charter Schools provides a fascinating collection of well-written and highly engaging case studies about schools that take seriously the mission of preparing young people to participate politically and civically. The six ideologically and pedagogically distinct approaches showcased in the book cover the waterfront of civic education.” —Diana E. Hess, professor of curriculum and instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison


In recent years, education reform has concentrated more heavily on reading and math test scores, in order to combat America’s mediocre performance on standardized tests. While this is a worthy goal, it has also narrowed the mission of schooling to one in which the importance of civic education is often excluded.

A new book “Trendsetting Charter Schools,” edited by AEI’s Gary Schmitt and Cheryl Miller, makes the case that at a time of dwindling civic engagement and low voter turnout, teaching good citizenship is even more crucial. Rediscovering the civic mission of schooling is not at odds with the broader education reform movement, they explain. Rather, education reform can, and should, advocate for a more holistic vision, one which includes a robust citizenship curriculum that prepares students to be active participants in their communities and country.

Due to their increased autonomy, charter schools in particular are especially well-equipped to reintroduce civic instruction. This book highlights six different charter schools where a civic education curriculum has been implemented in a unique and innovative way.

In chapter one, authors Andrew Kelly and Daniel Lautzenheiser take an in-depth look at Democracy Prep in Harlem, New York which encourages active civic engagement such as weekly town halls to encourage Harlem adults to vote. Citizenship starts with good values and strong character, and two institutions placing a high value on character formation are profiled in chapter two (National Heritage Academies), and chapter six (Ridgeview Classical Schools). Chapter five features the UNO Charter Schools in Chicago who, with their strong ties to the Hispanic community, translate civic education as a project of assimilation and Americanization.

Editors Schmitt and Miller point out that these new approaches to schooling teach students America’s culture, history, and values, and prepare them for active lives in their communities and in America.

For interview requests please contact Meg Cahill at [email protected] or 202.862.7155.