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10 Citizen Z Illustration
School Climate & Safety Collection

Citizen Z: An Education Week Project

U.S. public education is rooted in the belief by early American leaders that the most important knowledge to impart to young people is what it means to be a citizen. If America is experiencing a civic crisis now, as many say it is, schools may well be failing at that job.

To better understand the role of education in the current crisis, Education Week has undertaken a long-term investigation with support from the Education Writers Association’s Reporting Fellowship grant program. We brought together an advisory group of experts in civic education, visited classrooms, and conducted surveys. The first results of that work follow.

Do you have a good idea for teaching civics? Share it with us and we’ll post the best ideas online.

Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
Evie Blad, November 13, 2020
6 min read
Austin Teen Coalition Co-Founders Mainur Khan, left, and Zach Moser, right, both 17-year-old seniors at Round Rock High School in Round Rock, Texas, are unable to vote in this year’s presidential election but have energized their peers and have registered more than 100 voters.
Austin Teen Coalition Co-Founders Mainur Khan, left, and Zach Moser, right, both 17-year-old seniors at Round Rock High School in Round Rock, Texas, are unable to vote in this year’s presidential election but have energized their peers and have registered more than 100 voters.
Julia Robinson for Education Week
Student Well-Being Casting Their First Ballots, Teen Voters Confront Pandemic's Barriers
From registration to balloting, COVID-19's disruption is adding friction for young people casting their first votes. Some are helping others navigate the process.
Evie Blad, October 16, 2020
8 min read
teaching election IMG v2
Laura Baker/Education Week; images: iStock/Getty, Patrick Semansky/AP (Biden and Trump)
Social Studies Is the Election Still a Teachable Moment?
This year’s norm-breaking election has introduced a host of new challenges for social studies and civics teachers, who are already trying to navigate a polarized political climate.
Sarah Schwartz, October 2, 2020
9 min read
The National Archives building in Washington houses the original Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Engraved on it is a quote from Shakespeare on the importance of history: “What is past is prologue.”
The National Archives building in Washington houses the original Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Engraved on it is a quote from Shakespeare on the importance of history: “What is past is prologue.”
iStock/Getty
Assessment 8th Graders Don't Know Much About History, National Exam Shows
There was no good news for social studies instruction in the latest national assessment results: 8th graders’ performance plunged in history, dipped in geography, and stayed flat in civics.
9 min read
Seniors Jazmine Duff, right, and India Willis look over a document as they wait to vote early with other students from Walter Hines Page High School at a polling station in Greensboro, N.C. The field trips to the polls have spawned praise and controversy.
Seniors Jazmine Duff, right, and India Willis look over a document as they wait to vote early with other students from Walter Hines Page High School at a polling station in Greensboro, N.C. The field trips to the polls have spawned praise and controversy.
Eamon Queeney for Education Week
Curriculum How States and Schools Are Working to Grow Young Voters
States are tweaking voter registration laws for teenage voters and schools are busing students to the polls. Will these efforts help young people get in the habit of voting?
Sarah D. Sparks, March 6, 2020
13 min read
Curriculum How Schools Can Be More Effective at Growing Young Voters
The reason young people fail to vote is not because they don't care about politics or policy, but because they don't know how to translate their ideals into action, a new book argues.
Sarah D. Sparks, February 20, 2020
6 min read
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to students at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. She’s among a number of Democratic presidential candidates engaging with students in Iowa as they blitz the state ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to students at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. She’s among a number of Democratic presidential candidates engaging with students in Iowa as they blitz the state ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses.
Jon Lemons /Des Moines Public Schools
School Climate & Safety Iowa Caucuses Offer Students a Laboratory for Civics Education
With their state’s caucuses the first official marker in the 2020 presidential contest, Iowa teenagers are in a unique position to observe and participate.
Evie Blad, January 21, 2020
8 min read
16CivicsMath Article Getty resized
Getty
Mathematics Math: The Most Powerful Civics Lesson You've Never Had
A handful of educators across the country are quietly making the case that math may be the missing piece in civics education.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 26, 2019
10 min read
Ethan Pugh, center, an 11th grade student at Jackson at Jackson Independent Schools works with fellow eastern Kentucky students during "create-a-thon," an exercise to help get the word out to communities about the importance of the upcoming US Census.
Ethan Pugh, center, an 11th grade student at Jackson at Jackson Independent Schools works with fellow eastern Kentucky students during "create-a-thon," an exercise to help get the word out to communities about the importance of the upcoming US Census.
Pat McDonogh for Education Week
Student Well-Being For Students in Coal Country, the Census Is a Hands-On Civics Lesson
In rural communities with shrinking populations, schools are enlisting students to help prevent the U.S. Census Bureau from undercounting them next year.
Evie Blad, November 12, 2019
8 min read
Social Studies A 'Roadmap' for Teaching Civics and History Is Coming. Will It Restart an Old Curriculum War?
Funding from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities will finance an effort to strengthen content and teaching in the subjects. But the project will need to sidestep the issues that sank a 1994 effort.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 5, 2019
5 min read
Greta Thunberg, center, the 16-year-old Swedish activist leading the Climate Strike campaign against global warming, stands with people from an indigenous group at a news conference last month in Washington.
Greta Thunberg, center, the 16-year-old Swedish activist leading the Climate Strike campaign against global warming, stands with people from an indigenous group at a news conference last month in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP-File
School Climate & Safety Participate, But Know Your Place: Young Civic Activists Get Mixed Messages
Schools, celebrities, and lawmakers have long urged young people to get involved in local and national issues, but the young activists calling for action to stop gun violence or climate change find that their civic involvement isn’t always welcomed.
Arianna Prothero, October 4, 2019
7 min read
A coalition of progressive activist groups hold a rally last month at the U.S. Capitol calling on Congress to impeach President Trump.
A coalition of progressive activist groups hold a rally last month at the U.S. Capitol calling on Congress to impeach President Trump.
Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press
Social Studies Teaching Impeachment in Politically Risky Times
Civics teachers are at the frontlines of translating the impeachment process for the next generation of citizens.
Stephen Sawchuk, October 3, 2019
9 min read
Federal Which States Saw a Surge in Teenage Voters in 2018?
As many as 1 in 3 eligible 18- and 19-year-olds voted in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon in last year's mid-term elections, new data show. Did civics education help?
Stephen Sawchuk, September 20, 2019
6 min read
5Civics Assessment Article Copyright Getty
Getty/Getty
Assessment Could Testing Wreck Civics Education?
As civic education undergoes a renaissance in schools, educators are looking beyond standardized tests to determine whether the lessons empower students to embrace civic behaviors, like voting or volunteering.
Catherine Gewertz, September 17, 2019
11 min read
Social Studies How 3 States Are Digging In on Civics Education
As growing numbers of states jump on the civics-learning bandwagon, a coalition of 90 national groups warns that some strategies are better than others. Here's a look at three states working toward a comprehensive approach to the topic.
June 27, 2019
Senior Ananya Tadikonda, the student member on the Montgomery County, Md., school board, says the pledge of allegiance at the opening of the board’s May 30 meeting.
Senior Ananya Tadikonda, the student member on the Montgomery County, Md., school board, says the pledge of allegiance at the opening of the board’s May 30 meeting.
Kaitlyn Dolan for Education Week
School & District Management Few Student Board Members Can Vote. Should That Change?
While districts say they want to prioritize student voice and civics, student board positions are often advisory, rather than consequential.
Stephen Sawchuk, June 11, 2019
10 min read
32civics main 600
From top, clockwise: Rachel Woolf, Gretchen Ertl, Rachel Woolf for Education Week
Social Studies Schools Teach Civics. Do They Model It?
Colorado students who led a peaceful protest at their school learned a hard lesson about civics—and it didn’t come from textbooks.
Stephen Sawchuk, May 7, 2019
18 min read
Law & Courts What Are Students' Constitutional Rights?
The First Amendment looks different in schools. (So do the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th.)
Stephen Sawchuk, May 7, 2019
2 min read
Classroom Technology Even 'Digital Natives' May Need Lessons on Online Political Discourse
New research suggests that students who’ve learned about media literacy and participatory politics in school are more likely to take part in political activity online.
Stephen Sawchuk, April 30, 2019
5 min read
Doig Middle School history teacher Ben Huntsinger talks with Valerie Rivera, 12, center, and Jailyn Portillo, 14, right, before the students present a proposal for a new homeless shelter during a city council meeting in Garden Grove, Calif., last week.
Doig Middle School history teacher Ben Huntsinger talks with Valerie Rivera, 12, center, and Jailyn Portillo, 14, right, before the students present a proposal for a new homeless shelter during a city council meeting in Garden Grove, Calif., last week.
Meg Oliphant for Education Week
States 'Action Civics' Enlists Students in Hands-On Democracy
An activist brand of civics instruction is gaining champions and a few critics in the nation's schools.
Catherine Gewertz, March 20, 2019
8 min read
Demonstrators, many of them high school students, fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in Washington last March.
Demonstrators, many of them high school students, fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in Washington last March.
Alex Brandon/AP
School Climate & Safety Are Today's Young Civic Activists in It for the Long Haul?
After a year, the March for Our Lives movement can point to political wins and losses, converts, and dropouts. Can they keep it going?
Stephen Sawchuk, February 12, 2019
10 min read
Student journalists at Regis Jesuit High School student media edit videos for the broadcast section of the publication.
Student journalists at Regis Jesuit High School student media edit videos for the broadcast section of the publication.
Courtesy Adam Dawkins
School & District Management From Our Research Center Student Journalism Classes Going Strong, Poll Finds
Despite harsh criticism from President Trump, shrinking job prospects, and safety threats, student interest in journalism has risen or held steady in many high schools, a new survey shows.
Sasha Jones, February 12, 2019
7 min read
Michael Rebell
Michael Rebell
Law & Courts Is the Time Right to Make Education a Constitutional Right?
The odds may be long for a newly filed lawsuit that asserts students have a Constitutional right to civics learning, but some experts say the timing is spot on.
Stephen Sawchuk, December 11, 2018
6 min read
“I got more comfortable with people disagreeing. ... I started to realize that everyone is compelled by what they think is best for everyone. They’re not good or evil.” Bintou Sonko, a senior at Overland High School, near Denver, reflects on the civic discussions in her social studies classes this year.
“I got more comfortable with people disagreeing. ... I started to realize that everyone is compelled by what they think is best for everyone. They’re not good or evil.” Bintou Sonko, a senior at Overland High School, near Denver, reflects on the civic discussions in her social studies classes this year.
Nathan W. Armes for Education Week
Student Well-Being Students Learn to Put the 'Civil' in Civil Discourse
In an age of political divisiveness, teachers are finding new ways to teach students how to have calm, reasoned discussions about hot-button issues.
Catherine Gewertz, November 27, 2018
7 min read
Law & Courts Lessons on U.S. Constitution Find New Relevance
Is the current political climate rekindling interest in teaching about the U.S. Constitution? That's what some civics teachers, law experts, and leaders of national groups are saying.
Mark Walsh, November 27, 2018
8 min read
Students react while having a discussion about the results of 2018 midterms elections in an AP U.S. Government class at John Handley High School in Winchester, Va.
Students react while having a discussion about the results of 2018 midterms elections in an AP U.S. Government class at John Handley High School in Winchester, Va.
Eman Mohammed for Education Week
Federal 'It's Like a High School Girl Fight': Talking Politics With Students After Election Day
In two AP Government classes in Winchester, Va., students are more interested in results from local races than in Donald Trump, but they’re pumped to be part of the electoral process.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 8, 2018
6 min read
Curriculum The Midterm Elections in the Classroom: Why They Matter, and How Teachers Are Preparing
In the kickoff of a blog series leading up to the midterm elections, Curriculum Matters explore how one teacher approached the topic of ballot initiatives.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 1, 2018
5 min read
Social Studies Teaching the Midterm Elections: Voter Turnout and Its Implications
In the second of a three-part series, a Syracuse teacher has students look at voter turnout data and create local voting guides for their communities.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 5, 2018
4 min read
School & District Management Midterm Elections in the Classroom: Local Issues and Longstanding Themes
A Maryland educator has her students look at local elections through the lens of a local controversy—the opioid epidemic—and a national one, the debate over voter suppression.
Stephen Sawchuk, November 6, 2018
3 min read
Ryan McCrossin, an 18-year-old student at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, plans to cast his first ballot in a general election next week—if he can squeeze in the time between morning-to-night classes.
Ryan McCrossin, an 18-year-old student at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, plans to cast his first ballot in a general election next week—if he can squeeze in the time between morning-to-night classes.
Marc Lester for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Is America's Next Generation of Voters Ready for the Job?
A majority of potential first-time voters plan to cast a ballot this election season, according to a new Education Week Research Center survey. And President Trump and the Parkland, Fla., school shootings are spurring some of their political engagement.
Alyson Klein, October 29, 2018
8 min read
Classroom Technology Where Prospective, First-Time Voters Get Informed
How do young voters decide how to vote? An Education Week Research Center poll shows they are pulling their information from a long list of in-person and online sources.
Michelle R. Davis, October 29, 2018
5 min read
10 Citizen Z Illustration
Stephanie Shafer for Education Week
Social Studies Project How History Class Divides Us
What if Americans' inability to agree on our shared history is a cause of our current polarization and political dysfunction, not a symptom?
Stephen Sawchuk, October 23, 2018
18 min read
Social Studies Interactive Data: Most States Require History, But Not Civics
High school students spend far more time in school learning about America’s history than they do learning about its civic values, according to a 50-state survey by Education Week.
October 23, 2018
The four textbooks at the heart of the Charlotte County, Fla., challenge.
The four textbooks at the heart of the Charlotte County, Fla., challenge.
Curriculum Citizen Activists Push to Revise History Textbooks
History-minded residents of Charlotte County, Fla., are among the first to test a state law that permits citizens to challenge the curriculum taught in their schools.
Stephen Sawchuk, October 23, 2018
8 min read