Existing research and statistics on current civic learning practice and youth civic engagement help make the case for improved civic learning in the nation's schools.

Below is a sampling from the premier research center on civic learning and youth civic engagement, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). 

Check the CIRCLE website, for new research and findings.

Joining Young, Voting Young: The Effects of Youth Voluntary Associations on Early Adult Voting

Joining Young, Voting Young: The Effects of Youth Voluntary Associations on Early Adult Voting (CIRCLE Working Paper #73) by Reuben J. Thomas and Daniel A. McFarland finds that participation in extracurricular activities, in general, promotes voting, though some activities (notably, some sports) decrease it.

The Classroom-Kitchen Table Connection: The Effects of Political Discussion on Youth Knowledge and Efficacy

The Classroom-Kitchen Table Connection: The Effects of Political Discussion on Youth Knowledge and Efficacy (Circle Working Paper #72) by Dr. Tim Vercellotti and Dr. Elizabeth C. Matto addresses whether efforts to systematically incorporate media into school curricula increases several elements of civic engagement, including students’ media use, political knowledge or their sense of being able to understand and influence politics (internal political efficacy).
 

The Civic Mission of Schools: A Review of the Research

In February of 2003, Carnegie Corporation of New York and CIRCLE issued a major report on the state of K-12 civic education, The Civic Mission of Schools (CMS). Seven years later, the report continues to inspire a well-defined research agenda and an advocacy campaign by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and its coalition members. New CIRCLE-supported research validates the “six promising approaches” for effectively providing K-12 civic education that were proposed in the report.

Schoolwide Civic Intervention May Help to Increase Community Service Participation Among Students of All Backgrounds

A Five-Year Evaluation of a Comprehensive High School Civic Engagement Initiative (CIRCLE Working Paper #70) by Hugh McIntosh, Sheldon Berman and James Youniss describes a five-year evaluation of a high school program designed to encourage schoolwide democratic deliberation.  The qualitative findings from this study support the idea that adult support plays an important role in building youth civic engagement.

The Long-Term Impact of High School Civics Curricula on Political Knowledge, Democratic Attitudes and Civic Behaviors

The Long-Term Impact of High School Civics Curricula on Political Knowledge, Democratic Attitudes and Civic Behaviors: A Multi-Level Model of Direct and Mediated Effects Through Communication (CIRCLE Working Paper #65) by Myiah J. Hutchens & William P. Eveland, Jr. examines the effects of exposure to various elements of a civics curriculum on civic participation, two forms of political knowledge, internal political efficacy, political cynicism, news elaboration, discussion elaboration and various forms of interpersonal and mediated political communication behaviors.

Does Context Matter?

Does Context Matter? How the Family, Peer, School, and Neighborhood Contexts Relate to Adolescents’ Civic Engagement (CIRCLE Working Paper #64) by Britt Wilkenfeld examines the effects of several systems of influence (schools, families, neighborhoods, etc) on civic outcomes.

Democracy for Some: The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School

Democracy for Some: The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School (CIRCLE Working Paper #59) by Joseph Kahne and Ellen Middaugh examines how a student’s race and academic track, and a school’s average socioeconomic status (SES) determines the availability of the school-based civic learning opportunities that promote voting and broader forms of civic engagement. High school students attending higher SES schools, those who are college-bound, and white students get more of these opportunities than low-income students, those not heading to college, and students of color.

Teaching Democracy: What Schools Need to Do  

Teaching Democracy: What Schools Need to Do by Joseph Kahne, and Joel Westheimer studies 10 educational programs whose objective — to develop democratic citizens — is largely ignored by school reform policy. Schools can fulfill this mission, they discovered, through specific strategies that promote civic commitments, capacities, and connections.

Strengthening Democracy in the Americas through Civic Education

Strengthening Democracy in the Americas through Civic Education: An Empirical Analysis Highlighting the Views of Students and Teachers by J. Torney-Purta & J. Amadeo, (with a chapter by F. Pilotti) is designed to stimulate dialogue throughout the region about the contribution of civic education to democracy for adolescents (aged 14 and 17-18). The authors used the recently released IEA Civic Education Study data from Chile, Colombia, Portugal and the United States in their analyses. Among the parts of the OAS report of special interest are performance statistics by country at the item level from the test of civic knowledge/skills and from scales assessing concepts of democracy and citizenship. This allows researchers and educators to see where the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge lie among students in these four countries. There is a chapter about economic knowledge and attitudes, as well as chapters about the media, several forms of engagement, trust, teachers, and support for rights.

Effective Service Learning

For information on effective service learning linked to classroom learning, we recommend visiting the National Service Learning Clearinghouse and the National Coalition for Academic Service Learning.

Website made possible by generous funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools is a Project of the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics of the Annenberg Public Policy Center University of Pennsylvania.