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Civic Learning and Engagement - Progress Report

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
April 7, 2017


In October 2015, I responded to the recommendations of the Board's Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement by launching a number of initiatives to support civic learning and engagement in Massachusetts public schools. At the April 18, 2017 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, I will update the Board on the current status of those initiatives and the Department's plans for future work in this area. I am pleased to include with this memo the Department's March 2017 Civic Learning and Engagement Strategic Plan.

MA History and Social Science Standards Revision

Over the last year, the Department has launched the revision of the Massachusetts history and social science standards by posting a survey to gain public input and appointing 42 educators to serve on the review panel that will make recommendations on the revision. The review panel has met twice since January 2017 and will continue to meet through December 2017. Strengthening civic learning and engagement for students is a central consideration for the panel. The review process is scheduled to conclude in June 2018 with a vote by the Board on the proposed revised standards for history and social science. I will continue to keep the Board apprised of progress as work on the revision proceeds. Additional information regarding the revision of the standards is posted on the Department's website.

Conference on Civic Engagement and Learning

On Monday, May 8, 2017, the Department and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate will host the second annual civics literacy conference, entitled Civic Engagement in a Connected World: Effective Practices for the Learners of Today and the Leaders of Tomorrow. As with the first event in 2016, which attracted over 250 educators, the goals of the conference are to understand the role civic learning plays in maintaining our democracy, increase civic knowledge and engagement among K-12 students, and draw the important connections between this discipline and literacy. Presenters will include K-12 educators and representatives from state, education, and community organizations. Board members are encouraged to attend.

Revised Definition of College and Career Readiness including Civic Preparation

In 2016, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education voted to adopt a revised definition of college and career readiness to include readiness to participate in civic life. The definition underscores the central role of civic engagement and learning in preparing students for active participation in society, as students and as adults. The Department is integrating the revised definition in other initiatives and documents developed by the agency, most notably in references to it in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics which the Board adopted in March 2017. The definition is also included as Appendix C of the enclosed Civic Learning and Engagement Strategic Plan.

Civic Learning and Engagement Task Force/Strategic Plan

Over the last year, the Civic Learning and Engagement Task Force, comprised of educators, researchers, and representatives from community organizations with a particular focus on civic education, has worked with Department staff to develop a set of recommendations on how the agency may best support civic learning and increase civic engagement among young people. The Civic Learning and Engagement Strategic Plan that accompanies this memorandum is based on those recommendations and underscores the Commonwealth's commitment to promoting civic learning and engagement in our democracy.

In addition to reviewing the work of the Task Force and providing background on previous national and state projects to support civic learning and engagement, the Plan outlines three strategies that the Task Force identified to improve civic learning:

  1. Develop a communications strategy about the importance of civic learning and engagement in students' success

  2. Increase visibility of civic learning and engagement offerings and highlight best practices using data

  3. Strengthen the teaching and learning of civics

The Plan includes specific objectives and related action steps to carry out each strategy, measures of success, funding and feasibility considerations, and a timeline for implementation.

The Department thanks the members of the Task Force (listed in Appendix A of the Plan) for their service. We have invited representatives from the Task Force to join Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and David Buchanan, Assistant Director for Literacy and Humanities, at the Board meeting on April 18 to present a summary of the Civic Learning and Engagement Strategic Plan and answer your questions.


Download Word Document
Civic Learning and Engagement Strategic Plan
Download PowerPoint File
Civic Learning and Engagement Powerpoint

Last Updated: April 10, 2017
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