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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Amid Threats to American Democracy, New 50-State Analysis Sheds Light on the State of Civics Education
Press Release

RELEASE: Amid Threats to American Democracy, New 50-State Analysis Sheds Light on the State of Civics Education

Washington, D.C. — In the wake of a surge of attacks on American democracy and a rise of biased media, the Center for American Progress released a new report looking at the state of civics education in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report looks at whether states require standalone civics or government coursework, minimum required civics credits, how well-rounded their curriculum is, mean Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics score, and whether community service or civics exams are required to graduate.

The analysis evaluates how robust a state’s civics curricula is using the following five benchmarks: 1) an explanation or comparison of democracy; 2) the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; 3) public participation; 4) information on state and local voting rules; and 5) media literacy and the role and influence of media.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Most states require civics courses. Thirty states require at least a semester’s worth of standalone civics courses; eight states and Washington, D.C., require a full-year course; and Hawaii requires 1.5 credits.
  • 40 percent of states require students to take a civics exam graduation requirement to demonstrate competency. Indiana and Nevada added this requirement in 2018. Kentucky is the only state in the country with no civics course requirement yet mandates that students take a civics exam.
  • Only about half the country has robust civics curriculum and/or standards. Twenty-six states met all five requirements, and 11 states met 4 out of 5 standards.
  • 2 in 3 states address media literacy in their underlying civics curriculum.
  • Community service is rarely required. Twenty-three states offer some type of academic credit for community service—but only Maryland and Washington, D.C., include community service as a graduation requirement.
  • No clear relationship exists between AP mean test scores and civics coursework, exam requirements, or curriculum standards.

Please click here to read “Strengthening Democracy With a Modern Civics Education” by Ashley Jeffrey and Scott Sargrad.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at [email protected] or 202.741.6292.