How do I assess my students’ civic learning?

How Do I Assess My Students' Civic Learning?

Major reforms like the Common Core State Standards and the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework highlight the need for new assessments that can speak to the authentic tasks that are often at the heart of high quality civic education. While those educating for democracy frequently engage their students in work that includes action projects, presenting about civic issues, and writing about controversial topics, it can be challenging to find systematic methods for assessing this work. Fortunately, innovative organizations, districts, and states have begun developing some methods. Take a look at the materials on this page to learn about various ways to assess your students’ civic learning.

Graduate Capstone Projects

Before graduating, students from Oakland Unified School District complete a capstone project where they can investigate a social issue they care about. Learn more about how teachers assess students’ learning through the various components of the project by reading Young Whan Choi’s blog. For examples of students’ final presentations check out the Investigation & Research section of this Deep Dive.

You can also explore these four rubrics that Oakland teachers developed that serve as a guide for these efforts:

Civic Online Reasoning

The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) has developed a series of short assessments of civic online reasoning — the ability to effectively search for and evaluate social and political information online — that can help students learn questions and strategies for evaluating online information. You can use their assessments in a range of ways including as a hook for a lesson, as content for modeling, as fodder for group practice, as an exit slip. Read their blog post 4 Tips for Assessing Digital Literacy in Your Classroom and explore a range of assessments and lesson ideas on their Civic Online Reasoning website. For more on this topic you can also read a recent article by SHEG titled, “Why We Need a New Approach to Teaching Digital Literacy.”

Assessing Civic Writing

The National Writing Project has developed a rubric called the Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum (CEWAC) that guides teachers in their instruction and evaluation of civic writing. To learn more about supporting your students to write as a form of civic debate, dialogue, and engagement, check out the following blog post by the National Writing Project: Engaging Youth in Civic Action Through Writing.

Supporting Students in Developing Persuasive Policy Arguments

If you’d like to get ideas about how to assess your students’ ability to develop and present a persuasive and evidence-based policy argument at the culmination of a civic inquiry project, read Supporting Students in Developing Persuasive Policy Arguments by the Measures of Youth Policy Arguments (MYPA) Research Team. You can also learn about the MYPA rubric that was designed to provide educators with formative and summative support in assessing six core civic competencies: problem identification, research methods, policy proposal, collaboration, presentation and delivery, and response to questions. There's more information on the rubric, video examples, and curricular resources at the MYPA team’s website:

State Level Civic Assessments

Washington state has developed a set of civics assessments that are multi‐stepped tasks or projects aligned to specific state standards, which target skills and knowledge necessary for engaged, informed citizenship. Alongside a required civics course in high school, civic assessments are required at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. You can explore these assessments and scoring guides alongside other resources on the Office of Superintendent & Public Instruction website.

District Level Civic Assessments

A number of school districts are also developing innovative ways to assess students’ civic learning opportunities with the goal of creating an evidence base for identifying high-quality practices and to expand both equity and access to these opportunities. For example, the LEADE Initiative (Leveraging Equity & Access in Democracy Education) provides educational decision makers with research-based tools for assessing equity and access in civic education. LEADE has been working with the following four school districts: Oakland Unified School District, Riverside Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Chicago Public Schools. To learn more about the project click here.

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