A New Approach for FJCC

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As folks are likely aware at this point, funding for the Lou Frey Institute was vetoed by Governor Scott. The work of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship falls under the umbrella of LFI, so obviously the loss of funding is, for us, significant. While we continue to work on grants and other opportunities to raise funds (and still seeking some sort of university or legislative solution), this sudden turn of events means some changes in our work.

To be clear, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute will continue to support teachers, schools, and districts to the best of our ability. Our curricular resources will not go away; indeed, we continue to refine and improve and expand what we have. The Florida Citizen website will be getting new materials later this year around action civics, high school government, and, perhaps, Florida’s new legislatively mandated Founders Month. Development and improvement on Civics360 continues; we have just added four new videos around benchmark 4.3 for example. We are working on an update to the Florida’s Civic Health website as well.

As needed and as possible, we will strive to meet face to face PD requests; however, we may not longer be able to respond in the affirmative to all requests, thanks to a vastly reduced travel budget. HOWEVER, we do have some exciting news that has arisen out of that unfortunate circumstance. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is beginning the transition towards becoming an online professional development provider!

Currently, we are collaborating internally on developing a Canvas-based set of interactive modules (we hesitate to call it a course) targeting new teachers and what they need to know for teaching civics. We will be piloting this effort with a small number of districts for now; lessons learned from this will guide the next iteration and allow us to open it up to more folks. We also plan on offering additional data, content, and pedagogy oriented modules as we move forward. We have also just completed a new online narrated support PowerPoint around interpreting data that we will be posting for you within the next week!

We are incredibly excited by this new direction. Sometimes, what seems like disaster can simply be turned into a challenge. And that is true in this case. We have had to ask the question about how we can do more with even less, and we have high hopes and expectations that offering support online, with the same excellent staff you are used to, is a way to overcome that challenge. This Canvas-based approach will always involve the opportunity for questions, collaboration, and communication with the FJCC team.

Again, we will continue to support you to the best of our ability. The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute is not going anywhere in the short term. We are simply going to follow a new path in supporting the work that wonderful teachers do in civic education.

We are always open to questions or suggestions, so please feel free to contact us at any time! 


Civics in Florida: Two Good Articles

Recently, two retired and significant political leaders here in Florida addressed the issues facing civic education in the state. Don Gaetz, former Florida Senate President, writes on why civic education matters:

Recently I had coffee with an impressive high school junior and her mother. The young lady doesn’t share my politics but she spilled over with excitement to attend American Legion Girls State, a practical experience in how government works. She couldn’t wait to dive into mock legislating and she already knew the issues cold. She’s not looking for a career in politics but she wants to know how to make things better. Florida needs a few million like her.

Our young people need to be able to develop the civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions of citizenship. The focus is not molding little Democrats or little Republicans, little conservatives or little liberals. It is on, as Mr. Gaetz says, helping kids learn ‘how to make things better.’

On those same lines, legendary former Florida governor and Senator Bob Graham penned a piece advocating that Florida continue its positive work around civic education.

In 2014, the first year of testing, 61 percent of Florida students enrolled in seventh-grade civics scored at or above a level of proficiency. This compared favorably to the National Assessment of Educational Progress results, also known as the nation’s report card, in which only 23 percent of American eighth-grade students were deemed to be proficient in civics. NAEP is the most comparable assessment available; 2014 was the last year the exam was given. And things were even better in 2017 when 69 percent of Florida seventh-graders tested proficient or better. Students whose teachers used Joint Center instructional materials scored almost 25 percent higher than other students.

Senator Graham argues that civic education support is worth funding, and while the focus is on the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute, ultimately, Florida is a model for civic education, and to keep moving forward, we must pay attention and serve as advocates. And isn’t that the whole point of civic education? Advocate for our selves as citizens, as members of our communities, and as residents of this great and this great nation.

Please do consider reading the two articles from Gaetz and Graham, and if you are interested in supporting the work of the Lou Frey Institute and FJCC in Florida, please consider a donation or even just writing a letter. And thank you for being passionate and engaged members of the civic community!


The Lou Frey Institute and FJCC Will Continue to Support Civic Education!

Dear friends of the Lou Frey Institute and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship,
We recently shared with you that the governor vetoed funding for our work in civic education.

Despite this setback, we remain fully committed to supporting you as you prepare the next generation of informed, responsible and engaged citizens.

That commitment means that all of our instructional resources at www.floridacitizen.org and www.civics360.org will be supported and available for your use now and in the future.

In fact, over this summer we will continue developing videos for Civics360.org and host our next webinar to help you interpret your Civics End-of-Course Assessment scores. We intend to continue to develop resources and programs to support Florida’s students.

It is a key lesson in civics that determination and persistence are fundamentally important to success in the democratic process. We want you to know that we are determined to address the funding issues created by the governor’s veto and that we will persist until we are successful.

We have come a long way together. Scores are up across the state. Students are learning and the prospects for a stronger civic culture in Florida get better with every student you teach. We pledge to you that we will weather the storm and continue to support your critically important work.

Donations are now being accepted at www.ucffoundation.org. We are grateful for any amount you can give to support and improve Florida’s civic health.

  • Senator Bob Graham
  • Congressman Lou Frey
  • Doug Dobson, Executive Director
  • Steve Masyada, Director, FJCC
  • Val McVey, Curriculum Director
  • Peggy Renihan, Regional Programs Coordinator
  • Chris Spinale, Action Civics Coordinator
  • Michael Barnhardt, Web Designer
  • Lucas Cross, Web Designer Assistant
  • Laura Stephenson, Assistant to the Executive Director
  • Shena Parks, Accounting Coordinator
  • Marcia Bexley, Program Coordinator
  • Terri Fine, UCF, Senior Fellow
  • Elizabeth Washington, UF, Senior Fellow
  • Michael Berson, USF, Senior Fellow
  • Jane Lo, FSU, Fellow

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship Needs Your Help!

Please Donate Now If You Can Help!

vetoed
The Governor recently vetoed all funding for the Lou Frey Institute, the parent organization for the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, Civics360 and the Partnership for Civic Learning.

Did you Know?

  • Teachers that use FJCC curriculum resources have seen an increase in assessment scores by 25%.
  • Last year, FJCC staff delivered face-to-face professional development to over 1,000 civics teachers.
  • Since August 2016, FJCC staff supported over 5,000 teacher accounts and over 94,000 hours of online civic learning for middle school students.
  • Since March 2017, Civics360 was launched and has provided civics instruction and resources to over 20,000 civics students

Please help us so that we can continue supporting Florida’s, and the nation’s, teachers and students. Questions can be sent to me at any time! 

Please Donate Now If You Can Help!


Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference Proposals Due Soon!

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Good afternoon, friends. Don’t forget that the 2017 FCSS Conference, set for the end of October, wants YOU to join us as presenters. YOU are the reason FCSS exists, and we would be grateful if you would share you experience and knowledge and ideas and exciting new pedagogies with your peers and colleagues. We have had some good submissions so far, but we want more!

Proposals are due the 25th of May. Get them in and join us!


Looking for Civics Stories from Florida

Good evening, friends in civics! Are you a civics teacher in Florida? Recently, your students took the Civics EOCA, and likely did well, because you are good at what you do. Your kids know the content. But you also taught them the skills and dispositions necessary for participation in civic life. What we would love to hear from you are the stories of student engagement or action.  What did your students do to bring civics to life?  How did they engage with their peers, their communities, their leaders? How did they participate in civic life?

We want the story of your kids! Please email me a few lines (or more) about how your kids took what you taught them and practiced what we preached! We look forward to hearing from you!


Preparing students for civic life

A question that has recently been on my mind as I work on book chapters around helping English language learners with civic learning is the question of teaching for citizenship. Certainly, one of the key goals of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is preparing students to be citizens. It is, after all, in our name. But on reflection, perhaps we should consider that we are going deeper than that. We are, instead, preparing students for civic life. Not all of the students we seek to reach are citizens, after all. At the same time, the knowledge, skills, and dispositions we want children to develop should be practiced long before they are able to assume the rights and duties of citizenship anyway. Key here is the idea that civic life is more than simply voting or serving on juries, both of which are rightly and justly limited to citizens of the United States. But what does it mean to prepare students for civic life, to truly help them understand what it means to engage in their communities and to seek to be a difference-maker?

Before we begin considering that question, it needs to be stated plainly that what we are discussing here is a not a question of liberal or conservative. Instead, it is a question of doing what you think is right and necessary for the civic life of your community. Civic life should not be centered around partisan warfare; rather, it should be centered around true discussion, collaboration, and the common good as our Founding Fathers understood it. As one of my personal heroes, John Adams, so eloquently put it in the Constitution of the great state of Massachusetts:

Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men: Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it.

So, in preparing students for civic life, what should we be addressing? The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools has suggested that the focus be on civic competencies that have stood the test of time and reflect the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for civic life in the 21st century United States of America. Today’s post will discuss the first competency, knowledge; later posts will dive into the skills and dispositions, the Six Proven Practices, and the new(ish) C3 FrameworkC3 Framework and how that might serve us as civic educators.

Civic Knowledge: Starting With a Foundation

You have to start somewhere. For us, civic life must be built on a foundation that reflects what came before. You cannot engage in civic life and the pursuit of the common good if you have no or little knowledge of history, civics, and government. The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools describes the competency of civic knowledge thus:

Civic content includes both core knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge to different circumstances and settings.

  • Key historical periods, episodes, cases, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups in U.S. history
  • Principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Relationship between historical documents, principles, and episodes and contemporary issues
  • Structures, processes, and functions of government; powers of branches and levels of government
  • Political vehicles for representing public opinion and effecting political change
  • Mechanisms and structure of the U.S. legal system
  • Relationship between government and other sectors
  • Political and civic heroes
  • Social and political networks for making change
  • Social movements and struggles, particularly those that address issues as yet unresolved
  • Structural analyses of social problems and systemic solutions to making change

In other words, to effectively participate civic life, we must have an understanding of what came before. It means understanding the decisions that our Founding Fathers made, and the roots and consequences of those decisions. Why, for example, did they decide on the Electoral College? How did the party system develop? What kinds of issues have those seeking to lead, organize, or participate in civic life had to deal with over the course of our two and a half century history?

It also requires that we be able to interpret the key documents that have shaped civic life and civil society in the United States. This includes the Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the later amendments to the Constitution, and even the Articles of Confederation (among so many others). Important within this understanding is being able to grasp the different ways these documents have been interpreted in the past and continue to be debated in the present. For example, what do we mean when we say and debate the idea that Constitution is a living document? At the same time, we cannot know our rights, truly know and practice our rights, unless we understand them. And that rights are balanced by responsibilities and the importance of civic virtue and the common good.

To participate in civic life, we also need to understand how government works and how to take part in that government. This is more than simply voting; this is active engagement with fellow citizens and leaders in order to pursue change using the processes of government. And, again, we need note have a partisan perspective on this. The Tea Party movement of the previous decade is one form; the civil rights marches of the past century are another. Both seek to influence the levers and powers of government to pursue political, economic, or social change. But to do so effectively, we must help our students understand how government works and what influences government to take, or not take, action.

The idea of heroes, as presented in the list proposed by the Campaign, is to me a bit problematic and can lead to rather contentious debate. What do we mean by ‘political and civic heroes’? One person’s hero may be another person’s villain (as we see in the contentious debate over Confederate monuments). That does not mean, however, that this is a discussion to avoid. Indeed, we may find this debate a way in which we can model for our students the ways in which disagreements should be approach in a healthy civic culture. Whatever the choice we make, our heroes should reflect the types of engagement we want our children to have in civic life.

For me, most importantly, helping our students understand that engaging in civic life CAN make a difference is key. What networks can we form, what understandings can we refine, in order engage in civic life and pursue the common good?

Knowledge Matters

To me, without the competency of civic knowledge, the skills and dispositions are, to some great degree, worthless. If you lack understanding, how can you collaborate to make change? How can you engage in civic life? This does not serve as a call for rote memorization or some multiple choice test; rather, we need to teach our students how to find the information they need, how they may use the skills they have to interpret it, and, reflecting the desires of folks like Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, Noah Webster, and later Horace Mann, a common understanding and body of knowledge that is shared among all participants in civic life.

In a later post, we will take a look at the skills that can take advantage of this knowledge.


Celebrating Success

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is an organization that relies a great deal on the work of and collaboration between some very driven, dedicated, and passionate people. One of those people is our program coordinator, Ms. Peggy Renihan. Peggy has done a great deal of direct work with schools in an effort to help teachers and students become better civic learners and leaders, and she has spread the work and message of the FJCC across the northern part of Florida.

This weekend, Peggy graduates with her Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida. As educators, we never stop learning, and we never stop leading. Congratulations, Peggy, and thank you from your colleagues at the FJCC for all of the great work that you do.

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Peggy Renihan stands with Dr. Doug Dobson (left), director of the Lou Frey Institute at UCF, and Bob Graham (right), former governor of and Senator from Florida


Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education

Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

civics360 cover

So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

  • Multiple Student Friendly Readings for each assessed benchmark, available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole

languages

  • English language reading guides for each Student Friendly Reading, developed with all levels of readers in mind

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  • Vocabulary Practice Worksheets that use Concept Circles to assist students with understanding key words from the benchmark

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  • A Quizlet tool for vocabulary practice and remediation

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  • Continually adding more new narrated student-oriented videos for each benchmark; please note that not every module currently has videos.

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  • Video Viewing Guides for each new video to facilitate engagement

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  • Online quiz practice within each module that reflect best practice in learning and assessment tools that facilitate engagement and retention. We have added clearer explanations and suggestions for reflection for every distractor in each question.

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  • Additional civic resources to facilitate learning and review

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  • Organized into 9 Civics Focus Areas that reflect district pacing guides

topic areas

The new site also includes a 60 question practice assessment that reflects the actual EOC in structure and format. We also in the process of developing a version of that practice assessment that breaks the test into the 4 Reporting Categories so that teachers, and students, can use the assessment and their time more effectively.

practiceassessment sample

Be sure to check out the overview video, and if you have questions, comments, problems, or suggestions about Civics360 or the FJCC, please feel free to email me


Social Studies/School-Related Legislation to be aware of in Florida

Good morning friends. It is important, I think, for us to all be aware of legislation that can impact our beloved field and our profession. Of course we all know what is happening at the national level, but remember that ultimately, education is a state-level issue. And so, dear friends, what legislation is on the agenda in the current Florida Legislative Session that might be relevant for us? I have summarized significant or relevant pieces below, but remember that you can track all bills in our state legislature!

capitol

House Bill 67: Public School Recess
Requires that K-5 students get minimum number of minutes of free-play recess each week and minimum number of consecutive minutes each day.
Likely to pass
As the parent of an active third grader, I think this is a great and necessary idea. We know that recess has positive effects on student learning, and that it has seen some level of decline as schools have focused more on assessment. One drawback of this, however, is that this may impact the already limited time elementary schools devote to the social studies. It is, indeed, a difficult balance to strike. 

House Bill 131: Mandatory Retention
Removes requirement for mandatory retention of 3rd graders based on ELA Assessment
Currently in committee
This is unlikely to have a huge impact on social studies, but it could have a significant impact on elementary schools and promotion/retention policies and approaches. 

House Bill 303: Religious expression in public school
Prohibits discrimination against students, parents, or school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression; requires districts to adopt limited public policy forum and deliver disclaimer at school events; requires DOE to develop and publish model policy and boards to adopt and implement it
Passed; moving on to governor

Senate Bill 392: High School Graduation Requirements
Adds .5 credit to social studies requirement in the form of a stand alone personal financial literacy course and money management. Reduces elective credits to 7.5.
Moving forward
The state of Florida has tried to implement some sort of personal financial literacy component for the past few years. This time, the bill seems more likely to pass. Obviously it increases social studies requirements for high school graduation, and will necessitate a re- balancing of teacher preps. Note that this is a stand alone course and NOT integrated into the traditional economics course. It also will have an impact on the arts and other electives, as students lose a half-credit there. 

House Bill 549: Student Assessment
Requires that DOE website publish any assessment administered or adopted during previous year. Expectation is every three years (see College Board as example)
Working through committees
This bill, if it passes, is likely to have a some level of financial impact on the state; currently, the DOE re-uses test items. If they are required to post older tests, they will then have to order the creation of even more items for a bank. 

Senate Bill 964: Education Accountability
Eliminates End of Course Assessments (including Civics and US History)
Passed Senate, on to House; likely outcome unknown
The House and Senate differ, generally, on the benefit of accountability measures. It should be noted that the passage of the Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act and the existence of the civics EOCA provides social studies education with a much greater level of prominence and importance than it had prior to the act and the assessment. What happens to that if the assessment disappears? 

House Bill 989: Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education
Revises terminology, standards, and review and adoption processes relating to K-12 instructional materials; PROVIDES FOR OBJECTION BY CERTAIN PERSONS TO ADOPTION OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS; provides right to appeal school district decisions; REQUIRES DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARDS TO PROVIDE CERTAIN PERSONS FULL ACCESS TO MATERIALS IN SCHOOL LIBRARIES
On track in House and Senate
We are currently in an adoption cycle, and texts and resources for social studies are likely to have been selected before the requirements of this bill are implemented (should it pass). However, our science friends are likely to be impacted by this, and note that it allows anyone, not just parents, to object to curricular resources being used in schools. We have seen, in our state, vigorous debate over instruction in certain controversial issues in social studies; this will probably increase the amount of those discussions. 

House Bill 1023: Required K-12 Instruction
Revises requirements for instruction relating to Africa to include specific content relating to enslavement of African peoples; revises requirements for curriculum of required character education programs to include history of Africa and African-Americans
Still in early stages
Obviously this would fall under the social studies bailiwick. 

Senate Bill 1710: Education
Designates September as Founder’s Month; revises duties of ‘Just Read, Florida’ office to include developing resources for elementary schools; requires postsecondary students to demonstrate civic literacy.
Moving forward
The expectations of this bill reflect what we already teach in our US history, civics, and government courses. I am, honestly, not quite clear on the part that requires a demonstration of civic literacy by ‘postsecondary students’. This could be some sort of graduation test around civics, or it could be a civic assessment targeting college students. We will have to wait and see. 

Remember, always, to make your voice heard. As social studies teachers and as civic education professionals, let’s be models for our students, no matter where you stand on these or other bills.