The Education Department Wants to Hear From You!


At a White House event this past January, the Obama Administration released its Road Map for civic learning, “Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.”  This Road Map, developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), is a call to action to reinvigorate civic learning and engagement for students, families, communities and leaders in education, business, labor, philanthropy and government. We envision a nationwide commitment to preparing all students for citizenship as informed, engaged and responsible members of our society.  The Road Map outlines nine steps ED is undertaking to increase civic learning and engagement across our country. You are invited to watch the release event and read ED’s Road Map to learn more.


Since the release of the Road Map, ED has been implementing a strategy to achieve its nine objectives.  As part of this process, ED is seeking the public’s input on how we understand “civic learning and engagement activities” and how we can best support these activities.  We encourage educators, practitioners, students, researchers, and any other interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the outline below:

A.     How ED Defines “Civic Learning and Engagement”

Activities that help students become informed and engaged members of society by providing nonpartisan opportunities for development of civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions.  Civic learning and engagement activities include:

  1. Development, through the study of American history, civics and government, of students’ foundational civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. Participation in interactive activities (e.g., service learning, community-based projects, simulations, media campaigns, advocacy, etc.) that provide students the opportunity to apply their learning to the needs of their community through action and reflection, thus broadening understanding of how to apply knowledge to improve societal outcomes. Activities should be selected and organized with input from faculty and students and can be developed in partnership with educational institutions, faith and/or community-based organizations, government agencies, philanthropies, businesses, and other stakeholders.

B.     How ED will Support Civic Learning

Of the nine objectives ED is implementing to support civic learning and engagement activities, we specifically request feedback on how to best:

  1. Convene and catalyze the education community to increase and enhance high-quality civic learning and engagement opportunities.
  2. Identify civic learning and engagement indicators to measure student outcomes and encouraging further research to learn more about appropriate and effective program design.
  3. Leverage federal investments and public-private partnerships to support civic learning and engagement activities where permitted and feasible.
  4. Highlight and promote civic learning and engagement opportunities for students, families and other stakeholders as collaborators and problem-solvers in education.

Please submit all comments to or post them on directly on this blog.

This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print: Please understand that posts must be related to Civic Learning Initiative, we encourage posts that are as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support civic learning. We look forward to hearing from you.


  1. University of Maryland
    Discussion on Civic Engagement

    The University of Maryland convened a discussion group of faculty and staff to provide thoughtful opinions about the action items represented in the document, “ A Road Map and Call to Action: Advancing Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy.” In response to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s request for feedback find below a recommended definition and learning outcomes for civic engagement and reflections on the nine action items:

    Discussion Group: Craig E. Slack, Sue Briggs, James V. Riker , Nina P. Harris, Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, Barbara G. Jacoby, Dave Dessauer, Courtney Holder , Deborah Slosberg, Ali Barlow

    Recommended Civic Engagement Definition and Learning Outcomes:


    Civic engagement is “acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities. This includes a wide range of activities, including developing civic sensitivity, participation in building civil society, and benefiting the common good. Civic engagement encompasses the notions of global citizenship and interdependence. Through civic engagement, individuals—as citizens of their communities, their nations, and the world—are empowered as agents of positive social change for a more democratic world.”

    Civic engagement involves one or more of the following:

    1. Learning from others, self, and environment to develop informed perspectives on social issues;
    2. Recognizing and appreciating human diversity and commonality;
    3. Behaving, and working through controversy, with civility;
    4. Taking an active role in the political process;
    5. Participating actively in public life, public problem solving, and community service;
    6. Assuming leadership and membership roles in organizations;
    7. Developing empathy, ethics, values, and sense of social responsibility;
    8. Promoting social justice locally and globally.

    –B. Jacoby & Associates, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2009. Based on the definition framed by the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership

    Civic Learning Outcomes

    Although not widely used today, the UMD Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership developed a comprehensive set of learning outcomes for civic engagement and leadership in 2005. There are 5 broad outcome themes, each accompanied by several specific outcomes that can be used in a wide range of initiatives, including courses, service-learning, internships, student employment, and study abroad.

    Students prepared for civic engagement and leadership can:

    9. Contribute to their communities in ways that are congruent with their values.
    10. Apply their leadership with or without a formal position,
    11. Demonstrate knowledge, awareness, and understanding necessary to contribute to a culturally diverse world
    12. Apply academic and disciplinary knowledge and personal experiences to addressing societal problems
    13. Identify core personal values and base their actions on those values.

    Recommended Implementation Strategies:
    • The Department of Education should continue advocating for full funding of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama but not funded.
    • The Department of Education should provide guidelines to encourage civic audits of K-12 and post-secondary education. The Department of Education should initiate a national review process of civic audit findings; identify gaps in program delivery, assessment and understanding curriculum impact; and allocate resources to support initiatives to address these gaps.
    • The Department of Education should work with federal and state education oversight authorities to review K-12 and post-secondary education general education requirements, class offerings and, pedagogy that advance civic learning.
    • The Department of Education should revisit how federal dollars are being used to support post-secondary students work in the community. Examples are America Reads and trio programs.
    • The Department of Education should offer a bank of learning outcomes for K-12 and post-secondary intuitions could choose from with implementation strategies and measures for learning.
    • The Department of Education should offer a data base of best practices that K-12 and post-secondary institutions could select and adapt to meet their desired civic learning outcomes.
    • The Department of Education could require grants offered by the Department to have civic learning as measurable elements to be considered for funding.
    • The Department of Education should provide financial support for Higher Education to work with K-12 institutions on civic learning.
    • The Department of Education could provide civic learning outcomes based on institutional type (HBCU, Tribal, Private, and Public).
    • The Department of Education should track Federal Work Study monies being used to advance civic engagement (7% Federal Work Study Allocations) by college students and share examples of high impact practices.
    • The Department of Education should initiate dialogues with college and university career center directors on ways to incorporate civic professionalism in career education. The focus would be to ignite students’ awareness so they enter their career with civic purpose.
    • The Department of Education should develop strategies that educators could employ to engage Congress in the conversation about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
    • The Department of Education should host state-wide conferences to look at how educators are bringing civic learning into the curriculum of K-12 and higher education.
    • The Department of Education should disseminate methods for how to relook at ways public higher education may participate in the public political process and infuse action orientated pedagogy in the classroom to situate student learning on topics of civic engagement.
    • The Department of Education should encourage higher education recognize and value faculty involvement in civic learning in the tenure and promotion process.

  2. As I read the “Roadmap”, the role of career and technical student organizations (CTSO’s) came to mind. These student lead organizations introduce, develop, enhance and reward ths exact skills desired AND they already exisit in most schools today who have strong Career and Technical Education departments. I spent 20 years in the Family and Consumer Sciences classroom at the middle and high school levels, and I witnessed active democracy in every CTSO activity and event my student members were involved in. Leadership and active democracy was best developed by first learning what it means and then engaging students in things that mattered most to them–their lives, their peers, their school, their families and their communities. CTSO’s provide the introduction, practice and application of these skills within the content area of the specific CTSO. In my experiences with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), student members collaborated with many people across all ages and occupations as they addressed issues that concerned them. FCCLA provided the skill development activities and framework which is aligned to the FCS education content, thus allowing students to transition their textbook knowledge to action through what the “Roadmap” calls active democracy. Leadership is developed and applied in multiple manners which then becomes second nature to them. It is practiced at the local, district, state and national levels within the framework of a CTSO, thus allowing the student to continually advance in their leadership development. Please embrace the role of CTSO’s and enhance support for these opportunities as a viable option for the development of civic leadership and active democracy.

  3. Over the past 6 years, the Center for Measuring College Behaviors and Academics at Indiana State University has been collecting data with the University Learning Outcomes Assessment (UniLOA) which targets the ways in and degree to which students are growing, learning, and developing (GLD) as a result of their collegiate experience. We measure student behaviors along multiple domains regarded as critical to constituencies both within and outside higher education. One of those domains is Citizenship and to our disappointment, have found that of the seven domains we measure, Citizenship is the lowest-scored domain by all student groups, regardless of those groups’ specific demographics.

    Within the domain, some of the lowest-scored items deal with 1) engaging the political process by voicing viewpoints to others, 2) the ability to identify good political leaders, and 3) understanding both current issues and events within the community.

    Our research also suggests that in order to be effective, services, supports, interventions, and programs (SSIP’s) should be designed to be 1) highly engaging, 2) ongoing as opposed to single or limited experiences, 3) that those experiences need to be processed, internalized, and generalized to affect full GLD, and 4) be defined with specific goals and desired outcomes as a result of participation.

    As researchers, our focus has been to identify specific areas of student need rather than the development of SSIP’s designed to bolster students’ educational experience. Yet, we believe our findings can inform practitioners in ways that will direct the development of targeted and specific SSIP’s to respond to demonstrated student need.

    We would be happy to share our ongoing results and to participate in the planning and of the ED’s efforts to improve Civic Learning and Engagement.

  4. First and foremost, I would hope that this effort would provide educators at the post-secondary level with the freedom to inspire in others the desire to learn and the application of that knowledge in service to the common good. How is the Department of Education developing committed professionals who in turn can develop young leaders with clear principles and practices for cultivating civic engagement through public service, through their college years and beyond? Through action and reflection – not simply “study” as mentioned above, and not just 10 hours over the course of a semester, but on-going, weekly action that does not instrumentally “use” the community for the sake of student learning – we must provide our postsecondary students with field experience of working in community across difference, honing their ability to serve as inclusive and ethical leaders.

    In short, if we want the brightest and most privileged in this nation to possess the “civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions” once they leave post-secondary education, then they must be given opportunities to practice democracy. And what are the practices of an effective democracy? Nowhere in your outline (“How ED Defines ‘Civic Learning and Engagement’” or “How ED will Support Civic Learning”) is there a reference to the common good or the public good – the essence of service/democracy – which I would hope would be the “why” of civic engagement, a term that camouflages the pressing inequalities in communities across the country. Poverty is not a non-partisan issue, but a disgrace to our sensibilities as a nation.

    How do we encourage through these efforts that as a national community in fact we are responsible for each other, and that as individuals we have a responsibility to use our own resources and privilege to serve those less resourced/privileged? The field of education must be clearly delineated from all market-based, business, for-profit models, including the current fad of “public-private” partnerships, which gravitate toward profit and efficiency and against this simple foundational value. Transformational learning is in and of itself an inefficient process, yet one that hold the power to transform our young people into the next generation of civic leaders. For WHAT PURPOSE are you seeking to educate people? Hopefully to contribute to healthy communities, NOT simply to serve as the next generation of workers.

  5. A PRACTICAL course on Civic Duties and Engagement should be mandatory in high school curriculum. U.S. high school students should be taught HOW to vote responsibly (eg. courses should teach and PRACTICE researching issues, positions, motivations, etc.), HOW to file taxes, ways to ACTIVELY participate in community problem-solving.

  6. I agree with some of the previous comments; the best education is well-rounded, and not just in an academic sense of how much a student learns from sitting in a classroom. More civic engagement should be encouraged, maybe even required. For example, at my university, there is a general education course about American history and government and part of the course is a 10-hour service project over the course of a semester. As a result of working with other community members via local organizations, the student is better able to see how his/her role as a citizen on a local community level while also learning about the structure of local, state, and national governments and organizations. Rather than what he/she learns being applicable in an abstract, theoretical way, the learning becomes personal and tangible, making the learning experience much more memorable and long-lasting.

    Also, I believe that there should be more of an intercultural emphasis. I study foreign languages and cultures and since I have studied them and had the opportunity to spend a few months abroad, I feel like I am better educated that I ever was before because I have been exposed to other countries’ customs. Consequently, I am a better position to share my knowledge with others. Furthermore, while also being more appreciative of others’ traditions, I am also more dedicated to my own and I have a more balanced view of others.

    In other words, I think it would highly benefit our youth if they were given more hands-on experience in the community and if they were provided opportunities to connect and observe other cultures. Most importantly, which I haven’t mentioned yet, parents should be given more opportunities and encouraged more to participate in their children’s education, because children with parental support are more likely to make educational gains, both as students and as individuals.

  7. No high school student should graduate without undergoing a deep, serious, effort to understand the debates and compromises forged at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It is the responsibility of teachers of history to introduce students to the larger problems that define the country’s political system—like, the challenges that people have faced in attaining recognition of basic civil rights the whole host of debates from the beginning of the Republic over the role of the Federal government in public life. Personally, I think learning outcomes tied to these issues ought to be based on reading. I cannot understand why every high school in the country is not expected to read, analyze, and inwardly digest the issues behind Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of An American Slave, and a host of selected readings from Presidential addresses and writers who best help people to understand a debate and the arguments people forge.
    I am utterly convinced that there are two forces that have absolutely destroyed American education: 1) the extreme left-wing multiculturalists who assert that no one can read Emily Dickenson because she might not have been a lesbian and that students cannot read a presidential address because we haven’t had one who is an Eskimo; and 2) the far-right wing nuts who assume that all skills and learning can be measured on a multiple choice standardized test. If “civic engagement” is limited to bubbling in answers to a standardized test , students are left not with engagement but boredom—which is the enemy of real education.

  8. At the post-secondary level, collaborative endeavors with the Association of American Colleges and Universities would enhance the impact and cost-effectiveness of initiatives, as the AACU has already conducted much work in this area:

    I would like to call special attention to the essential learning outcomes identified by the AACU, which include “intercultural knowledge and competence” and civic knowledge and engagement at local, national, and global levels. As stated in their report _Civic Responsibility: What Is the Campus Climate for Learning?_: “The United States—as a democracy that is diverse, globally engaged, and dependent on citizen
    responsibility—requires college graduates to have an informed concern for the larger good and the ability to understand and navigate morally complex issues in a dynamic and often volatile world.”

  9. Dear Dean,

    The Department of Education (ED) has limited authority to intervene in individual cases. Specifically, ED is restricted by statute from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school or schools system …” (20 U.S.C. 1232a). I encourage you to continue to work with your school, district and state to achieve a successful resolution of this matter.



  10. To the Department of Education, dated October 8, 2012,
    This in regards to a situation in Philadelphia, Penn., at the high school Charles Carroll
    High School Oct. 3, 2012, were a student was harrassed by a public school teacher by humilating this student because she wore a Romney T-shirt. This comes right down to BULLING, something that this department of education says is a NO, NO.
    I would like to know why you have a commercial on public radio talking about BULLING and its the parents responsibility to teach their children not to BULLY?
    The department of education seems to have a double standard like most government run institutions seem to exhibit. I would like to know as a taxpayer what are you going to do to this teacher who is a BULLIER?

  11. In order to insure that these learning objectives are furthered it is esential that educators make civic engagement part of their syllabus and classroom activities. An easy way to do this is through project based learning where the activity becomes part of a larger question that students must answer; inclusive in the project is service learning or civic engagement.

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