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Civic Mission


Civics In The Middle

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A monthly newsletter for Illinois civics teachers to support the implementation of the state’s middle and high school civics course requirements and K-12 social science standards.

Teaching the 2020 Election and Beyond: Civics In The Middle Summer PD

Illinois students entering middle school this fall must receive a semester of civics instruction before moving to high school, laying a foundation for students to successfully complete a semester of civics before high school graduation. Join the McCormick Foundation staff and Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches from the region this summer for a two-day workshop designed to build teacher capacity in content knowledge and the practices required in the new law: discussion, service-learning, and simulations. 

Using the 2020 Election as a teachable moment for civics, attendees will learn strategies for bringing these practices into their classrooms, receive free lesson plans from respected civic education providers, and learn about local resources to supplement civics instruction. Registration is free and attendees will receive a complimentary breakfast and lunch both days. PD hours will be offered to teachers that successfully complete the two-day workshop. Registration links will be available soon on the Illinois Civics PD calendar.

June 8-9        Western Illinois University - Macomb
June 10-11    Peoria Region TBA
June 11-12    Joliet Professional Development Alliance
June 15-16    Eastern Illinois University - Charleston
June 16-17    Carbondale Region TBA
June 17-18    Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
June 18-19    Dupage Regional Office of Education- Wheaton
June 24-25    Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education
June 25-26    Regional Office of Education #17- Bloomington
June 29-30    Rock Island Regional Office of Education

Election 2020 Featured Resource:  What to Look for in the Illinois Primaries and Super Tuesday

The new year brings an opportunity to use the upcoming elections to engage students in the proven practices of civic education outlined in 6-12th grade civic course mandates. will provide a plethora of resources and lesson plans to support this important work.

Join us on February 18th from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. for an afterschool webinar that delves into the Illinois Primaries and Super Tuesday with Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  

Dr. Healy will examine the results of the early primaries and caucuses, the remaining candidates, polling data, Illinois-specific dynamics, and other developments to discuss with your students. The webinar will conclude with classroom resources you can use with your students to engage them in current and societal issue discussions, simulations of democratic processes, and service-learning during this election year.

Register today for this second in a series of webinars to support #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms in this election year. Those who register can join live, or receive a link to view the recorded presentation and accompanying resources.

Professional Development Opportunities

Listed below are upcoming workshops and conference presentations that address the proven and practices of civic education and Illinois social science standards.  Regularly visit our Professional Development Calendar for new opportunities to enhance your classroom practice.

2/10 - ROE #12 - Civics Mandates & Supports for Middle & High School Levels (Robinson, IL)
2/18- Zoom Webinar- Illinois Civics Super Tuesday and Illinois Primary Webinar (Online)
2/21- DuPage Regional Office of Education- Engaging Student Voice in Inquiry: Creating Safe Spaces in Polarized Times (Wheaton)
2/27 - Rock Island County ROE - Putting Civics in the Middle: The Illinois Social Science Standards and Civics Requirement 6-8 (Moline, IL)

3/9 - St. Clair County Regional Office of Education - Civics in the Middle: IL Social Science Standards & Civics (Belleville, IL)
3/20 - DuPage Regional Office of Education - Facing History and Ourselves: Middle School Civics and Student Agency (Wheaton, IL)

4/6 - ROE #11 - Support for Teacher Implementation of State Civics Mandate (Charleston, IL)
4/23 - Professional Development Alliance - Building Better Rubrics to Enhance Student Learning with the IL Social Science Standards (Joliet, IL)
4/28 - DuPage Regional Office of Education Administrators' Academy - Exploring the New Illinois Social Studies and Civic Requirements K-12 (Wheaton, IL)
4/30 - Lake County ROE 34 - Creating Performance Assessment Tasks with the Illinois Social Science Standards (Grayslake, IL)

Special FREE PD at the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park
2/13 -  WWI 360: Teach Like an Ace (Wheaton, IL)
3/17 - Medal of Honor Character Development Program for Middle School and High School (Wheaton IL)

It is never too early to plan for summer professional development. Our friends at the Council for Social Studies State Supervisors have created this spreadsheet of summer 2020 social studies professional development opportunities for your consideration. Be sure to share it with a friend!

Resources to Address Implicit Bias in the Classroom

We and our students come to the classroom with lived experiences and understandings that help us make sense of the world around us. Our brains detect patterns that help make meaning through generalizations--often resulting in stereotypes, that despite our best efforts, can lead to discrimination. defines implicit bias as, “bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs.” 

The work of civics has to be “from the inside out.” We and our students must examine our own perceptions and beliefs through probing essential questions relating to identity, justice, and equity. This is difficult work that spans more than a lesson plan. To help you begin, here are some resources for you to explore.

Service Learning Featured Resource:  18 Ways Youth Under 18 Can Contribute to Elections from CIRCLE

Our partners at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) from Tufts University make the case that, “Being under 18 years old may mean that you cannot vote in the general election, but it doesn’t mean that young people cannot contribute to political engagement and conversations about what’s important in an election year.” To this end, CIRCLE published, "18 ways young people can engage in informed action to participate in the 2020 elections". Many of these ideas align with the proven practice of service-learning embedded in both the middle and high school civics mandate.

At, we endeavor to link educators with resources that address essential questions with proven strategies and tools to prepare students for college, career, and civic life. This monthly newsletter provides civic educators with timely professional development opportunities, classroom resources, and inspiration with #CivicsIsBack success stories. For weekly updates on emerging research on civics, “teachable moments” and related materials, follow our blog.

Professional Development

The fall months are always a busy time for professional development conferences throughout Illinois, and our Illinois Civics Team circled the map. Our mentors also presented at in-service within their schools, districts, and regional offices of education, and will continue to do so throughout the spring semester. Additionally, a team of mentors is in the process of developing online courses in partnership with Illinois State University, so stay tuned.

We would like to call Chicago area teachers’ attention to a new graduate course we’ve developed in partnership with the DuPage Regional Office of Education and Aurora University titled “Teaching Controversial Issues.” Attendees meet weekly on Wednesday evenings in West Chicago beginning February 1 and can earn 3 graduate credits towards teachers’ political science certification, required for the new civics course requirement.

We also encourage teachers to attend social studies conferences slated for this spring. Each will feature civics-oriented sessions led by mentors and/ or members of our Illinois Civics team. Remember to visit our professional development calendar for a complete listing of upcoming opportunities.


In the aftermath of the 2016 Election, we’ve promised a pivot to the public policy processes and outcomes that follow. This post represents the frame through which we’ll pursue this work as we attempt to leverage the excitement and/ or fears of our students and translate it into the difficult work of democratic governance.

Illinois’ new civics course requirement embeds proven civic learning practices that align perfectly with teaching the public policy process, namely direct instruction on government institutions, discussions of current and controversial issues, service-learning, and simulations of democratic processes
  • A deep understanding of government institutions is critical to engaging with them to affect policy change.
  • Public policy issues are by nature current and controversial. They are unresolved and members of our community may disagree vehemently about their very definition, much less available solutions.
  • Service-learning may assume direct or indirect forms, and also encompasses advocacy, much of which may happen within the confines of a classroom.
  • Simulations of the policy-making process in a legislative body, court system, or even administrative agency can illuminate the inner workings of government for our students.
Moreover, Illinois’ emerging social studies standards embrace an inquiry arc that begins by students developing questions. Later, they draw upon disciplinary knowledge and evaluate sources to answer them. Ultimately, students are asked to communicate conclusions and take informed action. 

Click here to read more…

Illinois Civics Teacher Mentor Highlight

Mike Haak, Civics Mentor for ROE #17, received the 2016 Barbara O’Donnell Award at the CRFC Annual Conference. Mike was nominated by his fellow teachers who commend him for striving to engage students in the application and analysis of government processes and procedures, as well as the role of the citizen daily. 

Mike enthusiastically approaches all his classes each day because, “Most Americans know so little about their government and even less about their own potential roles. Democracy’s survival demands that we fix that. Our new mandate will let us do so.”  

Mike’s students at Olympia High School are even more appreciative and love the fact that he challenges them, and inspires them to achieve.   

Our heartiest congratulations to Mike who truly deserves this recognition. We wish him the best as he continues to shares his knowledge and insights with the teachers he mentors.    

Click here to find your regional mentor.
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