FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 7, 2022
CONTACT: Jen Patja Howell
Co-Executive Director, Virginia Civics
Virginia Civics Coalition Releases Comprehensive Report with Recommendations to Improve Civic Health in the Commonwealth
March 7, 2022
Orange, VA – Today, the Virginia Civics Coalition released its Virginia for All Virginians report with recommendations to improve the civic health of the Commonwealth. Over the last year Virginia Civics, in partnership with the Virginia Commission on Civic Education (VCCE), set out on a “listening tour” with experts, practitioners, and consumers of civic education and engagement across the state.
VA Civics, along with professional facilitators from The Spark Mill in Richmond, led discussions with a broad range of Virginians involved in some aspect of civic education. In these discussions, VA Civics focused on what worked well in their civic education efforts, what had not worked well, their goals, and what resources they needed to continue and expand their efforts. This work was supplemented by a survey of public high school students’ experiences with civic education, conducted by the Virginia Department of Education and Virginia Commonwealth University, completed in September 2021.
“We spoke with such a broad cross-section of civic educators in Virginia that we weren’t sure how much common ground we would find, especially in such a divisive political climate,” said Jen Patja Howell, co-executive director of VA Civics. “But almost immediately, we saw some themes and shared principles emerge. What this coalition really wants to do is to help build a Virginia where everyone has a voice.”
The report includes recommendations for state and local entities to foster an atmosphere of strong civic engagement. Some of the recommendations included are:
- States should work with divisions to determine clear guidelines for civic education that are both effective and measurable, including strengthening course requirements and clarifying performance-based assessment objectives.
- Divisions should consider implementing a school culture that values and prioritizes good citizenship and civil discourse.
- The state can provide guidelines and/or incentives for higher education institutions and employers to recognize/incentivize civics diploma seals.
- The state should consider developing a comprehensive “road map” for successful civic education at all grade levels.
“The key to a functioning and healthy democracy is an educated citizenry,” said Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg, a public school civics teacher and Chair of the Virginia Commission on Civic Education. “While our civic education system in Virginia has its strengths, it is my hope in the coming years the General Assembly and the Commission on Civic Education will use this report to sponsor initiatives and programs that encourage more engagement for both students and adults. I want to thank the Virginia Civics Coalition and Virginia Civics for spearheading this effort.”
Work on this project was funded by iCivics through a regrant of funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which have renewed funding for an additional year of work toward strengthening the Virginia Civics Coalition and making progress on the report’s goals. Over the next year, the Coalition plans to formalize its structure through regular meetings of its “communities of practice” and hold its first all-member Coalition conference in November.
The full report can be found here.