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To read more about Service-Learning, visit the ECS Issue Site on Service-Learning.

To read more about civic education, visit the ECS Issue Site on Citizenship/Character Education.

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The ECS National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement (NCLCE) assists state and district policymakers and educators developing policies that support K-12 school-based service-learning opportunities. These educational experiences help students acquire the skills, values, knowledge and practice necessary to be effective citizens. The NCLCE identifies and analyzes policies and practices that support effective civic education, creates and disseminates publications for education stakeholders, and convenes meetings to develop a collective voice for citizenship education and civic mission of schools. NCLCE also encourages policy support and system structures to integrate service-learning into schools and communities. For more information, visit

Welcome to Citizenship Matters, from the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement (NCLCE) at the Education Commission of the States (ECS). This bimonthly newsletter focuses on ECS' work in improving civic education in our nation's schools.

March / April 2015

Guest Column

Zero tolerance giving way to restorative justice
Jessica Savage and Randy Ross of the National School Climate Center write about zero tolerance school discipline policies that unequally affect students of color, students with disabilities and LGBT students. Indeed, they quote guidelines jointly released last year by the Departments of Education and Justice that such policies may be civil rights violations.

New from ECS

Civics Initiative legislative update
The new Civics Education Initiative – requiring high school students to pass a 100-question test on basic history and civic facts to graduate – is creating quite a buzz around the country. Here is a snapshot of how a handful of states are approaching the initiative.

What States Are Doing

Citizenship test for Alabama students?
On AL.combat, "the place to argue the state's big questions," they considered a citizenship test for high school students like Arizona's and the one taken by prospective U.S. citizens.  "Yes!" wrote Cameron Smith. “If we require people becoming naturalized citizens to know this information, why should we have a lower standard for those who enjoy citizenship by virtue of their birth?” Carol McPhail, on the other hand, argued the whole movement smacks of indoctrination as opposed to instruction.

Good Reads

Civics and professional development
While democracy demands well-informed, engaged citizens taught by well-informed, engaged teachers of civics education, the education reform movement has not emphasized civics. Professional development programs for those teachers have declined. This study explores the status and nature of professional development for civics teachers.

Deeper learning
The turn toward deeper learning in education reform should go with a renewed emphasis on high-quality civics education, according to this brief. Not only does deeper learning have great potential to promote civic outcomes and strengthen democracy, but civic education exemplifies deeper learning in that it provides students with challenging, collaborative and engaging experiences.

Pushing for suicide prevention
On both coasts students are reaching out to peers in the name of fellow students who committed suicide. In Maine, a group of Messalonskee High School students are advocating for two bills, one to raise awareness, the other to improve the ability of mental health professionals to assess risk. In California students at Vista del Lago High School are making supportive videos for middle schoolers. A bullied 12-year-old Folsom Middle School student killed himself in August 2013.

Gardens connect kids with global issues
Functioning as living laboratories, school gardens teach sustainability, food security and environmental awareness. In Florida, Seminole Elementary School students take care of 54 different varieties of plants, including bananas, beans, chocolate mint and lavender. They recycle and use water from the school’s AC system.

NSCC Summer Institute

School climate
School leaders and students will discuss the process of evaluating school climate, their experiences and resulting action planning strategies at the annual National School Climate Center’s Summer Institute, June 25-26 in New York City. In partnership with the International Institute for Restorative Practices, the Institute will also present on a number of other issues. To get the full range of topics, go here.

State Farm Youth Advisory Board

2015 grant applications
Thirty young people on State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) get full responsibility to research societal issues, review grant applications and choose recipients of grants of up to $100,000 awarded to schools and non-profit organizations. This year, they have a $4 million budget and are accepting proposals, which must be submitted by May 1. For more information, go here.


Thank you for reading Citizenship Matters. For questions, comments or submissions, contact Paul Baumann at (303) 299.3622 or

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