New study gives Illinois an ‘F’ for civic and historical education standards


A recent study by the Fordham Institute criticized Illinois’ educational standards for history and civics in the United States. The Illinois standards did not mention historical concepts and did not offer goals for what each level should learn in civics and United States history.

A new study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave failing grades to Illinois civic and historical education standards. The Fordham study assigned alphabetical ratings for each state’s U.S. civic education and history standards. Illinois won an F in US history and an F in civics: these failure scores placed Illinois 44e on the classification of states.

The Fordham Institute study reported that students not only in Illinois but across the country suffer from poor civic education and American history education. The Fordham Institute found that 75% of American students do not have a mastery of United States history and 85% do not have a mastery of civics.

The Fordham Institute’s findings mirrored the claims of other researchers. The Brown Center found that civic literacy lags among eighth-graders despite improvements in math and reading.

Illinois suffers from a lack of clarity and specific content within American civic and historical norms, according to Fordham’s analysis. Illinois Civic Standards scored 1 in 7 for content and thoroughness and 1 in 3 for clarity and organization. The Illinois History Standards in the United States were scored 2 out of 7 points for content and thoroughness and not a single point for clarity and organization.

Fordham offered a list of the good and bad qualities of Illinois Civic Standards. The state’s civics standard succeeded in clearly defining the “inquiry skills” students should learn: that was Fordham’s only compliment to civics education in Illinois.

Notably, the Illinois standards have failed to guide teachers with a list of specific civic concepts. Massachusetts and Washington, DC, provide recommended civics education topics such as Branches of Government, the Constitution, and Supreme Court Matters at each level. Illinois standards, on the other hand, offer a series of non-specific goals for elementary school students. The Illinois guidelines for high school students offer similar vague goals and make no mention of the recent civics course required at all high schools in Illinois.

The singular and laudable quality of Illinois standards, according to Fordham, was the state’s emphasis on history-related research.

Illinois standards did not provide teachers with a detailed roadmap of American history. Many other states provide teachers with a list of monumental figures, events, and laws. In Illinois, the standards make no mention of specific parts of United States history, such as the War for Independence, the Civil War, or the Great Depression.

The Fordham Institute has advised Illinois to make the following changes to its standards: teach more civics education in elementary school, add details suggesting topics teachers should cover, and test more rigorously in high school.

For Illinois and the country, the stakes are higher than they appear. As Rebeca Winthrop, principal researcher at the Brookings Institute, explained, improving civic education will be necessary if students hope to tackle political disinformation found on the Internet. An informed electorate is also essential in terms of the accountability of elected officials and government agencies, two notoriously corrupt groups.


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