Chicago Public Schools

Department of Social Science & Civic Engagement
501 W 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616

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Civics Course

Our office supports the implementation of a dynamic, interactive Civics course for high school students in over 30 schools throughout the district. Our unique civics course offers an opportunity for students to learn about and develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes that they will need to be active members of our democracy. We provide ongoing support to teachers doing this important work by providing quality curriculum, classroom resources, and student field trips. Our work is strengthened through a strong relationship with nationally recognized civic education and university partners.

Civics Law

In August 2015 HB 4025, a bill that would expand the state graduation requirements to include a semester-long stand-alone civics course, was signed into law. The law states that civics courses must “help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives”.

The new law impacts freshmen entering high school in the 2016-17 school year. These students are required to pass a dedicated civics course in order to graduate. Many schools are opting to begin offering the course now for all grades. Currently, there are 52 CPS schools and 87 teachers that are offering the CPS Participate Civics Course and participating in our PD and Civics cohort. For more information on the course, curriculum, and professional development contact Heather Van Benthuysen hvanbenthuysen@cps.edu

Participate Civics Course Curriculum

Participate is a curriculum developed by CPS to meet the newly required state civics graduation requirement. Through this capstone course, students will develop the critical knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be active and engaged participants in our democracy.

Participate is not based on a textbook; instead, it features a flexible curriculum that includes a variety of engaging interactive lessons reflecting best practices in civic education:

  • Strong content for instruction in government, politics and civic participation
  • Discussion of current and controversial public issues
  • Participation in simulations (or actual) democratic processes and procedures
  • Opportunities to interact authentically with policymakers and other community
  • resources
  • Authentic literacy tasks that are aligned to CCSS, ISBE Social Science Standards and include SAT-style assessment prompts

Two Essential Questions provide the underpinnings of the course and curriculum:

  • Who has power in our democracy, why do they have it, and how do they use it?
  • What power do I have in our democracy? How will I use that power?

Professional Development Cohort

Participation in our program includes our expansive network, a variety of professional development opportunities, tools and resources, student events, and ongoing instructional support from civics instructional specialists.

    Currently, we offer our schools and teachers:
  • Three Professional development sessions and one week-long summer Civic Education Institute
  • Regular reflection and assessment dinner meetings
  • Regular updates and resources on powerful civic practices including a bi-monthly
  • newsletter, Google Civics Classroom, and connections to partners
  • Two Professional Learning Communities: Race and Equity in the Classroom, Civic Learning in CPS
  • Participation in CivicEd Camps
  • Regular and ongoing support, including site visits from our Civic Education Manager
  • Student Events, leadership opportunities, and engagement in large-scale simulations
  • Promotion of student learning outcomes and projects via CPS communications and our social media tools
  • Coaching and support for schools interested in doing civic learning integration in other content areas, interdisciplinary service learning projects, and more

For more details, download the front-matter of the Participate curriculum or contact Heather Van Benthuysen hvanbenthuysen@cps.edu

This curriculum was developed thanks to the generous support of our partners at the MacArthur Foundation, McCormick Foundation, and Spencer Foundation. In addition, the McCormick Foundation has continued to support all professional development and student programming connected to the course.


External Partnerships

University of Chicago/Black Youth Project
Constitutional Rights Foundation
Facing History and Ourselves
Mikva Challenge
Chicago Votes

Page Last Modified on Monday, April 10, 2017