Content Knowledge

Browse | Search | Lesson Plans
Purpose | History | Process | Acknowledgment | Reference


 

Civics

The following process was used to identify standards and benchmarks for civics:

Identification of Significant Reports

Four reports and a set of teacher's guides were selected for identifying standards in civics: National Standards for Civics and Government (1994) from the Center for Civic Education, Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education (Quigley & Bahmmeller, 1991), Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, n.d.) and National Standards for Business Education: What America's Students Should Know and be Able to do in Business (National Business Education Association, 1995). The teacher's guides were comprised of a series of civics units authored and published by Law in a Free Society.

Selection of the Reference Document

The Center for Civic Education's National Standards for Civics and Government (1994) was selected as the reference report. The report was developed over two years, using a process that enlisted the participation of more than a thousand teachers and other educators as well as scholars, parents, educators, and representatives of public and private organizations.

Identification of Standards and Benchmarks

For the most part, the Standards for Civics and Government document fits well with our model for the identification of standards. Essential ideas in civics are organized under some 70-plus content standards. Each content standard has associated with it a set of key concepts that students should know in order to meet the standard.

In three areas, however, the Civics and Government document is not directly compatible with our approach. First, the content standards are often stated and elaborated upon through performance descriptions, that is, tasks that describe a specific demonstration of achievement. These tasks are prefaced with the statement, "To achieve this standard, students should be able to...." What follows are activities that may require the student to identify, describe, or explain an idea, or to take, defend, or evaluate a particular position. The activities also provide important information about the content standard. Since our approach seeks to provide content knowledge that is either declarative, procedural, or contextual (see "Process"), we translated such tasks to benchmark statements of knowledge and skills specifically related to content in civics.

The second area in which the approach used in National Standards for Civics and Government differs from our model has to do with the articulation of standards across K12. While standards appear at levels K4, 68, and 912, and many similar ideas are organized beneath each level, there is no articulation across K12 by standard level. While we believe content information from the reference document should be minimally revised in the process of identifying benchmarks, we consider the standards under which they are found to be more arbitrary in composition (see Section 3). Thus, in order to accomplish the articulation of standards across grade levels, we revised and combined a number of standards and reorganized the benchmarks beneath them.

Finally, our model and the reference document differ concerning the range and number of benchmark levels. The Standards document specifies three benchmark levels: K4, 58, and 912. Our model recommends four, corresponding to primary, upper elementary, middle, and high school. In this case, then, completion of our benchmark levels depended upon an analysis of supplementary materials that could provide us with further benchmark information, especially at the primary grades (discussed below).

Integration of Information from Other Documents

Supplementary material was consulted both to assist us in confirming our interpretation of the benchmark content deduced from civics activities found in the reference work, and to provide the reader with a pointer to additional materials that are keyed to the benchmarks. The primary work for this citation was Center for Civic Education's source book, Civitas. In addition, the Civics Framework from NAEP was also cited. Those readers seeking to reduce the amount of content required for Civics instruction might consult the "citation log" associated with each benchmark in order to select those items deemed important both by the Center for Civic Education and the National Assessment for Educational Progress. Civics related content in the National Standards for Business Education was also cited. These standards address topics related to the impact of laws and government on business, the consumer, and the citizen.

Additionally, supporting material was used to provide the means for identifying knowledge and skills at the primary level. As noted above, the reference document does not isolate the knowledge and skills that might be especially suitable for the early (K2) grades. In order to remedy this, we consulted a series of teacher guides available from Law and a Free Society. These books, which focus on the concepts of authority, privacy, justice, and responsibility, allowed us to distinguish information from the standards K4 level that would be suitable for the primary grades.