Eighth-graders have made no academic progress in U.S. history, geography or civics programs over the last five years, according to the latest test results from “The Nation’s Report Card,” released this past August by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Fewer than one-third of students scored proficient or better on any of the NAEP tests and only 3 percent or fewer scored at the advanced level in any of the three subjects. Specifically, in U.S. history, just over half the students scored in the “basic” range, 18 percent scored at or above “proficient,” and only 1 percent scored “advanced.”
In civics, about half scored “basic,” a quarter scored at or above “proficient,” and 2 percent scored “advanced.”
To improve performance, educators can tap into a range of programs and classroom materials designed to engage students in learning about U.S. civics and to keep them up to date on current events.
The Bill of Rights Institute
A subscription to The Bill of Rights Institute’s free, bimonthly eLesson newsletter helps teachers connect America’s founding principles to students’ lives. Each eLesson includes historical content, connections to real life, classroom activities, downloadable PDFs, answer keys, discussion questions and suggestions for further reading. Topics include voting, current events, presidents and the constitution.
Online Teachers’ Library
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council for the Social Studies has grown to be the largest association in the country devoted solely to social studies education. Its Online Teachers’ Library includes a collection of classroom activities, teaching ideas and articles covering a wide range of topics. Users can browse the collection, or search by historical period and/or grade level.
DOGO Media Inc.
This website posts thousands of articles about current events and worldwide news that are written forÁ‘and in some cases, byÁ‘children. Updated daily, DOGOnews is often used in language arts, science and social studies lesson plans. The articles are short, simple and include photos and videos to keep students engaged.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
The HERO multimedia library and e-learning environment offers extensive American history education resources. Geared for grades 4-8, HERO includes 25 thematic units of study with high-quality HD video and multimedia assets. A yearly subscription provides an entire school with unlimited access and searchable standards correlations.
A free service for social studies teachers, C-SPAN Classroom memberships give educators access to their own libraries to store videos clips, lesson plans, handouts and other supplementary materials. Content covers various civics topics such as campaigns and elections, federalism, political parties and separation of power.
This new online educational resource provides teachers and students with free access to curated, standards-aligned content from the Newseum’s collection of more than 35,000 newspapers, magazines and other resources. NewseumED also includes documents, worksheets and lesson plans that are searchable by type, topic and time period. The site launched with two EDCollections, which offer in-depth exploration of key topics built around multimedia artifacts in the museum. They focus on how civil rights advocates and suffragists embraced the First Amendment to make their voices heard and enact change.
Constitution Day Lesson Plans
Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge
Focused on the nation’s annual Constitution Day (Sept. 17), these two lesson plans examine the First Amendment to the Bill of RightsÁ‘specifically the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly and petition. Each lesson includes multiple activities and videos that examine how such rights have been understood historically and how they have developed over time. The program also challenges students to think about what rights mean today.
Close Up in the Class: Current Issues
Close Up Foundation
This library of regularly updated online and print resources helps students explore national and international policy debates. Policy units, reading guides and monthly current events discussions get students to draw connections between historical tensions and current controversial issues. Teacher Resources include in- and out-of-class activities that allow students to evaluate, synthesize and debate policies from multiple perspectives.
This weekly online discussion program for grades 3Á¢“12 focuses on national and international current events. Every issue contains two components: a discussion guide and images that go along with each story. Teachers can use the program to encourage students to talk and think about important issues.