Now Live: 2023 Civic Education State Policy Scan Results

The CivXNow state policy scan and interactive map have been updated! The scan serves as a tool for state policy makers to advocate for policy change in civic education at the state level. It also helps identify policy barriers and suggests a menu of ideas to overcome these barriers with new policies and investments.

The framework for our assessment of civic education in states consists of key elements of high-quality civic education identified by CivXNow. We believe that each of these elements should be present for high-quality civic education to be implemented at scale.

High School

Most states mandate civics during high school through a stand-alone course requirement, but others only require civics instruction to fulfill state standards. As of August 2023, 40 states, including D.C., require a standalone high school civics course—six states for a full year and 34 for a half year. Only Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont have no high school stand-alone course requirements. During the 2023 legislative session, Minnesota passed a new law that will require credit for a course in government and citizenship in either 11th or 12th grade starting in the 2024–2025 school year.

Middle School

Only nine states currently require a stand-alone middle school civics course. This summer, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a bipartisan bill entitled More Time on Civics, requiring a semester of civics in middle school starting in July 2024.

Media Literacy Standards

Thirty-five states now include information literacy in their learning standards. This is up from 17 states in 2021. California Assembly Bill 873, which is currently on the Governor’s desk for signature, will require the Instructional Quality Commission to consider incorporating the Model Library Standards into the next revision of the English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) curriculum framework after January 1, 2024, and to also consider incorporating media literacy content at each grade level. The bill would require the commission to consider incorporating media literacy content into the mathematics, science, and history-social science curriculum frameworks when those frameworks are next revised after January 1, 2024.

Assessment and Accountability

Twenty-nine states have a civics assessment, with the U.S. Naturalization exam standing as the most frequently used instrument. Several states, including Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, and Mississippi, all have state-designed exams. In Florida, it’s a high-stakes test. In Maine, the state reported that a civic action project is required in course standards. In Massachusetts, an 8th-grade civics assessment is being field-tested in 2023. Additionally, all students are offered a student-led civics project once in 8th grade and once in high school.

Civic Seals

Civics seals are on students’ graduation diplomas and recognized in 12 states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. In the coming school year, teachers from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky will pilot the new Kentucky Civic Seal. In a January 2022 report, Breaking New Ground with California’s State Seal of Civic Engagement: Lessons from Year 1, authors review the efforts of seven early adopters and provide recommendations for educators interested in rolling out the seal program in other California districts.

Service Learning

In 2023, 26 states and D.C. provide credit for completing service learning projects, up from 24 states in 2021. Some states require service learning at the district level only. In Florida, schools may provide credit, and the state encourages district requirements as a part of the Bright Futures scholarships. Students are also encouraged to volunteer.

All of the policy scan data information is on our website and has been verified by the State Department of Education. This policy scan is iterative, so we intend to update it on an annual basis. If you have new data, or corrections, please report them to our State Policy Director, Lisa Boudreau.

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