Our Theory of Change

Our Vision Our Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change

In partnership with Dr. Peter Levine of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, CivXNow embarked on a nearly year-long research project involving over 7,000 respondents to map issues related to civic education in the United States and identify a path to strengthen K-12 civic education.

The study found 75 factors contributing to the poor state of K-12 civic education, and through 12,600 survey answers mapped those factors into 14 categories – and identified three key catalysts for strengthening civic education. Systems mapping (or the 5 Whys) is an established methodology in the sciences to diagnose complex problems that is less subject to respondent bias than a survey. System mapping helps identify factors with high leverage to effect systems change. The path for ensuring youth are more prepared and engaged in civic life can be understood through the factors of the CivXNow K-12 Civic Education System Map.

The research shows three factors are directly connected to youth civic knowledge and engagement:

MINDSET & VALUES: We must increase the public’s commitment to civic engagement and schools’ civic missions.

RELEVANCY & ENGAGEMENT: We must make civics relevant, which is effective both at making youth knowledgeable and helping change mindsets about the importance of civic engagement.

FEDERAL & STATE POLICY AND ACCOUNTABILITY MEASURES: We must add civics to education mandates and include civics in student and school accountability measures. These are key direct catalysts to prioritizing civics in schools.

The research names two expected outcomes if these strategies are implemented to improve civic education:

KNOWLEDGE: A classic objective of K-12 civics is for young people to obtain knowledge (broadly defined), including rights and responsibilities. The map suggests that many factors would help improve youth civic knowledge. In turn, more knowledgeable youth would allow civics to address complex current topics better.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: The purposes of civic education include encouraging civic engagement by young people: voting, and responsible participation in civil society. The map suggests that youth would be more civically engaged if schools made civics more of a priority and if they were more effective institutions. Funding would also help. The map further suggests that more youth engagement would lead to more knowledge.

The research identifies three factors are directly connected to youth civic knowledge and engagement:

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Professional development for teachers will drive whether civics is taught well, and ultimately, whether youth are knowledgeable.

CURRENT AND CONTENTIOUS ISSUES: Civics must teach students to do what Americans are arguably worst at doing right now: holding productive discussions of current issues on which people disagree.

FUNDING: Respondents drew more connections involving funding than any other factor.

The CivXNow K-12 Civic Education System Map is interactive and free to use. To learn more visit: https://kumu.io/CivicNow/cluster-map-14-nodes