- U.S. elementary school teachers were more likely than secondary school teachers to say civic and citizenship education was integrated into all subjects taught at school, according to a survey by the RAND Corp.
- The same survey found two-thirds of all respondents said "promoting students' critical and independent thinking" to be the most important aim of civic and citizenship education, followed by "developing students' skills and competencies in conflict resolution." These findings are similar to results from the 2016 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, which surveyed teachers and students across the globe.
- Civic and citizenship lessons in K-12 help prepare students to become engaged adults in their neighborhoods, communities, states and country, say supporters. A lack of clear definitions, standards, professional development or assessment tools, however, can create barriers to expanding and improving civic education.
In the RAND survey, about half of the 1,003 U.S. teachers surveyed said civic and citizenship education is provided by subject-specific social science teachers. At the secondary school level, teachers were more likely to say civics and citizenship was taught by subject-specific civics teachers or in history, geography, and economics classes. This was expected because high school social studies is typically taught as a separate class or course, the RAND report said.
Findings did not differ much by student demographic characteristics or type of schools, but a higher percentage of White teachers than Black teachers said civic and citizenship education resulted from the whole school experience.
In addition to promoting students' critical thinking and conflict resolution skills, survey respondents said civic education also promotes citizens’ rights and responsibilities and students' participation in their communities. Only 5% of survey respondents said preparing students for future political engagement is a top goal of civic education.
Despite some hesitancy in different locations in the U.S. to teach about controversial current events or contentious topics, several states such as Nebraska and Wyoming have reviewed ways to strengthen civic education in recent years. In April 2021, REL Central released a resource to help state and local education systems measure or assess civic readiness in schools.
According to the American Bar Association, civic education, when taught early and comprehensively for every student, is one key solution to the "current anemic state of engagement in our constitutional democracy."