December 6th, 2019

Getting Serious About the Civic Learning Gap

Young people with disabilities must be active participants in today’s democratic society. Compared to other groups, individuals with disabilities have realized some of the most dramatic gains across education, employment, and civic leadership during the last 50 years. To maintain and grow this progress, our education system must do more to address often overlooked civic knowledge, participation, and engagement gaps between young people with and without disabilities. More work remains.

  • Despite making more progress than nearly every other student group, young people with disabilities still had the lowest 2014 NAEP civic outcomes of any subgroup, and the gap between students with and without disabilities was larger than that of any other group.
  • Students with disabilities are less likely than their peers without disabilities to demonstrate self-advocacy skills and self-determination — the capacity to make active decisions about their learning and lives.
  • Compared to their non-disabled peers, individuals with disabilities have lower voter registration and voter turnout rates. If these individuals voted at the same rate as other members of the community with the same demographic characteristics, an additional 2.2 million voters would have voted in 2016.

To turn around these trends, young people with disabilities must have the same or even greater access to the six commonly agreed upon evidence-based practices in civics education:

Practice #1: Provide direct instruction in government, history, and civics. Click here to learn more.

Practice #2: Incorporate relevant discussion of local, state, national, and international issues into the classroom. Click here to learn more.

Practice #3: Implement service-learning opportunities that are embedded into local curriculum and students’ instructional experiences. Click here to learn more.

Practice #4: Provide students with extracurricular learning opportunities that deepen their engagement in the school and general communities. Click here to learn more.

Practice #5: Encourage student participation in school governance. Click here to learn more.

Practice #6: Engage students in simulations of democratic processes and opportunities. Click here to learn more.

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