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Civic Education Assessments in Tennessee

Civic Ed

February 2013

Authors: Tara Bergfeld and Kim Potts

Legislative Brief

Public Chapter 1036 passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2012 requires that, beginning in 2012–13, school districts assess students in civics—the study of government and citizenship—at least once in grades 4 through 8 and at least once in grades 9 through 12. The legislation is significant because it is the first time the state has required an assessment for civics. The new civics assessments will differ from other state-mandated assessments in two important respects: they will not be standardized tests and they are required to be project-based. Project-based learning involves student-driven projects that are both central to the curriculum and rooted in the “real world,” involving complex tasks based on challenging questions or problems. This brief provides an overview of the evolution of civics instruction in U.S. public schools, how civics is taught and tested in Tennessee schools, and the Tennessee Department of Education’s implementation of Public Chapter 1036 and project-based assessments for civics in Tennessee. Appendix A of the report documents measures passed between 1929 and 2012 by Tennessee legislators to affect the civic education of students.