Arlington, Va. — A 2006-2007 Yale University survey of Connecticut high school students using the Bill of Rights Institute´s curriculum, The Bill of Rights for Real Life (or Real Life), found students made significant gains in their knowledge of the Constitution. The use of Real Life in the classroom also had a noteworthy impact on the information the students brought to bear when evaluating a hypothetical dilemma, and closed the gap between the highest achieving schools and the lowest.
The Bill of Rights for Real Life was designed for non-college bound youth to increase their knowledge of the American Founding and its principles, develop critical thinking skills, empower students to voice their opinions on current events, and increase civic engagement. The evaluation measured whether these goals were met by looking at the immediate effects of using Real Life in the classroom. The study was led by Donald Green, Ph.D., Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and funded through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
This groundbreaking study was unique in its random assignment of students and teachers to treatment or control groups, thus eliminating any biases due to student or teacher self-selection. Ten Connecticut high schools and over 1,000 students participated in the evaluation. The schools ranged from traditional high schools to vocational-technical schools. The control group of teachers used their regular lessons, while the treatment group taught all 21 lessons in Real Life. At the beginning and end of each semester, Yale University surveyed all students on their knowledge of the Constitution and government.
According to the preliminary results:
"?our findings suggest that [Real Life] does successfully convey important factual information about the Constitution, government, and history?Students who were taught the [Real Life] lessons were better equipped to evaluate a hypothetical situation in which individual´s rights were at odds with public safety. The?students as a group displayed a more sophisticated and better informed approach to the scenario than their control counterparts."
The gap between the lowest and highest achieving schools narrowed by 20%, according to Dr. Green. Students who received the Real Life lessons also answered more questions about the Constitution correctly.
"I believe that the large number of cases included in the curriculum and the resulting discussions helped students analyze issues from perspectives they may not otherwise [would] have thought about," said a Connecticut high school teacher who used The Bill of Rights for Real Life in her classroom. Another teacher noticed "[students] asked a lot of ´What if´ type questions, which demonstrates critical thinking."
The results of the study will be included in the paper presented by Dr. Green at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois on September 1, 2007.
For more information on the study result, contact Claire Griffin, Vice-President of Educational Programs, at 1-800-838-7870, ext. 14. Please visit our web site, www.BillofRightsInstitute.org, for more information on the Bill of Rights Institute and its curriculum, professional development programs for teachers, and student programs.