Arlington, VA – The Bill of Rights Institute calls on American citizens to renew their support of civic education in light of discouraging results from the recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the NAEP civics assessment demonstrates a continuing decrease in civic knowledge among young adults.

The NAEP civics assessment measures the knowledge and skills critical to the responsibilities of American citizenship. The study found an increase at grade four, no significant change for grade eight, and a decrease in grade 12 of student knowledge of the principles necessary for civic engagement. Although the increase of civic knowledge in fourth grade is encouraging, the fourth grade score is well below the Proficient range, just as it is for students in eighth and twelfth grade. Worse, student knowledge is declining when it matters most: just as they are preparing to enter civil society and exercise their constitutional right to vote.

One reason for this downturn is clear: the NAEP found that fewer high school students reported being taught about the Constitution than in previous years. Only 67 percent reported studying the Constitution in 2010, down from 72 percent in 2006. This leaves nearly a third of American students with no exposure to the Constitution, and 40 percent of those students are of voting age.

The Bill of Rights Institute is dedicated to supporting civic educators, with resources designed to encourage them to teach about the Constitution, Founding documents, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. “Our curricula and educational resources are designed to help teachers effectively impart ideas about liberty and responsibility, while emphasizing primary source documents in the classroom, and maintaining a focus on the Constitution, said Tony Woodlief, Ph.D., President of the Bill of Rights Institute. “Independent studies and personal anecdotes demonstrate that our resources provide the necessary information to prepare students to play the vital role of informed citizens in our constitutional republic.”

The effectiveness of Institute instructional materials has been proven to improve student knowledge over standardized curriculum. Researchers at Yale University found in 2007 that students educated with Institute materials “displayed a more sophisticated and better informed approach … than their control counterparts.” Another independent evaluation of Kansas middle and high school students’ civic knowledge and attitudes, demonstrated that students educated by teachers who attended professional development programs offered by the Bill of Rights Institute performed better than students of teachers who had not attended one of the organization’s programs.
“The decrease in civic knowledge among our nation’s young people is concerning to me, and should be to everyone passionate about the continued growth and prosperity of our country,” said Woodlief.

This concerning trend was the catalyst for the launch of the Bill of Rights Institute’s 2012 campaign, which set the goal to reach 500,000 students with the words and ideas of America’s Founders by the end of the 2012 school year. To date, we have reached 144,000 students and are committed to reach half a million students and help reverse this crisis in civic education in our country.

The goal of the Institute is to create a citizenry that has the knowledge, values, dispositions, and skills to exercise the rights and responsibilities needed to maintain a free society, we do this through creation and distribution of classroom materials, professional development programs for teachers, and student programs grounded in the text of the Founding documents and the principles and values of the Founding Fathers. Since our inception in 1999 we have helped prepare over 16,000 teachers to impart the importance of the Founding documents and constitutional principles to 1.7 million students across the country.

A full report on the NAEP can be found at www.nationsreportcard.gov. For interviews or for more information on the Bill of Rights Institute’s resources for teachers and students, or any of the studies reference above please visit www.BillofRightsInstitute.org or contact Rachel Gillespie at rgillespie@BillofRightsInstitute.org.

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The Bill of Rights Institute’s mission is to educate young people about the words and ideas of America’s Founders, the liberties guaranteed in our Founding documents, and how our Founding principles continue to affect and shape a free society.

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