Empowering high-need students for informed, thoughtful, and productive citizenship
By Diana Owen and Donna Phillips
The James Madison Legacy Project Extension (JMLPE) is a program of the Center for Civic Education that focuses on adapting the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution (WTP) curriculum for students with disabilities, English language learners (ELLs), and students of color. The research questions addressed in the paper are: What are the priorities and needs of middle and high school civics teachers whose classes include significant numbers of ELLs, students with disabilities, and students of color? What are the barriers to successfully implementing civics curriculum interventions in their classrooms? What are the best practices for imparting civic and social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies to the three target student populations? And finally, how was the WTP curriculum adapted to meet the needs of teachers and ELLs, students with disabilities, and students of color? The Civic Education Research Lab (CERL) at Georgetown University surveyed teacher-experts working with these student populations to identify priorities, educational objectives, challenges, needs, and best practices. The Center worked with teacher-experts, consultants, and stakeholders to adapt the WTP curriculum to meet the needs of the target student groups. Teacher-experts identified providing civics content knowledge to teachers and students, making the curriculum accessible and relevant to the target populations, devising culturally appropriate and varied instructional approaches, and incorporating SEL competencies into the curriculum as priorities. These factors were considered when the WTP curriculum was adapted for use with the specified student groups. Lesson plans were devised for a pilot test of the curriculum to prepare for the next phase of the JMLPE where teachers will be provided with professional development to prepare them to teach using the adapted materials.