Evaluation Report: Strengthening Democracy through History and Civics: Presidential and Congressional Academies 2019 and 2021
By Diana Owen
The Center for Civic Education developed the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics to provide an immersive educational experience in civics, American government, and political history for secondary school teachers and students. The Center implemented the programs in person in 2019 and virtually in 2021. The programs were open to history and civics teachers and their students from across the United States, with preference given to teacher and students who met high-need criteria. Participants from Title I schools were well represented in the Academies. The Academies’ curriculum was modeled after We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, a curriculum intervention distinctive for its emphasis on constitutional principles, the Bill of Rights, and Supreme Court cases, and their relevance to current issues and debates. Students take part in a range of learning activities, such as researching issues, group projects, debates, and student speeches culminating in simulated congressional hearings. The Civic Education Research Lab (CERL) at Georgetown University conducted research on the Presidential and Congressional Academies in both 2019 and 2021. Pre- and post-program surveys were administered to the teacher and student participants prior to the start of the Academies and at their conclusion. Qualitative data were collected on teachers and students through semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions on the post-program surveys. The research demonstrated that the Presidential and Congressional Academies were successful in achieving their objectives. Teachers’ gains in content knowledge were substantial and statistically significant. They acquired enhanced and novel pedagogic practices, including the ability to implement simulated congressional hearings in their classrooms. They gave high iii marks to the Presidential Academy and evaluated each of the core program elements very favorably.