March 2023
Propelling Information Literacy Through Public Policy
Contemporaneous debates over ChatGPT are only the latest volleys in our collective struggle to teach information literacy to a generation weaned on iPads. Information literacy is an essential civic skill, and it is imperative that federal and state policies prioritize its inclusion across the K–12 curriculum.
Information literacy involves building skills to effectively find, evaluate, and use information in its broadest sense, incorporating elements of more traditional academic literacies, digital literacy, and media literacy.
Too often, we conflate digital natives’ comfort with devices with their ability to sort good information from bad. Moreover, educators need pedagogical tools and trusted curricula to fill gaps in helping students a generation or two younger to develop 21st-century information literacy skills.
Sam Wineberg et al. of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) published "Educating for Misunderstanding" in 2020, studying the information literacy skills of a sample of college sophomores, juniors, and seniors at a large East Coast state university. The authors concluded, “Students don’t merely lack the skills they need to thrive in a digital environment. It’s worse. They’ve been taught ineffective ones.”
Ineffective methods include equating .org in web addresses with trusted nonprofits, using a website’s “about page” or look and feel to assess an organization’s credibility, and using links on a website as a measure of validity.
Among the pedagogical principles underlying the Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy released in 2021 is “inquiry as the primary mode of learning.” This includes building student engagement with information literacy. For example, SHEG suggests teaching students “lateral reading,” assessing the credibility of a source by learning what other arbiters say.
SHEG worked with teachers in the Indian Prairie School District in Naperville (IL) to integrate information literacy horizontally across the 9th grade curriculum, from geography to biology. They also collaborated with Lincoln (NE) public schools on vertical integration in K–12 social studies.
Over the past decade, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) scaled civic learning throughout the K–12 curriculum with increased emphasis on integrating information literacy. Benjamin Bowyer and Joseph Kahne (2020) studied the impact of civic and digital learning opportunities on CPS high school students’ civic engagement, both offline (e.g., voting and volunteering) and online (e.g., sharing a political article on social media). Specific to information literacy, they found a positive relationship between digital learning opportunities and online civic engagement. However, they saw online engagement fall for students who were taught to be discerning digital consumers. This may represent a healthy skepticism of online content or deepened distrust of media that can be counterproductive.
We must therefore emphasize consumption and production of information online and offline, and scale information literacy instruction horizontally and vertically across schools, districts, and states through favorable state and federal policy reforms. To these ends, the CivXNow State Policy Menu embraces the information literacy recommendations of Democracy Ready NY in its 2021 “Developing Digital Citizens” report:
  Embedding information literacy curricula across subject areas;
  Maintaining up-to-date school facilities, most critically school libraries as they now serve as media resource centers;
  Ensuring librarians have ongoing access to professional development opportunities focused on information literacy; and
  Transparent monitoring and reporting of students’ access to information literacy opportunities.
CivXNow’s recent state policy scan found that 17 states include information literacy in their learning standards. Additionally, California, Utah, and Washington provide funding for information literacy teacher professional development and complementary classroom resources, and New Mexico offers an information literacy course as an elective. The CivXNow policy team is currently monitoring 21 bills in 11 states concerning information literacy, with hopes that several will get across the finish line this spring.
Finally, the $23 million appropriation secured in the Fiscal Year 2023 federal budget for National Civics Programs includes information literacy among the evidence-based practices it seeks to foster among students. We are hopeful that the Administration’s recommendation to triple federal funding for K–12 civics in FY24 will continue to seed innovation and equitable implementation of information literacy by institutions of higher education and eligible nonprofits, ultimately to the benefit of districts, schools, teachers and, most importantly, students.
Inside this newsletter:
  State Update
  Research Roundup
  All-Member Meeting Recap
  National Week of Conversation
  New Members
State Update
Before adjourning for the spring break, a number of states pushed civic education bills forward. Following is a list of a few notable measures under consideration along with the most recent updates:
  In Alaska, Senate President Gary Stevens (R–Kodiak) has introduced SB29, a bipartisan bill to start a Civic Education Commission and require a new semester-long civics course in high school and a civics assessment/test as a graduation requirement. This bill has been heard by the Education and Finance committees of the Senate. The leadership of the Alaska Council for the Social Studies and CivXNow staff testified at both hearings at the request of the bill sponsor. The Finance Committee continues to work on the fiscal note.
  In Connecticut, the CivXNow Coalition is working with Senator Frank Smith (D–118) who partnered with the Education Committee to introduce the bipartisan SB 6760 to establish a Task Force on Media Literacy and Civics. The bill has moved to the floor calendar for a vote.
  The Maryland Civic Education Coalition is leading advocacy efforts for HB 271, which would establish the Maryland Civic Excellence Program (civic seals). The bill has successfully been voted out of the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.
  In Missouri, the CivXNow Coalition has partnered with Rep. Jim Murphy (R–94) to introduce SB 492, the Media Literacy and Critical Thinking Act. The bill, which has been referred to committee, proposes a pilot media literacy project in five to seven school districts and allows each district to report back findings and recommendations to inform state standards. Rep. Paula Brown, (D–70) and Senator Curtis (R–20) introduced companion bills HB1249 and SB678. It is expected that the bills will be heard in the Education Committee after the spring break.
Civics Seals Panel Discussion with State Education Leaders
Through civic seals, state education leaders are finding ways to incentivize student learning and preparation for engaged participation in our constitutional democracy. Revisit the civics seals panel discussion hosted during Civic Learning Week and featuring:
  Beth Ratway, Principal TA Consultant, American Institutes for Research (moderator)
  John M. Ebert, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Nevada
  Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California
  Richard Woods, State School Superintendent, Georgia
Research Roundup
On March 7, the RAND Corporation released its latest report, "The Missing Infrastructure for Elementary (K–5) Social Studies Instruction." According to the report, most states do not have the infrastructure in place—such as academic standards, accountability policy, and assessments—to support high-quality social studies education. Where an infrastructure is in place, there remain large gaps in quality. Half of elementary school principals report not having published curriculum materials to support social studies, leaving teachers to cobble together materials to support their classes. Combined with decreased instructional time, this means that too many elementary school teachers spend more time planning social studies content than they do actually teaching it.
All-Member Meeting Recap
We kicked off the meeting with a warm welcome to the 13 new members who have joined the CivXNow Coalition! Then our federal policy team shared breaking news that the Administration's newly released FY24 proposed budget includes a $50 million increase for civics and U.S. history on top of the $23 million allocated for FY23. We also discussed how making constituent appropriations requests through individual members' offices is a great way to show the groundswell of support during the budgeting process.
We are still awaiting information about the RFP for the FY23 funding and will distribute that information as well as host a webinar when the application is released. In addition, we noted that while reintroduction of the Civics Secures Democracy Act is not imminent, we are continuing to work with the co-sponsors’ offices and tracking other relevant bills. The state policy update noted that 115 bills across 34 states related to civic education have been introduced this year. Our analysis shows that 63 of the bills are aligned with the CivXNow State Policy Menu.
We then celebrated the success of Civic Learning Week, including the 700+ engagements in the Opening Forum and 121 in-person and virtual events (80 of which were held by CivXNow partners). We also recognized the members of the Awareness Affinity Group who rolled up their sleeves and directly engaged, some in multiple events and actions, resulting in more than 13,000 views of events on the website and coverage from 20+ media entities of the effort.
Congratulations CivXNow members for a dynamic and influential first national Civic Learning Week! Building on the momentum, we concluded the meeting by hearing about three additional upcoming national events: National Week of Conversation (April 17–23), Civic Season (June 19–July 4), and the New Hampshire Youth Presidential Convention.
National Week of Conversation
CivXNow partner Listen First Project is hosting the National Week of Conversation April 17–23. The CivXNow K–12 Working Group encourages sharing stories and resources that help students learn to collaboratively solve problems while engaging in curiosity and empathy, and similarly modeling these values. If you’re interested in learning more about this collective effort, please contact K–12 Working Group co-chairs Ace Parsi and Becca Kearl.
New Members
The CivXNow Coalition continues to grow, now standing at more than 285 member organizations! The latest additions include:
  Core Knowledge Foundation
  Made By Us
  National Congress of American Indians
  StoryWorks Theater
The Coalition remains deeply appreciative of member efforts and of all we have accomplished together. Our goal is to aggregate and activate large networks of support to expand and re-imagine civic education as a force for civic strength. To our Coalition members, thank you for your partnership.
If you are part of an organization interested in joining the CivXNow Coalition or learning more, please contact us at
Our Mission
CivXNow is a coalition of partners from diverse viewpoints working to create a culture shift that elevates civic education and engagement as a national priority in order to protect and strengthen America’s constitutional democracy. This includes building a shared commitment to ensure that all young people are prepared to assume their rights and responsibilities to participate in civic life and address the issues facing students, their families, and communities in our increasingly dynamic, polarized, and digital society.
To achieve this goal, CivXNow advocates for bipartisan federal and state legislation that supports implementation of state and local policies that reimagine and deliver relevant, inclusive, and engaging K-12 civic learning, both in- and out-of-school.
A Team Effort
The CivXNow team produces this newsletter each month.
We are grateful for the energy, time, and guidance of the CivXNow Advisory Council and to many, many others who support individual projects.
The important work of CivXNow is generously funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Einhorn Collaborative.
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