In 2016, the district revised its mission, pledging to prepare all students, in all neighborhoods, for success in college, in careers, and in civic life. We elevated this by design. In order to ensure our young people help to shape an equitable democracy, it is critical we include them meaningfully in civic and community life.
At that time, the district launched Ready to Engage, a strategic plan to expand civic learning opportunities in every high school. This work set expectations and established a solid infrastructure for civic learning in CPS. Our success is most strongly evidenced through a civics course curriculum and instruction designed for Chicago’s youth, expansion of Student Voice Committees across high schools, new measurements to ensure quality and equitable access to civic learning, and a renewed commitment to service learning through classroom projects.
Today, we are now launching the second phase of this work--a new vision designed to fully realize our commitment to prepare students for civic life across the district. The Ready for Civic Life plan:
- Recognizes our current impact and areas of growth.
- Defines what it means to prepare students for “civic life” as a district, and why it is essential to achieving equity in our schools and communities.
- Shares civic life lenses and core practices that will help all CPS stakeholders, from individual student to central office departments, contribute to our shared commitment to civic life.
- Communicates new initiatives and strategic priorities designed to expand civic life across content areas, strengthen student voice within all systems, and meet the needs we all face in a rapidly changing world.
Everyone has a role to play. To prepare students for civic life, we must participate ourselves and model what it means to be an informed and engaged civic and community participant. When we participate in civic life, we are working together to understand, envision, and act for equity for the common good.
When our students graduate, they’ll be ready, because they are already participating in civic life today.
Civic Life Lenses
These four lenses for civic life anchor the values and goals the district aims to provide in educational experiences for every student. These lenses are to be used throughout the day, across the curriculum, and for all decisions.
Identity and Community
Understanding, recognizing identity and building perspective is at the heart of liberatory thinking, and are foundational for understanding and engaging with others for the public good. This lens recognizes the multiple communities that adults and youth belong to and helps us honor these identities and communities while learning.
Youth Voice and Expertise
As CPS’s majority stakeholder group, youth should have a voice in all aspects of their schooling and in their communities. Youth perspectives are a necessary component for true inclusive partnerships and equitable decision-making. In order for classrooms and schools to promote student agency and authority, youth voices must be valued and elevated, and students should have opportunities to share power with adults.
As one of the first government institutions youth experience independent from of their families, schools should model and promote participatory systems, structures, and values. Together, all students and adults can practice civic skills and habits every day through classroom and community learning, reflection, collaboration, and decision-making.
In order to be effective participants, it is essential that we are well-informed. And critical habits and dispositions for consuming and creating information are necessary to be well-informed in today’s rapidly changing, media-dominant, and disinformation-rich world. When living in a culture of continuous and accelerated change, critical perspectives that examine power and address inequity must be practiced daily so that they become inherent. Through this, youth will be able to read the world and shape it.
Civic Life Powerful Practices
These practices shape the way we work together in every classroom, every school, and across the district because we know they will lead to increased academic outcomes, engaged youth, and valued and invested school communities.
Art Credit: Nerdy Brown Kid