Access to Civics Content and Evidence-Based Instructional Approaches in U.S. Schools

Corey Savage

Civic learning is an increasingly salient topic in research, policy, and practice. However, the recent empirical evidence on access to civic learning opportunities is limited. We build on prior research using survey items from the 2018 NAEP civics assessment and provide descriptive evidence on disparities in access to three categories of civics content and three evidence-based instructional approaches. We highlight inequalities in opportunities by student characteristics, school characteristics, and state characteristics among a national sample of more than 10,000 8th-grade students enrolled in a course with at least some civics focus (controlling for variation in the extent of civics focus). 

Our findings conflict with most of the prior evidence regarding disparities in access by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, favoring Black students, Hispanic students, and students of relatively lower socioeconomic backgrounds. This suggests a shift in recent years, potentially due to an increased focus on equity. English learners and students with disabilities also reported greater access than their counterparts. Other findings include inequalities across school types, school location (city students reporting greater opportunity than both rural and suburban students), census region, and state testing policy. Additional findings are presented, and implications and opportunities for future research are discussed.