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Letter to the Hon. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the US Department of Education - Lewis, McCarthy Champion Civic Education for Students


Location: Washington, DC

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We write in strong support of two grant applications submitted by the Center for Civic Education (the Center) for U.S. Department of Education Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program funding. These grants, which total $25.9 million over three years, would provide teacher professional development in the fields of elementary, middle, and high school civics and government across the country.

There is universal agreement that improving student outcomes in civics or any subject takes dedication, commitment, and perseverance. Educating America's youth --the next generation of leaders of our country --on the principles enshrined in our Nation's founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is critical.

In 2015, the U.S Department of Education awarded the Center a multi-year SEED Program grant to fund a nationwide teacher professional development program in the fields of civics and government to increase student achievement in these subjects. It is our understanding that prior SEED Program grant funding allowed the Center to provide professional development to over 2,000 teachers. Teacher expertise, as research has consistently shown, is one of the most important factors in raising student achievement. Unfortunately, the Center's 2015 SEED Program grant funding is essentially exhausted.

For these reasons, the Center is applying for new SEED Program grants for its Strengthening Democracy in America (SDA): A Professional Development for Secondary School Teachers proposal, as well as its James Madison Constitutional Democracy Project (JMCDP) proposal. If funded, these two programs would build on the success of the Center's previous work that was funded through the 2015 SEED Program grant, allowing for continued evidence-based teacher professional development in civics and government to continue improving student outcomes in these subjects.

Specifically, the SDA proposal is designed to supplement the Center's evidence-based We the People professional development program with additional curricular materials for students and an online professional development program for middle school and high school teachers to promote responsible deliberation and principled responses to current issues in our Nation's representative democracy. The JMCDP proposal would continue to build the newly developed online professional development program, which was created under the Center's current SEED-2 funded James Madison Legacy Project, to provide 4th through 8th grade teachers with professional development in civics.

The Center estimates the SDA program will reach 1,500 middle school and high school teachers and increase the achievement of at least 117,900 students nationwide. The JMCDP program would likely reach more than 1,500 elementary school and middle school teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, benefitting over 90,000 students, according to the Center. Furthermore, the Center believes these updated proposals reflect an approach validated by numerous research studies and evaluations throughout the years, including a Georgetown University study that found the programs had significant positive outcomes, including greater improvement in middle and high school students' civic knowledge test scores.

We believe the Center's SEED Program applications for the SDA proposal and the JMCDP proposal are consistent with the intent and priorities for nationwide programs laid out in the Federal Register for this grant program.The applications also reflect congressional priorities as outlined in the Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (Public Law 113-235), which call for the SEED Program to support nationwide programs pertaining to civics education.

If awarded the SEED grants, the Center's proposed SDA and JMCDP programs would provide critical support for the training of a new corps of highly effective elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers of civics and government. It is of the utmost importance to give students the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need to become competent and responsible citizens guided by a reasoned commitment to the fundamental values and principles of American democracy. Accordingly, we strongly support both of the Center's SEED grant applications and respectfully ask for your full and fair consideration of these proposals.

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