Allison Pao

Allison Pao

2020 Undergraduate Fellow
Social Studies

Thesis title and description:
"Civics Education Reform in Massachusetts: From Theory to Practice"

Civics education equips students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be informed and engaged citizens. In the last few years, interest in civics education from state governments has surged, with 31 states proposing 115 bills or resolutions in the 2018 legislative session alone (Erwin 2018). The content of these bills and resolutions varies widely, but several popular ideas include requiring students to take the naturalization citizenship test, allocating funding for civics education initiatives, making civics courses compulsory in order to graduate, and providing professional development to teachers. My thesis will focus specifically on the state of Massachusetts as a case study of civics education reform. Two major civics education reforms were recently enacted in Massachusetts. First, in 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) approved a new History and Social Science (HSS) Curriculum Framework, which includes a more substantial focus on civics compared to the previous revision of the framework published in 2003. Later that year, and unrelated to the HSS framework revision, Governor Baker signed The Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement (the “Civics Education Bill”) which strengthened state standards for civics and established new initiatives including a high school voter registration challenge, a mandatory 8th grade civics project, and a civics project trust fund. The research question of my thesis is: How are these two MA civics education reforms impacting the delivery of civics lessons and subsequently the learning outcomes of eighth grade students in districts, schools, and classrooms across Massachusetts in the 2020-2021 school year in terms of both curricular content and teaching practices, if at all?