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 Highlights of U.S. Results From the International IEA Civic Education Study (CivEd)

The civic achievement of U.S. students in international perspective

The school and classroom context of civic knowledge

The demographic, socioeconomic, and out-of-school context of civic knowledge

Concepts of democracy, citizenship, and government

Attitudes of U.S. students toward national and international civic issues

Current and expected activities related to politics

List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
line Highlights of U.S. Results From the International IEA Civic Education Study (CivEd)

In 1999, the United States participated with 27 other countries in the IEA Civic Education Study (CivEd), an international assessment designed to tap the civic knowledge and skills of 14-year-olds and their attitudes toward democracy and citizenship. The assessment followed a series of case studies conducted in several countries; both were conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES),the sponsor for the study in the United States, presents the results from the national analyses in the report What Democracy Means to Ninth-Graders: U.S. Results From the International IEA Civic Education Study (Baldi et al., 2001). The report is intended to inform education practitioners, policymakers, parents, and concerned citizens of the status of civic education in the United States today. This brochure is based on the results from this report.

In the United States, the assessment was administered to 2,811 students across 124 public and private schools nationwide at the beginning of ninth grade, the grade in which most 14-year-olds were enrolled at the time of the assessment (October 1999). The assessment was not designed to measure knowledge of a particular country's government but instead was developed through expert consensus to measure knowledge and understanding of key civic principles that are universal across democracies. Figure 1 provides the list of countries participating in the CivEd assessment.

CivEd consisted of three instruments: a student questionnaire, a school questionnaire, and a teacher questionnaire. Five types of items were developed for the student questionnaire:

  • Civic content items (Type 1) assessed knowledge of key civic principles and pivotal ideas (e.g., key features of democracies) measured by multiple-choice items.
  • Civic skills items (Type 2) assessed skills in using civic-related knowledge through multiple-choice items (e.g., understanding a brief political article or a political cartoon).
  • Survey items measured students' concepts of democracy, citizenship, and government (Type 3); attitudes toward civic issues (Type 4); and expected political participation (Type 5).
Additional survey questions assessed students' perceptions of the climate of the classroom and other background variables.

The school questionnaire, completed by the principal, contained questions designed to gather information on the school's general environment, such as size, length of school year, and characteristics of the student body. The school questionnaire also asked questions designed to provide a picture of the way civic education is delivered through the curriculum and school-sponsored activities, as well as the number of staff involved in teaching civic-related subjects. Additionally, a teacher questionnaire was administered. However, because the organization of civic education and the role of civic education teachers in U.S. schools differ from those of many other countries in the study, results from the teacher questionnaire were not analyzed in the U.S. report.

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