Reference Materials - National Standards

The National Standards for Civics and Governmentwere developed by the Center for Civic Education with support from the U.S. Department of Education and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Three thousand individuals and organizations participated in the two-year project to identify what U.S. students should know and be able to do in the field of civics and government at the end of grades 4, 8, and 12.

National Standards for Civics and Government has been used as a model for state curricular frameworks and standards throughout the United States . The U.S. Department of State has distributed an international edition of the Standards to other nations through its Public Affairs Offices and other agencies around the world.

The content standards are organized around five significant questions:

  1. What are civic life, politics, and government?
  2. What are the foundations of the American political system?
  3. How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?
  4. What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs?
  5. What are the roles of the citizen in American democracy?

"The Standards are of value in helping to meet three critical needs: (1) improving academic learning, (2) teaching America's core values, and (3) teaching citizenship. We are an increasingly divided and angry people; the spirit of civic discourse is essential to our constitutional democracy."
Richard Riley, Former Secretary of Education

"These voluntary standards include—but go beyond—a sophisticated treatment of political institutions; they also spell out the responsibilities of citizenship and the traits of character that good citizens need in a pluralistic democratic society. We think these are good standards. If your state adopted them, you'd have a darned good curriculum."
William Galston, Director, National Council on Civic Renewal

"As I looked through the National Standards for Civics and Government, I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if all students in America could leave high school with a firm grasp of the material covered by these standards and a commitment to responsible, informed and active participation in our democracy."
The Honorable Jeff Bingaman, U.S. Senate



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