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Assessment of Civic Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions
Civic Competency Categories
What you find about each item/instrument in the database
Item/Instrument Sources
Frequently Asked Questions
Using this Database
School Citizenship Climate Assessment
Background on the School Citizenship Climate Assessment

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Resources to assess student civic competencies and school climate

Creating effective citizenship education accountability systems continues to be a priority that a wide range of experts and state coalitions nationwide now agree must be addressed by policymakers. And yet, as of April 2005, only 19 states' assessment systems include knowledge of government or civics, and only 11 states include performance on civics/government or social studies assessments as part of their school or district accountability systems. According to the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, identifying and/or developing high-quality civic assessments of all kinds would enhance accountability for civic teaching and learning, and motivate states to refine and strengthen their civic standards.

In August 2004, the ECS National Center for Learning and Citizenship started collecting, judging and coding existing assessment instruments. An advisory board specific to this work was convened in January 2005 and offered recommendations to improve the utility and content coverage of the database. More information on the sources from which items and instruments were collected for the database is available below.

The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and the Center for Civic Education have contributed resources to support the creation of this draft database. Further resources are being sought to develop new items and further expand and validate the database.

We welcome your comments to improve this database. Please contact Paul Baumann at the ECS National Center for Learning and Citizenship at 303.299.3608 or with any questions or suggestions.

What does the database include?
The database contains questions categorized by national civics standards that have been juried by civic learning experts for their clarity and meaningfulness in relation to the competencies of civic knowledge, skills and dispositions. Some items were simplified (often to make them useable at lower grade levels).

Who can use this database?
This database is intended to help research and design officers, administrative supervisors, school district officials, evaluators or researchers (including graduate students) and state and district leaders assess how their schools or districts are performing in terms of civic knowledge and skills, the dispositions that students are developing, and the students' views of their schools and classrooms. Teachers also could use these instruments to assess individual classrooms on civic knowledge, skills or dispositions. The database was designed for use in the United States, but some items may be appropriate for international use as well.

These items can be used in program evaluation, as indicators in strategic plans, to spur improvement or to address policymakers' requests for accountability. It is also the intent to stimulate further consideration of skills and dispositions in instructional programs. These topics are covered in depth in a paper by Judith Torney-Purta and Susan Vermeer, Developing Citizenship Competencies from Kindergarten through Grade 12: A Background Paper for Policymakers and Educators.

How to navigate the database
A good way to begin is to search the Civic Knowledge category and look for instruments that match the competencies, grade level and content areas for the students to be assessed. Because this consists of materials from released items that mostly assess civic knowledge, that part of the database has the largest number of items. In addition, most items are designed for grades 6 and above, and are primarily multiple choice, short answer and survey questions. The fewest items are in the Dispositions category. For more suggestions about assessing dispositions see the links to other websites provided.

The school climate assessment presents a combination of instruments that are especially relevant to characteristics of the school or classroom that are thought to be related to the acquisition of civic competencies. The current version is primarily for adults in the school and community; a version for students is planned.


This database was authored by Judith Torney-Purta (senior advisor to the ECS National Center for Learning and Citizenship and professor of human development, University of Maryland) and Susan Vermeer Lopez (ECS National Center for Learning and Citizenship project manager). Contributors include:

  • The Civics Assessment Advisory Committee, which provided invaluable guidance, advice and feedback on both creating and improving the database and assessment resources
  • Patricia Avery and Margaret Branson, who were responsible for item evaluation and development with Judith Torney-Purta and Susan Vermeer Lopez
  • Ann Rautio, who managed the administrative efforts
  • James Frey and Kindle Morell, who created the database and Web page
  • Terry Pickeral, executive director, ECS National Center for Learning and Citizenship; and Carolyn Barber and Gary Homana, doctoral fellows, University of Maryland, who developed the material on school and classroom climate.

Creation of this database was supported by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools. The Campaign is a project of the Council for Excellence in Government in partnership with the Academy for Education Development, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Support was also provided by the Center for Civic Education.

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