Equity & Access

The Leveraging Equity and Access in Democratic Education (LEADE) initiative provides educational decision makers with research-based tools for assessing equity and access in civic education in order to improve civic learning opportunities in and out of schools for all students.

Unfortunately, civic learning opportunities are inequitably distributed. On average, white students, middle class students, and students in higher-track classes experience more classroom-based,3 after-school, and informal4 civic learning opportunities, and are much more likely to be engaged in extracurricular groups that support civic development.5

To read more about research on equity and access to civic learning, click here.

Kahne and Middaugh surveyed more than 2,300 high school students in California and found that African American and Latino students were less likely than white students to report receiving civic learning opportunities such as current event discussions, civic simulations, and an open classroom climate.6 Similarly, when Rogers and Terriquez conducted a statewide survey in 2014, they found that California high school students attending elite private schools and public school students from middle-class families were more likely than their peers to participate in clubs or groups that try to make a difference in their school, community, or broader society.7

In addition, on average, low income, African-American, Hispanic, and rural students lag behind their peers on tests of civic knowledge, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Civic Assessment, and have less optimistic views of their civic potential than their more privileged counterparts.8

While national and statewide data highlight significant shortcomings with respect to equity and access in civic learning, we lack adequate mechanisms for attending to these priorities in districts, schools, and communities. In response, the LEADE initiative is creating an indicator system of civic learning opportunities and outcomes. Such a system will establish a set of evidence-based tools for assessing equity and access in civic education so that educators and members of civic organizations can work together to improve civic learning opportunities for all students. By providing evidence for informed deliberation, LEADE not only measures civic education, it also encourages a more inclusive and participatory public engaged in public education.


3 J. Kahne & E. Middaugh, Democracy for Some: The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School, p. 5; CIRCLE Paper 59
4 Putnam, R., Frederick, C., & Snellman, K. (2012). “Growing Class Gaps in Social Connectedness among American Youth.” Saguaro Seminar, Harvard University. Accessed at http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/SaguaroReport_DivergingSocialConnectedness_20120808.pdf
5 Monitoring the Future data analyzed in K. Kawashima-Ginsberg, K., “Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville – Portraits of American Teenagers’ Extracurricular Participation and Implications for Educational Interventions,” CIRCLE working paper #79, 2014. Retrieved from www.civicyouth.org.
6 Kahne and Middaugh. “Democracy for Some: The Civic Opportunity Gap in High School.”
7 Rogers, John, and Terriquez, Veronica. “After-school Civic Learning Opportunities for California Youth.” UCLA IDEA, Los Angeles. 2017.
8 The Guardian of Democracy: the Civic Mission of Schools; Jonathan Gould, et. al; p. 5; The Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.