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Mass. Adopts Policy on Civic Learning for Public Higher Education

By Caitlin Reilly, Program Associate, American Democracy Project

Last Thursday, May 8, 2014, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) became the first in the nation to adopt a policy on civic learning for public college and university students.   With the new policy, public two- and four- year higher education institutions in Massachusetts will be required to incorporate civic learning as an “expected outcome” for undergraduate students.

In a news release announcing the decision, Commissioner of Higher Education Richard M. Freeman described the vote as a call to campuses “to reaffirm a shared commitment to the civic learning, which is essential if students are to meet their future responsibilities as citizens.”

The Board met at Massasoit Community College (Mass.) to deliberate on the issue.  They arrived at a consensus of the scope of civic engagement, which includes components covering knowledge of the history of civic engagement in the U.S.; intellectual and practical skills that would facilitate civic engagement; and an understanding of the social and political values associated with democratic and civic engagement.

The policy will go into effect for undergraduates beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. Fitchburg State University (Mass.), an ADP campus, plans to partner with TDC member campus Mount Wachusett Community College, to use the AAC&U LEAP VALUE rubrics to develop a new means of evaluating and assessing students’ civic learning.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the policy at the 2014 ADP/TDC National Meeting in Louisville, Ky. June 5-7, 2014.  At the meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Education’s assistant commissioner for academic, P-16 and veterans policy, Shelley Tinkham will give a talk on the policy, the process of creating it and how it will be implemented moving forward.  You can register for the meeting here.

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