PennCORD refuels civic mission of schools

Published February 2008 Voice

It will come as no surprise to many educators that the focus on civic education has waned as schools turned their attention to improving scores on high-stakes standardized tests. The trend of weakened civic engagement was documented in 2003 by The Civic Mission of Schools report.

To reinvigorate and promote civic education, PennCORD, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Representative Democracy, was formed in 2004 with support from the Annenberg Foundation. PennCORD is a coalition led by the Governor's Office of the First Lady, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell; the National Constitution Center; the Pennsylvania Bar Association; and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The goal of PennCORD is threefold: to build a solid foundation of civic knowledge for every Pennsylvania student; to engage students in public action; and to teach them the skills of democratic deliberation, thereby enabling them to become active citizens in their communities, society, and government. Educators, attorneys, legislators, judges, students, and educational organizations are working together in this effort to improve civic learning.

Initially, 11 schools were selected as PennCORD pilot schools because they offered civic initiatives that could serve as models to districts across the state. Today, PennCORD has helped nearly 50 schools initiate exemplary civic education programs and is always seeking to partner with schools that would like to integrate opportunities for civic learning across the curriculum.

Being a PennCORD school offers the following benefits to teachers and students:

  • Class sets of a student advocacy tool kit called “26,” which provides students with a framework to discuss their rights and responsibilities as citizens and tools for becoming engaged in their community and school.
  • Opportunities for student leaders across the state to collaborate in promoting more effective student government.
  • Invitations to PennCORD conferences and special seminars sponsored by PennCORD education partners.
  • Connections to free or low-cost civic education materials through PennCORD’s Keystone Programs.
  • Stipends of up to $3,000 to support and expand work that forwards the mission to refuel civic education.

Educators and students who wish to join this initiative should contact Joanna Richman, at or 215-409-6684.


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