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Alaska’s content standards for Government and Citizenship were last updated in 2016. These standards include 7 overarching content standards (A-G) that are each broken down into specific learning outcomes. The content standards and learning outcomes for Alaska’s government and citizenship strand are clearly articulated, but no guidelines for implementation are included. The lack of differentiation for different grades or grade-clusters is particularly problematic. There is no indication as to how educators can meet these seven broad standards in each grade at an developmentally accessible level. Furthermore, there is no elaboration on any means of engaging students in the content nor assessing students on the development of civic agency or the achievement of the expressed learning objectives. Overall, these content standards predominantly focus on the study of government, embodying a bureaucratic approach to learning civics. There is no evidence of a notable value for civic education in Alaska’s content standards as the majority of the content is vague and optional.
One of the history performance standards, “Individual Citizenship, Governance and Power,” includes a sample benchmark strand that expects students to “describe” how “Alaskans, particularly the Native people, challenge the status quo to gain recognition of their civil rights.” This strand also asks students to “identify” the “role of Alaska Native individuals and groups in actively proposing and promoting federal legislation and policies.” While the examination of how Indigenous citizens “challenge the status quo” represents a relevant and progressive approach to civics education, it is essentially lost within over-broad content standards and vague learning outcomes that aren’t required to be taught. Furthermore, the learning imperatives never transcend the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy to require students to produce any original work.
The content standard that best represents a participatory approach to civics education is standard E, which expresses the learning objective to “have the knowledge and skills necessary to participate effectively as an informed and responsible citizen. However, these skills and knowledge are left undefined and no resources are given to help educators construct culturally responsive lessons that engage students in practicing active civic participation on a relatable level. The closest imperative for active participation is the learning outcome that requires students to “exercise political participation by discussing public issues, building consensus, becoming involved in political parties and political campaigns, and voting.” Again, the lack of comprehensive information and grade-specific guidelines for this “exercise of political participation” renders these standards near useless. The standards seem virtually inaccessible for actual educators looking to incorporate civics education into their grade-level curriculum.
While graduating from high school requires three units in social studies, there are no course-specific or graduation requirements related to civic education. Without civics education requisites, the content standards seem to be suggested guidelines for a civics education that is not required or guaranteed to be taught at any point in Alaskan students’ education. Overall, the standards could potentially serve as an outline for developing a much more robust and detailed civics education curriculum. As they currently exist, there is no guidance for how instructors can move towards any of the relevant civic learning outcomes, many of which are presented so sparsely that their definitions themselves are also left to educators’ discretion.