researchHeader
Research and Evaluation - We the People Print E-mail
The Program Effectiveness Panel of the U.S. Department of Education's National Diffusion Network examined the reports of numerous research studies on the We the People program. The panel validated the results of those studies and confirmed the program's powerful educational effects on students' civic knowledge and attitudes. This formal validation recognizes the We the People program's "contributions to excellence in education."

What the Research Says


  • A "great instructional success," is how the Educational Testing Service characterizes the We the People program. Independent studies by ETS have revealed that We the People students "significantly outperformed comparison students on every topic of the tests taken."
  • Students involved in the We the People program develop greater commitment to democratic principles and values, according to a study by Richard Brody of Stanford University. The study concludes that the program is effective in promoting political tolerance because participating students feel more politically effective and perceive fewer limits on their own political freedom.
  • "[T]eachers feel excited and renewed.... Students are enthusiastic about what they have been able to accomplish, especially in terms of their ability to carry out a reasoned argument. They have become energized about their place as citizens of the United States," say researchers from the Council for Basic Education
  • A 2001 survey of We the People alumni revealed that they are better informed and participate at higher rates than their peers. The data suggests that voting rates are significantly higher among alumni than nonparticipating peers surveyed in the 2000 American National Election Study (NES). Eighty-two percent of We the People alumni voted in November 2000, in contrast to 48 percent turnout by peers.
     

Research on the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program

Evaluation of the James Madison Legacy Project: Cohort I Teachers
     Dr. Diana Owen, Scott Schroeder, and G. Isaac W. Riddle, Georgetown University
     November 2016
Evaluation of the James Madison Legacy Project: Cohort I Teachers
This report evaluates the first of three cohorts of the James Madison Legacy Project (JMLP) with a focus on the 649 teachers from 538 schools nationwide who completed the JMLP PD. The JMLP is a three-year nationwide initiative of the Center for Civic Education that aims to expand the availability and effectiveness of civics instruction in secondary schools by providing professional development based on the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution curriculum to teachers of high need students. The JMLP is funded by a Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
One-page Summary | Research Brief

Educating High-Need Students for Engagement in the Digital Age
     Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University
     November 2016
The civic education of high-need students is often shortchanged, contributing to a “civic empowerment gap.” This paper by Diana Owen of Georgetown University examines differences in pedagogies used by teachers of high-need and non–high-need students, focusing on the extent to which they employ techniques that will prepare students for citizenship in the age of digital politics. Students in high-need schools are not receiving civics instruction that keeps pace with the requirements of engaged citizenship. This paper was prepared for presentation at the 42nd Annual Conference of the Association for Moral Education, Panel K3.2: Social Media, Activism, and Marginality, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, December 8-11, 2016.

High School Students’ Acquisition of Civic Dispositions: The Impact of We the People
     Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University
     July 2015
This research is the second of five reports of the results of an intensive, quasi-experimental designed study of the effects of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution professional development and curricular programs on classroom instruction and student outcomes. The findings indicate that civics instruction is positively related to students’ development of civic dispositions essential for democratic character formation and the maintenance of constitutional democracy. Students whose teachers have We the People professional development, especially those who took a We the People class, scored significantly higher than students in the comparison group on all six types of dispositions, namely, 1) respect for the rule of law; 2) political attentiveness; 3) civic duty; 4) community involvement; 5) commitment to government service; and 6) the norms of political efficacy and political tolerance.
High School Students’ Acquisition of Civic Knowledge: The Impact of We the People
     Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University
     May 2015
This research is the first of four reports on the results of an intensive quasi-experimental design study of the effects of the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution professional development and curricular programs on classroom instruction and student outcomes. It demonstrates that We the People teacher professional development and, to a somewhat lesser extent, class type positively impacts students’ acquisition of political knowledge at statistically significant levels. Students of teachers who have participated in We the People professional development scored higher on tests of their knowledge of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, political parties and elections, and race and politics than students in the comparison group.

Active Learning and the Acquisition of Civic Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions: An Evaluation of We the People Professional Development                                                                              
     Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University
     April 2015
 
We The People and Political Knowledge
     Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University
     August 2011
     In a 2011 study, Dr. Diana Owen finds that We the People: The Citizen and Constitution students and alumni know significantly more about American government than the general public, including those who have taken a basic civics course. We the People program alumni, some of whom have been out of high school for more than two decades, retain knowledge about government, and exhibit higher levels of knowledge than the general public.

We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution 2010 National Finalists’ Knowledge of and Support for American Democratic Institutions and Processes
     David Eschrich
     November 2010
     A recent study of We the People 2010 National Finalists revealed participating students possess significantly greater knowledge of American democratic institutions and processes than the average American citizen. They also report greater interest in keeping track of political affairs, influencing the political structure, and participating in community leadership.

We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution Professional Development Evaluation
     Dr. Thomas Vontz, Kansas State University
     August, 2010
     One Page Summary
Full Report
     The Center for Civic Education contracted with Dr. Thomas Vontz, associate professor at Kansas State University, to conduct a two-phase evaluation of week-long We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution summer institutes during 2009. Results from the study show that participation in a We the People summer institute had a positive and statistically significant effect on teachers’ civic knowledge across civic concepts. Also, participating in an institute lasting five to seven days significantly increased elementary- and middle-school teachers’ knowledge of civil society and representative democracy.

Center for Civic Education Research Report
     Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates
     March, 2009
     This study conducted by the polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates found that We the People Summer Institutes were rated as highly effective by participants. Further, 85% of teachers surveyed, who had never used the Representative in Democracy (RDA) materials, would like to receive instruction on the curricula. Teachers would also appreciate website content that provides plans for specific topics, such as Election Day, the Inauguration, or a Presidential Birthday, as well as additional resources to supplement the We the People textbook.

We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution Evaluation Report Conducted by RMC Research Corporation [
     RMC Research Corporation
     December, 2007
     Four Page Summary 
One Page Summary
     In a new study, conducted by RMC Research Corporation, We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution students made greater gains than comparison students in overall civic knowledge and in the areas of (1) core values and principles of democracy, (2) constitutional limits on governmental institutions, and (3) rights and responsibilities of citizens.

We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution Survey Results: 2009 National Finalists’ Knowledge and Support of American Democratic Institutions and Processes
     Matthew Dubin
     September 2009

Youth Turnout in the 2008 Presidential Election; Delving Deeper with Data from the We the People Civic Education Alumni Network
     Suzanne Soule, Jennifer Nairne
Paper prepared for the Midwestern Political Science Association Meeting 2009
     April, 2009

Civic Education and Youth Turnout in the 2008 Presidential Election: Data from Engaged Citizens, We the People Alumni
     Suzanne Soule, Jennifer Nairne
Paper prepared for the Southern Political Science Association Meeting 2009
     March, 2009

An Evaluation of Center for Civic Education-Sponsored Professional Development for College and University Faculty
     Elizabeth Yeager Washington, University of Florida
Thomas Vontz, Kansas State University
     October 15, 2008
     Full report 
One-page summary 
     The data from this evaluation suggest that Center-sponsored professional development has had a positive effect on the attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors of university faculty and has increased their understanding of civic education, the pedagogies associated with civic learning, and the ways in which they make civic education a prominent theme in their courses, institutions, and states.

Translating Professional Development into Experience: An Evaluation of We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution Summer Institutes
     Jennifer Nairne
     Program Coordinator, Research and Evaluation
     Center for Civic Education
     October 2006

Touching History: Evaluating a Birmingham Seminar on Teaching Civics and the Struggle for Civil Rights through Teacher Partnerships
     Sharareh Frouzesh Bennett, Suzanne Soule
     Center for Civic Education
     Paper presented at the Fifth Annual R. Freeman Butts Institute
     May 2005

Voting and Political Participation of We the PeopleThe Citizen and the Constitution Alumni in the 2004 Presidential Election
     Suzanne Soule
     Director, Research and Evaluation
     Center for Civic Education
     May 2005
     [Executive Summary]

We the People Curriculum: Results of Pilot Test
     MPR Associates, Inc.
     July 2004
     [Executive Summary]
     A report to the Center for Civic Education

"Secondary Education and Political Attitudes: Examining the Effects on Political Tolerance of the We the People... Curriculum"
     Richard A. Brody
     Department of Political Science, Stanford University
     1994
     Based on a survey of 1,351 high school students from across the US, this report demonstrates that students in high school civics, government, and U.S. history classes display more political tolerance than the average citizen. The study also establishes that students in classes using all or part of the We the People curriculum are more tolerant than students following other curricula. Additionally, We the People fosters increased tolerance because it promotes higher levels of self-confidence and the perception of fewer limits on students' own political freedom.

A Report on a Study of the Affective Impact of We the People:The Citizen and the Constitution
     Council on Basic Education
     1994
     [Executive Summary]

An Evaluation of the Instructional Effects of the We the People...The Citizen and the Constitution Program Using "With Liberty and Justice for All"
     Robert S. Leming
     Social Studies Development Center of Indiana University
     Bloomington, Indiana
     December 1993

Testing and Learning: How New Approaches to Evaluation Can Improve American Schools (Excerpt)
     Ruth Mitchell
     Council on Basic Education
     1992
     Published Volume: The Free Press, 1992

A Comparison of the Impact of the We the People Curricular Materials on High School Students Compared to University Students
     ETS: Educational Testing Service
     January 1991
     [Executive Summary]

An Evaluation of the Instructional Impact of the Elementary and Middle School Curricular Materials Developed for the National Bicentennial Competition on the Constitution and Bill of Rights
     ETS: Educational Testing Service
     January 1991
     [Executive Summary]

An Evaluation of the Instructional Effects of the National Bicentennial Competition on the Constitution and Bill of Rights
     ETS: Educational Testing Service
     May 1988
     [Executive Summary]