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Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to Visit Fulmore MS Today

 iCivics, in partnership with the Austin Independent School District will host retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Fulmore Law Magnet Middle School on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at 1:15 p.m., in the Library. Justice O’Connor is visiting Fulmore Middle School to introduce her free, interactive, online curriculum iCivics.org. iCivics is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation and that civics teachers need better materials and support. (More information is at www.icivics.org).

“We are at a critical juncture in this nation’s history and divisive political rhetoric threatens to drown out rational dialogue and debate,” said Justice O’Connor. “The situation demands engagement, a shared understanding of our history, and a collaborative commitment to our future.”

 And yet, when it comes to civic knowledge and skills, our students are falling behind. On the last nationwide civics assessment, more than two-thirds of students scored below proficiency. While 66% of students could name the American Idol judges, only 33% could name the three branches of government. The civic achievement gap between students from a disadvantaged background and their more well-off peers is equally troubling. From the fourth-twelfth grade, economically disadvantaged students scored significantly worse on the nation wide civics test than those from middle-class or more wealthy communities. Unfortunately, these same populations are more likely to face increased civic problems - crime, drugs, failing schools, and the cycle of poverty. In other words, these are the communities that most need civic engagement.

While Texas is one of a diminishing number of states that still requires a civic or government class, student civics proficiency remains low. “Texas, including its education system, frequently serves as a model for other states,” said iCivics Texas Coordinator, Wendy May, Esq. “The iCivics high-tech games and lesson plans gives Texas’ teachers the opportunity to lead the nation in training our youth to become informed and empowered citizens.”

Currently utilized teaching resources are uninteresting to students and introduced too late in the educational process. Justice O’Connor is bringing iCivics to Texas specifically to counter these two problems. Digital media is transforming how young people learn, socialize, and participate in their communities. “The digital generation has led the way in using social networking tools to share information, organize, and express opinions,” said Justice O’Connor.

Justice O’Connor is planning two days worth of events around her visit to Fulmore Middle School. She will also address greater Austin area students at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, keynote an educational gaming symposium, train Texas social studies teachers in the iCivics curriculum at a teacher’s conference, and meet with Texas education authorities and policymakers.

Press inquiries should be directed to Carmen Luevanos at (512) 414-0023 or cluevanos@austinisd.org