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Research has shown that skills developed through civic education and civic participation (e.g., communication, information literacy, critical thinking) are associated with positive postsecondary outcomes such as degree attainment and gainful employment. As a result, incorporating civic readiness into school curricula and state accountability systems is now becoming more of a priority for education leaders across the nation.

But how does one measure a student’s civic readiness? And what instruments are available to enable this measurement?

As part of the College and Career Readiness Research Alliance, REL Central set out to answer those questions in the recently released Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Survey Scales, a tool designed to support civic readiness initiatives nationwide.

We reviewed thousands of resources for inclusion in the new tool for the degree to which they assess civic knowledge, skills, behaviors, or dispositions. From the initial pool, 33 resources consisting of nearly 200 survey scales were reviewed against criteria such as level of reliability, bringing the total number of scales in the tool to 183.

The survey scales were closely examined to determine what each measured, resulting in six categories: political behavior, political attitudes, civic behavior, civic attitudes, civic knowledge, and civic-related character traits and skills. Organizing the survey scales in this manner will help users of the tool choose survey scales that are best aligned with what they would like to measure.

To make the tool easier to use, a process guide was developed to support users in selecting survey scales. The process guide also includes information on the characteristics for each survey scale, such as the reliability, the grade level at which the survey scale was administered to students, the demographic characteristics of students, and evidence of validity when available. Also included is a worksheet and a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet designed to make selecting survey scales easier. Additionally, users will find links to resources to support the process of turning selected survey scales into a final survey that is ready to be administered to students.

Although there are limitations to using a self-report survey rather than other instruments, Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Survey Scales can help state and local education agency leaders, civic-focused organizations, and classroom practitioners select appropriate surveys that enhance their civic education efforts regardless of the scope of their student pool.