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The United States maintains a reputation as a vibrant, participatory democracy. Yet, paradoxically, formal civics education has essentially disappeared from America’s public high schools, particularly urban public schools serving low-income and minority students. The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, which is offered at almost zero cost to public schools and districts, developed as a response to the need for civics education in high schools and as a way to train future lawyers in public speaking, leadership, and counseling. In an effort to support the growth of the Marshall-Brennan Project all over the country, the authors of this piece came together to study the Marshall-Brennan Project’s efficacy in Washington, DC during the 2010-2011 academic year. This Essay is based on a comprehensive data set of students in fifteen classes in twelve Washington, DC public and public charter schools during the 2010-2011 academic year. Students were asked substantive questions related to the curriculum, as well as their likelihood of participating in civic activities such as voting and jury service. The results indicate increased constitutional knowledge and higher likelihood of civic participation, although there is room for improvement. The Essay ends with two conclusions. First, the authors seek to inspire a subsequent, larger study of the efficacy of the Marshall-Brennan model of training law students to teach high school students about the Constitution. Second, until a larger study is conducted, the authors draw from the 2010-2011 data to suggest changes to the current model, including a greater focus on drawing connections between civic knowledge and civic action.

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D.U. Law Review



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