Shelley Zion, Ben Kirshner, and Carlos Hipolito-Delgado are a collaborative research team that has designed and studied youth civic learning since 2010. This team, called the Critical Civic Inquiry Research Group (CCIRG), has implemented multiple design-based research projects to develop new systems, practices, and assessment materials that engage students from marginalized backgrounds in rigorous academic inquiry by exploring issues relevant to their everyday lives and sharing their findings and policy recommendations with public audiences. Their first project received a major grant from the Spencer Foundation’s New Civics initiative from 2010-2012 (publications include: Hipolito Delgado & Zion, 2017; Kirshner, 2015; York & Kirshner, 2015). In 2015, they were awarded grants from the Spencer Foundation and Hewlett Foundation to develop a Measure of Youth Policy Arguments (MYPA), which is a formative and summative assessment tool for teaching students to prepare and deliver compelling, evidence-based policy arguments (Kirshner, Zion, & DiGiacomo, 2017). CCIRG also was funded by the American Educational Research Association to host a conference focused on defining, fostering, and assessing youth sociopolitical development.
The partnership between CCIRG and Challenge 5280 began in the fall of 2016, anchored in the research team’s development of MYPA. Challenge 5280 staff piloted the MYPA rubric as a tool for assessing student public presentations and members of the CCIRG team taught action civics curriculum workshops for 5280 teachers and students. This partnership has been beneficial to the research team because it allows us to iteratively develop MYPA in collaboration with educators from Challenge 5280. According to Solicia Lopez, director of Challenge 5280, the partnership is valuable because it has enabled 5280 teachers to orient their work to a comprehensive rubric that has qualitative and quantitative dimensions. This emphasis on assessment, along with the curriculum materials that accompany it, enables student voice and action civics learning to align with the academic goals of the district. John Albright, DPS Director of Student Engagement, provided a letter of support for this proposal. The district is an ideal context to pursue Hewlett’s interest in implementing deeper learning to advance equity. The district is diverse, a manageable size, and enthusiastic about partnering with researchers.