UF, UCF partner to improve civics education at middle schools

Published: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 11:01 p.m.

Lawmakers and educators say they're worried that students aren't learning enough about civics and government, and that concern has led to a new partnership between the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.

UF's Graham Center for Public Service and the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at UCF will partner to implement new training programs to help middle school educators better teach students about civics, officials announced Thursday.

Walter Rosenbaum, interim director of the Graham Center, called the partnership an important first step toward improved education.

"The quality of civic education in the grade schools is pretty miserable in Florida," he said.

The partnership was announced in Tallahassee Thursday by Graham, a former U.S. senator and governor, and Frey, a former U.S. congressman. Gov. Charlie Crist stood alongside the two statesmen, touting a new budget proposal that includes $3.4 million to improve civic education.

The universities' partnership, known as the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, comes thanks in part to a $556,000 grant from the Helios Education Foundation, a nonprofit education organization that serves Florida and Arizona.

The universities' work will begin with a pilot program in Leon County, where teachers will be given grants to develop innovative programs in civics, Rosenbaum said. Other activities will include internships in government for teachers and seminars on education.

Ultimately, the new center will implement a statewide professional training program for middle school teachers, according to organizers.

"Our state's future is in the hands of the children who are now in school," Crist said in a news release. "Through sound civics education, we can ensure that Florida's future leaders have the knowledge and skills to make their voices heard in the political process."

Jack Stripling can be reached at 352-374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@gvillesun.com.

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