[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 73 (Monday, April 19, 2021)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 20348-20351]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-08068]



34 CFR Chapter II

[Docket ID ED-2021-OESE-0033]

Proposed Priorities--American History and Civics Education

AGENCY: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of 

ACTION: Proposed priorities.


SUMMARY: The Department of Education (Department) proposes two 
priorities for the American History and Civics Education programs, 
including the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American 
History and Civics(Academies) and National Activities programs, 
Assistance Listing Numbers 84.422A and 84.422B. We may use these 
priorities for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2021 and later years. 
We propose these priorities to support the development of culturally 
responsive teaching and learning and the promotion of information 
literacy skills in grants under these programs.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before May 19, 2021.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal 
or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. We will not 
accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after 
the comment period. To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, 
please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the 
Docket ID at the top of your comments.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to 
submit your comments electronically. Information on using 
Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, 
submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site 
under ``FAQ.''
     Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you 
mail or deliver your comments about the proposed priorities, address 
them to Mia Howerton, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue 
SW, Room 3C152, Washington, DC 20202.
    Privacy Note: The Department's policy is to make all comments 
received from members of the public available for public viewing in 
their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at 
www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should be careful to include 
in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mia Howerton, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 3C152, Washington, DC 20202. 
Telephone: (202) 205-0147. Email: [email protected].
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text 
telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll-free, at 1-

    Invitation to Comment: We invite you to submit comments regarding 
the proposed priorities. To ensure that your comments have maximum 
effect in developing the notice of final priorities, we urge you to 
clearly identify the specific section of the proposed priorities that 
each comment addresses.
    We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and their overall 
requirement of reducing regulatory burden that might result from the 
proposed priorities. Please let us know of any further ways we could 
reduce potential costs or increase potential benefits while preserving 
the effective and efficient administration of our programs.
    During and after the comment period, you may inspect all public 
comments about the proposed priorities by accessing Regulations.gov. 
Due to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department 
buildings are currently not open to the public. However, upon reopening 
you may also inspect the comments in person in Room 3C152, 400 Maryland 
Avenue SW, Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 
p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday of each week except Federal 
    Assistance to Individuals With Disabilities in Reviewing the 
Rulemaking Record: On request, we will provide an appropriate 
accommodation or auxiliary aid to an individual with a disability who 
needs assistance to

[[Page 20349]]

review the comments or other documents in the public rulemaking record 
for the proposed priorities. If you want to schedule an appointment for 
this type of accommodation or auxiliary aid, please contact the person 
    Purpose of Programs: The American History and Civics Education 
programs support efforts to improve: (1) The quality of American 
history, civics, and government education by educating students about 
the history and principles of the Constitution of the United States, 
including the Bill of Rights; and (2) the quality of the teaching of 
American history, civics, and government in elementary schools and 
secondary schools, including the teaching of traditional American 
    The Academies program supports the establishment of: (1) 
Presidential Academies for the Teaching of American History and Civics 
that offer workshops for both veteran and new teachers to strengthen 
their knowledge of American history, civics, and government education 
(Presidential Academies); and (2) Congressional Academies for Students 
of American History and Civics that provide high school students 
opportunities to enrich their understanding of these subjects 
(Congressional Academies).
    The purpose of the National Activities program is to promote new 
and existing evidence-based strategies to encourage innovative American 
history, civics and government, and geography instruction, learning 
strategies, and professional development activities and programs for 
teachers, principals, or other school leaders, particularly such 
instruction, strategies, activities, and programs that benefit low-
income students and underserved populations.
    Program Authority: Title II, part B, subpart 3 of the Elementary 
and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), 20 U.S.C. 6662 
and 6663.
    Proposed Priorities: The Department proposes two priorities to 
support the development of culturally responsive teaching and learning 
and the promotion of information literacy skills in grants under the 
American History and Civics Education programs.
    Proposed Priority 1--Projects That Incorporate Racially, 
Ethnically, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Perspectives into 
Teaching and Learning.
    Background: The Department recognizes that COVID-19--with its 
disproportionate impact on communities of color--and the ongoing 
national reckoning with systemic racism have highlighted the urgency of 
improving racial equity throughout our society, including in our 
education system. As Executive Order 13985 states: ``Our country faces 
converging economic, health, and climate crises that have exposed and 
exacerbated inequities, while a historic movement for justice has 
highlighted the unbearable human costs of systemic racism. Our Nation 
deserves an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda that matches 
the scale of the opportunities and challenges that we face.'' \1\

    \1\ 86 FR 7009 (Jan. 25, 2021), www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/25/2021-01753/advancing-racial-equity-and-support-for-underserved-communities-through-the-federal-government.

    American History and Civics Education programs can play an 
important role in this critical effort by supporting teaching and 
learning that reflects the breadth and depth of our Nation's diverse 
history and the vital role of diversity in our Nation's democracy. For 
example, there is growing acknowledgement of the importance of 
including, in the teaching and learning of our country's history, both 
the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black 
Americans to our society. This acknowledgement is reflected, for 
example, in the New York Times' landmark ``1619 Project'' and in the 
resources of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American 

    \2\ www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html.

    Accordingly, schools across the country are working to incorporate 
anti-racist practices into teaching and learning. As the scholar Ibram 
X. Kendi has expressed, ``[a]n antiracist idea is any idea that 
suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent 
differences--that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial 
group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of 
racial inequities.'' \3\ It is critical that the teaching of American 
history and civics creates learning experiences that validate and 
reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and 
experiences of all students.

    \3\ Kendi, Ibram X, How to Be an Antiracist (New York, One 
World, 2019).

    In turn, racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically 
responsive teaching and learning practices contribute to what has been 
called an ``identity-safe'' learning environment. According to the 
authors Dorothy Steele and Becki Cohn-Vargas, ``Identity safe 
classrooms are those in which teachers strive to assure students that 
their social identities are an asset rather than a barrier to success 
in the classroom. And, through strong positive relationships and 
opportunities to learn, they feel they are welcomed, supported, and 
valued as members of the learning community.'' \4\

    \4\ Steele, Dorothy M., and Becki Cohn-Vargas, Identify Safe 
Classrooms (Thousand Oaks, Corwin, 2013).

    The proposed priority would support projects that incorporate 
culturally and linguistically responsive learning environments.
    Proposed Priority:
    Under this priority, the applicants propose projects that 
incorporate teaching and learning practices that reflect the diversity, 
identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students 
create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.
    In its application, an applicant addressing this priority must 
describe how its proposed project incorporates teaching and learning 
practices that--
    (a) Take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities, 
and discriminatory policy and practice in American history;
    (b) Incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and 
linguistically diverse perspectives and perspectives on the experience 
of individuals with disabilities;
    (c) Encourage students to critically analyze the diverse 
perspectives of historical and contemporary media and its impacts;
    (d) Support the creation of learning environments that validate and 
reflect the diversity, identities, and experiences of all students; and
    (e) Contribute to inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning 
    Proposed Priority 2--Promoting Information Literacy Skills.
    Effective civics education is vital to protecting the Nation's 
democracy--especially at a time when its core institutions and values 
are threatened by misinformation. As The Power of Active Citizenship 
notes: ``Teaching civics should be more than just understanding the 
structures and functions of government . . . [It] is crucial that 
students learn how to gather and evaluate sources of information, and 
then use evidence from that information to develop and support their 
ideas and advocacy positions. No polity can make wise decisions if its 
citizens do not know how to separate

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fact from opinion, and how to gather and weigh relevant evidence.'' \5\

    \5\ https://www.aft.org/ae/summer2018/graham_weingarten.

    Ensuring that students have strong information literacy skills is 
especially important in an age of digital media consumption. According 
to a 2019 survey from Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey: ``Teens get 
their news more frequently from social media sites (e.g., Facebook and 
Twitter) or from YouTube than directly from news organizations. More 
than half of teens (54%) get news from social media, and 50% get news 
from YouTube at least a few times a week. Fewer than half, 41%, get 
news reported by news organizations in print or online at least a few 
times a week, and only 37% get news on TV at least a few times a 
week.'' Among teens who got their news from YouTube, two-thirds 
reported learning about the news from celebrities and influencers, 
rather than news organizations.\6\

    \6\ https://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/news/press-releases/new-survey-reveals-teens-get-their-news-from-social-media-and-youtube.

    In a 2017 report, the Brookings Institution concluded that, 
``Funding efforts to enhance news literacy should be a high priority 
for governments. This is especially the case with people who are going 
online for the first time. For those individuals, it is hard to 
distinguish false from real news, and they need to learn how to 
evaluate news sources, not accept at face value everything they see on 
social media or digital news sites. Helping people become better 
consumers of online information is crucial as the world moves towards 
digital immersion.'' \7\

    \7\ Brookings Institution, 12/18/2017, https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-to-combat-fake-news-and-disinformation/

    Civics education can be an opportunity to help students develop the 
skills necessary to meaningfully participate in our democracy and 
distinguish fact from misinformation. Well-designed programs can fuel 
student engagement in our democracy and provide students with the 
knowledge and skills to critically evaluate the materials they 
encounter by developing their information literacy.
    Proposed Priority:
    In its application, the applicants propose projects that describe 
how they will foster critical thinking and promote student engagement 
in civics education through professional development or other 
activities designed to support students in--
    (a) Evaluating sources and evidence using standards of proof;
    (b) Understanding their own biases when reviewing information, as 
well as uncovering and recognizing bias in primary and secondary 
    (c) Synthesizing information into cogent communications; and
    (d) Understanding how inaccurate information may be used to 
manipulate individuals, and developing strategies to recognize accurate 
and inaccurate information.
    Types of Priorities:
    When inviting applications for a competition using one or more 
priorities, we designate the type of each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational through a notice in the Federal 
Register. The effect of each type of priority follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by (1) 
awarding additional points, depending on the extent to which the 
application meets the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) 
selecting an application that meets the priority over an application of 
comparable merit that does not meet the priority (34 CFR 
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the priority. 
However, we do not give an application that meets the priority a 
preference over other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).
    Final Priorities:
    We will announce the final priorities in a document published in 
the Federal Register. We will determine the final priorities after 
considering responses to the proposed priorities and other information 
available to the Department. This document does not preclude us from 
proposing additional priorities, requirements, definitions, or 
selection criteria, subject to meeting applicable rulemaking 

    Note:  This document does not solicit applications. In any year 
in which we choose to use the priorities, we invite applications 
through a notice inviting applications in the Federal Register.

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

Regulatory Impact Analysis

    Under Executive Order 12866, it must be determined whether this 
regulatory action is ``significant'' and, therefore, subject to the 
requirements of the Executive order and subject to review by the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB). Section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866 
defines a ``significant regulatory action'' as an action likely to 
result in a rule that may--
    (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, 
or adversely affect a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, 
jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or 
Tribal governments or communities in a material way (also referred to 
as an ``economically significant'' rule);
    (2) Create serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    (3) Materially alter the budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, 
user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles stated in the 
Executive order.
    This proposed regulatory action is not a significant regulatory 
action subject to review by OMB under section 3(f) of Executive Order 
    We have also reviewed this proposed regulatory action under 
Executive Order 13563, which supplements and explicitly reaffirms the 
principles, structures, and definitions governing regulatory review 
established in Executive Order 12866. To the extent permitted by law, 
Executive Order 13563 requires that an agency--
    (1) Propose or adopt regulations only on a reasoned determination 
that their benefits justify their costs (recognizing that some benefits 
and costs are difficult to quantify);
    (2) Tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, 
consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives and taking into 
account--among other things and to the extent practicable--the costs of 
cumulative regulations;
    (3) In choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, select 
those approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential 
economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other 
advantages; distributive impacts; and equity);
    (4) To the extent feasible, specify performance objectives, rather 
than the behavior or manner of compliance a regulated entity must 
adopt; and
    (5) Identify and assess available alternatives to direct 
regulation, including economic incentives--such as user fees or 
marketable permits--to encourage the desired behavior, or provide 
information that enables the public to make choices.
    Executive Order 13563 also requires an agency ``to use the best 
available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future 
benefits and costs as accurately as possible.'' The Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB has emphasized that these

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techniques may include ``identifying changing future compliance costs 
that might result from technological innovation or anticipated 
behavioral changes.''
    We are issuing the proposed priorities only on a reasoned 
determination that their benefits would justify their costs. In 
choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, we selected those 
approaches that would maximize net benefits. Based on an analysis of 
anticipated costs and benefits, we believe that the proposed priorities 
are consistent with the principles in Executive Order 13563.
    We also have determined that this regulatory action does not unduly 
interfere with State, local, and Tribal governments in the exercise of 
their governmental functions.
    In accordance with the Executive orders, the Department has 
assessed the potential costs and benefits, both quantitative and 
qualitative, of this regulatory action. The potential costs are those 
resulting from statutory requirements and those we have determined as 
necessary for administering the Department's programs and activities.
    Potential Costs and Benefits
    The Department believes that this proposed regulatory action would 
not impose significant costs on eligible entities, whose participation 
in our programs is voluntary, and costs can generally be covered with 
grant funds. As a result, the proposed priorities would not impose any 
particular burden except when an entity voluntarily elects to apply for 
a grant. The proposed priorities would help ensure that the American 
History and Civics Education programs support the development of 
culturally responsive teaching and learning practices and promote 
students' acquisition of critical information literacy skills. We 
believe these benefits would outweigh any associated costs.

Clarity of the Regulations

    Executive Order 12866 and the Presidential memorandum ``Plain 
Language in Government Writing'' require each agency to write 
regulations that are easy to understand.
    The Secretary invites comments on how to make the proposed 
priorities easier to understand, including answers to questions such as 
the following:
     Are the requirements in the proposed regulations clearly 
     Do the proposed regulations contain technical terms or 
other wording that interferes with their clarity?
     Does the format of the proposed regulations (grouping and 
order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce 
their clarity?
     Would the proposed regulations be easier to understand if 
we divided them into more (but shorter) sections?
     Could the description of the proposed regulations in the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this preamble be more helpful in 
making the proposed regulations easier to understand? If so, how?
     What else could we do to make the proposed regulations 
easier to understand?
    To send any comments that concern how the Department could make the 
proposed priorities easier to understand, see the instructions in the 
ADDRESSES section.
    Intergovernmental Review: These programs are subject to Executive 
Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the 
objectives of the Executive order is to foster an intergovernmental 
partnership and a strengthened federalism. The Executive order relies 
on processes developed by State and local governments for coordination 
and review of proposed Federal financial assistance.
    This document provides early notification of our specific plans and 
actions for these programs.

Regulatory Flexibility Act Certification

    The Secretary certifies that this proposed regulatory action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The U.S. Small Business Administration Size Standards define 
proprietary institutions as small businesses if they are independently 
owned and operated, are not dominant in their field of operation, and 
have total annual revenue below $7,000,000. Nonprofit institutions are 
defined as small entities if they are independently owned and operated 
and not dominant in their field of operation. Public institutions are 
defined as small organizations if they are operated by a government 
overseeing a population below 50,000.
    The small entities that this proposed regulatory action would 
affect are institutions of higher education and nonprofit 
organizations. Of the impacts we estimate accruing to grantees or 
eligible entities, all are voluntary and related mostly to an increase 
in the number of applications prepared and submitted annually for 
competitive grant competitions. Therefore, we do not believe that the 
proposed priorities would significantly impact small entities beyond 
the potential for increasing the likelihood of their applying for, and 
receiving, competitive grants from the Department.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The proposed priorities contain information collection requirements 
that are approved by OMB under OMB control number 1894-0006; the 
proposed priorities do not affect the currently approved data 
    Accessible Format: On request to the program contact person listed 
under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, individuals with disabilities 
can obtain this document in an accessible format. The Department will 
provide the requestor with an accessible format that may include Rich 
Text Format (RTF) or text format (txt), a thumb drive, an MP3 file, 
braille, large print, audiotape, or compact disc, or other accessible 
    Electronic Access to This Document: The official version of this 
document is the document published in the Federal Register. You may 
access the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of 
Federal Regulations at www.govinfo.gov. At this site you can view this 
document, as well as all other documents of the Department published in 
the Federal Register, in text or Portable Document Format (PDF). To use 
PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the 
    You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published 
by the Department.

    Ruth Ryder,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Office of 
Elementary and Secondary Education.
[FR Doc. 2021-08068 Filed 4-16-21; 8:45 am]