[Click above to view the original article]
Civics For All is an initiative based out of Seattle affecting grades K-12 district-wide that is attempting to embed civic engagement into children’s education. The idea is to teach young minds the importance of political participation and media literacy by implementing it into social studies classes and through mock voting. The program adheres to and even exemplifies many of the Common Core State Standards as well as aligning with the new SAT that now has sections on America’s founding documents and current event analysis. This program is meant to re-instill citizens with their fundamental rights to be civically educated and engaged as well as teaching children the importance of voting. This initiative creates a pilot program to be implemented in Santa Cruz County with currently 18 schools included.
Estimate Net Fiscal Impact
The budget is based off of Seattle’s Civics For All budget with adjustments to suit the city of Santa Cruz. 18 schools are being included in the assessment, Gault Elementary, Bay View Elementary, Westlake Elementary, Like Oak Elementary, De Laveaga Elementary, Shoreline Middle School, Branciforte Middle School, Mission Hill Middle School, Santa Cruz High School, Harbor High, Cypress High, Pacific Collegiate, Holy Cross K-8, Spring Hill K-8, Gateway K-8, Santa Cruz Children’s K-6, Monterey Coast Prep School and Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School.
Although the United States spends the most money out of any other developed country in the world on K-12 education, it consistently underperforms internationally and nationally. According to the 2009 PISA, U.S. students ranked fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other developed countries.
Students are also vastly undereducated in the field of civics, 75% of American teens failed the last national civics test and only 2% of 4th graders performed at the Advanced level. It doesn’t stop at students however, Only one-third of Americans could name all three branches of government and one-third couldn’t name any.
These type of statistics are not unique, and pose a serious threat to the continuing development of the United States. The consequences of a poorly engaged society are numerous. A democracy will only be as responsive as it citizenry demands of it. Many of the issues we face stem from a lack of awareness and education in political processes and functions. Without knowing how our government works we cannot use it to our advantage.
This initiative is based off of one currently being implemented in Seattle Washington called Civics For All. The foundation of the proposal is to increase social studies K-12 instruction in civics and media literacy which includes rights and duties of citizens, government studies, ethics, current events and politics as well as district wide voting in mock elections each November. A breakdown of the six main components are as follows:
- Voting and Elections: District-wide mock elections will occur every November to educate students in the importance of voting and civic engagement as well as teaching them how ballots work and getting them in the habit of politically engaging through elections.
- Social Studies: Civics education and political perspectives will be implemented into all social studies classes and be a recurrent point of reference. Three classroom based assessments or CBA’s will be completed at each grade level and one CBA for grades 5, 7, and 12. A political spectrum banner will be apart of all secondary classrooms as a scale and political anchor.
- Media-Literacy instruction: Students will be educated on the impacts of media and especially focus on electoral politics and current events.
- Civics Across the Curriculum/ Across Core: K-12 teachers will be trained to infuse inter-disciplinary civics lessons into their teachings that align with Common Core Literacy Standards.
- Civics Website Page: Will include methods and lessons shared by teachers to achieve these goals across all curricula.
- Professional Development: Formation of common in-structural language and framework which connects all grades and teachers.
Civics For All also aligns with Justice O’Connor’s Civic Mission of Schools which has produced research on the benefits of civic learning as well as the proven practices that lead to a politically engaged citizenry.
Similar reforms towards civic-based education have been made in Hawaii, Tennessee, and Florida. Such changes have included “Participation in Democracy” experimental courses, project-based civic assessments, and high-stakes standardized tests in civics. All three case studies have proven how young people taking such courses that encourage thoughtful discussion and development of civic skills, are more knowledgeable and more likely to engage as citizens in the future CIRCLE
The benefits of creating a more civically engaged population are limitless. The success of our country relies upon citizens who are educated in the way our government functions. Students whose education has been instilled with civic knowledge are more likely to vote and participate in politics, more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, as well as more confident in their ability to speak publicly and engage with their elected representatives. Citizens who are more educated about their government force elected officials to be more accountable through an enriched public discourse.