California’s State Board of Education approved criteria for a new State Seal of Civic Engagement for California’s schools. The adopted seal criteria was developed to assist schools in supporting all students to develop civic competencies and identities while learning about civic responsibilities by providing high-quality opportunities for student voice, civic engagement, and participation in civic life in their schools, communities, and all levels of government.
CSDA actively participated in a coalition, Promoting Authentic College, Career, and Civic Readiness Assessment Systems (PACCCRAS), to support the enactment of the new educational recognition which will create pathways for students in elementary and secondary schools to become civically engaged in democratic governmental institutions at the local, state, and national levels. CSDA joined PACCCRAS in submitting a letter of support to the State Board of Education on September 4.
Assembly Bill 24 of 2017 added sections 51470–51474 to the California Education Code, which directed the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop, and the State Board of Education to adopt, a set of criteria for schools choosing to award the seal. The statute permits schools to award the State Seal of Civic Engagement to students who have demonstrated excellence in civic education and participation, and have demonstrated an understanding of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and the democratic system of government.
Even the youngest students can engage in and demonstrate civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Civic learning opportunities may begin as early as pre-kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. School districts may consider collaborating with their feeder elementary and middle schools and English language development specialists as they develop local criteria, interim award opportunities, and applicable on-ramps for the new seal.
Schools that enable early and ongoing opportunities for all students to gain civic knowledge, practice and apply civic skills, develop digital citizenship skills, realize civic responsibilities, and cultivate relationships with their communities will help to prepare civically aware, skilled, and engaged citizens. Throughout the process, students are encouraged to consider interdisciplinary projects and issues that extend over time, using all the knowledge and skills they have gained across the curriculum to engage with their communities.
Adopted Criteria for State Seal of Civic Engagement
Criteria adopted by the State Board of Education will provide schools with a framework for making determinations of student qualifications required to earn the State Seal of Civic Engagement, based on their own local contexts.
The student must:
- Be engaged in academic work in a productive way;
- Demonstrate a competent understanding of U.S. and California constitutions; functions and governance of local governments; tribal government structures and organizations; the role of the citizen in a constitutional democracy; and democratic principles, concepts, and processes;
- Participate in one or more informed civic engagement project(s) that address real-world problems and require students to identify and inquire into civic needs or problems, consider varied responses, take action, and reflect on efforts;
- Demonstrate civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions through self-reflection; and
- Exhibit character traits that reflect civic-mindedness and a commitment to positively impact the classroom, school, community and/or society.
Ongoing Efforts to Raise Awareness and Understanding of Special Districts
As schools now look to incorporate new civics curriculum and encourage students to attain the civic seal, CSDA will continue its work with PACCCRAS and other stakeholders to ensure students have the opportunity to learn about and connect with their local special districts.
As part of CSDA’s 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, the CSDA Board of Directors directed the association to “further efforts to build awareness and understanding of special districts among students and promote civic engagement, career pathways, and opportunities that exist to serve on special districts.” In conjunction with this plan, CSDA is working with education consultant Dr. Hueling Lee to support special district engagement, outreach, and partnership with schools.
In February, Dr. Lee presented a webinar for CSDA members, in which she shared initial takeaways of special district efforts to partner with schools and provided information gathered from all types of special districts on how to initiate or deepen collaboration with schools and increase community outreach. The webinar, which is now available on-demand, included a summary of school partnership lessons learned and emerging resources for introducing special districts to schools. It also helped inform CSDA’s ongoing steps to support special district collaborations with schools.
CSDA members should look for more information and resources in 2021 regarding school outreach and partnership as the association builds on the foundation established through its partnership with Dr. Lee, PACCCRAS, and other stakeholders.