Valley schools recognized for focus on civic learning

Several school across the Central Valley have been recognized for their focus on students’ civic engagement.

Select schools in Fresno, Clovis, Sanger, Madera and Tulare have received Civic Learning Awards, which honor schools that motivate students to become engaged in the democratic process.

The awards, which are given by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, were first created in 2013 in an effort to boost schools’ teaching of civics.

Power of Democracy – a program launched by Cantil-Sakauye and Torlakson – aims to help K-12 students better understand public policy issues and the voting process, pointing to concerns of low voter turnout across the country.

According to a Power of Democracy report, fewer than half of eligible young people voted in the 2012 elections, and only 13 percent of high school seniors showed a solid understanding of U.S. history that year. In California, fewer than half of high school seniors surveyed said they consider involvement in state and local issues their responsibility.

Schools that receive Civic Learning Awards demonstrate best practices to give students the knowledge and skills to become politically engaged. Twelve of the nearly 80 schools to receive Awards of Merit this year are from the Valley, including: Century Elementary, Clovis North High, Clovis West High, Garfield Elementary, Maple Creek Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, John Wash Elementary, Sanger High, Sherman Thomas Charter, Pacific Community Charter, Wilson Middle and Tulare Union High.

Top winners, who received Awards of Excellence, include Bellflower High School in Los Angeles County, Natomas Pacific Pathways Preparatory Middle/High School in Sacramento County and Kumeyaay Elementary School in San Diego County.

Fresno County Civic Learning Partnership leader, 5th District Court of Appeal Justice Donald Franson, said in a statement Friday that the schools are an inspiration for local communities.

“By engaging in hands-on, meaningful civic learning, our young people gain the understanding that their civic engagement is valued and worthwhile,” he said.

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays