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Do Colorado's high school civics requirements affect the number of young people who vote?

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A new study disparages Colorado for requiring little civics education -- something it ties to a poll showing that young people don't understand voting laws, such as whether a photo ID is required to vote. (It isn't in Colorado.) But the study, done by the Massachusetts-based Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, or CIRCLE, left out recently approved social studies testing rules that go into effect in 2014.

Starting in the spring of 2014, Colorado students will be tested in social studies along with math, reading and science. The tests will include questions about civics and will be given to students in fourth grade, seventh grade and once in high school, says Stephanie Hartman, the social studies content specialist for the Colorado Department of Education.

Back in 2010, we wrote about several civic-minded groups lobbying the State Board of Education to add social studies to the list of subjects in which students are tested. The state standardized tests are currently called TCAP -- the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program -- as the state switches from its old testing system, CSAP, to a new one aligned to recently adopted educational standards.

One geography professor's argument was particularly compelling. She shared the results of a recent map test she'd given her community college students. One student labeled the Rocky Mountains "the Alps," another ID'd Alaska as "Germany" and a third created a new state: South Virginia. In addition, she said only six students knew Joe Biden was the vice president. One guessed it was Barack Obama.

"Civic education is how we prepare people to be good citizens, which was the original purpose of public schooling in the United States," says Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE. "It's pretty badly needed."

Continue for more on how Colorado stacks up.


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1 comments
RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

"A new study disparages Colorado for requiring little civics education ... But the study, done by the Massachusetts-based Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, or CIRCLE, left out recently approved social studies testing rules that go into effect in 2014."

 

Huh?  I do not see the contrast.  In 2014, Colorado will begin to administer a social studies test including questions on civics -- all that is likely to do is confirm the conclusions of CIRCLE in spades.  Starting to test two years from now is at a pretty far remove from all of Colorado's chaos of independent school district deciding to improve civics education, coming up with the wherewithal, and actually accomplishing the improvements needed.

 

Improving education in general in Colorado (or anywhere in the US) will require fundamental structural changes in it and significant cultural change as well.  In Colorado, another major impediment to forward progress is an ivory tower of a Department of Education which has no control over what individual school districts do.  Establishing a competent central authority setting specific academic standards for all Colorado schools and students would at the very least save a fantastic amount of multiplied effort on the part of school districts across the State that presently goes into conciliating local and State policy, it really is a prerequisite for forward movement, and it is far more doable than establishing a new system of vocational and experiential education to complement what is supposed to be an academic one, or imbuing parents and their children with more respect for and interest in education, much less reasserting the greater control over children's lives that parents used to exercise.  Progress is not impossible, but we need a revolution in our collective attitude towards most aspects of education if there is to be any.

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