California’s Commitment to K-12 Civic Learning: A 2022 Assessment

June 2023

California’s Commitment to K-12 Civic Learning: A 2022 Assessment

Authors Erica Hodgin, Samia Alkam, Yvette Conde, and Joseph Kahne

California has taken important steps to reclaim the democratic purpose of the state’s public schools. However, further progress is needed to ensure all students in California have access to high-quality democratic education and to meet the continuing challenges of today.

This research brief examines the extent to which California has made progress in supporting the democratic purpose of its public schools since our previous study in 2020. To do so, we examined LCAP plans, district mission statements, district staffing, and the roll out of the California State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE). We found the following:

KEY FINDING #1: The priority placed on civic and democratic goals in California districts’ mission statements has increased slightly. However, only seven (18%) districts in our sample substantially addressed civics in their mission or vision statements suggesting that civic education remains a low priority within the state’s public schools.

KEY FINDING #2: Districts’ accountability plans have gradually integrated civic and democratic commitments. Since 2020, there has been more than a three fold increase (from 17% to 54%) in the proportion of districts in our sample that mention civics and democracy. Still, only around half of the districts in the sample address at least one of the civics-related terms in their LCAP, and twenty one of the 46 districts made no mention at all.

KEY FINDING #3: There is still comparatively less staffing supporting history, social science, and civic agendas than English Language Arts, math, and science. While the number of history-social science staff at the district level has increased since 2020, there still remains a clear discrepancy.

KEY FINDING #4: The State Seal of Civic Engagement is gathering momentum in California, but is only reaching a small percentage of students. The sizes of districts offering the SSCE vary widely, however a majority of the largest districts in the state are not offering the SSCE. On average, districts that awarded the SSCE did so for only 11% of their 12th grade population.

Schools are vital to preparing young people to draw on evidence and learn about a range of issues, to engage in dialogue with others that have differing views, to voice their perspectives in thoughtful and effective ways, and to take informed action in their communities and society. We must proceed thoughtfully and strategically with a range of supports for civic learning and the SSCE on the state and local level, in order to ensure these learning opportunities are accessible to all students in California. If we do not, civic learning may remain infrequent and inequitable, and the SSCE may only reach a small percentage of our youth.


Hodgin, E., Alkam, S., Conde, Y., & Kahne, J. (2023). California’s Commitment to K-12 Civic Learning: A 2022 Assessment. Research Report, Leveraging Equity & Access in Democratic Education Initiative at UCLA & UC Riverside.