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Vanessa Cochran: 'I strongly believe that civics education needs to be taught throughout a K-12 education.'

I am one of many teachers hoping that the Oregon Legislature will pass Senate Bill 513, the Civics Education Act.

I think almost any educator will tell you that we need to be doing a better job of preparing our students to leave high school as well-informed, active members of their communities equipped with tools and knowledge to participate in our democracy to make positive changes to the world around us. National studies show only 24% of high school seniors test at or above a proficiency level in civics and recent events have underscored the importance of ensuring that the next generation of voters graduate with a basic understanding of their roles, rights, and responsibilities to participate in our democracy and legal system.

However, Oregon is one of only 11 states that does not require a civics education class for graduation. SB 513 will ensure that every Oregon high school student has taken at least one dedicated civics course before they graduate.

As an elementary school teacher in Wilsonville, I strongly believe that civics education needs to be taught throughout a K-12 education and that a dedicated civics class in high school is a necessary capstone for students' civics education as they are nearing voting age. Our state already has strong content standards for civics and government.

However, without designated and focused class time, that content is often embedded in other social studies courses meaning teachers are unable to teach civics in-depth.

By passing SB 513, the Oregon Legislature will allow teachers to provide robust, dedicated civics courses that ensure all students receive a strong grounding in the established civic standards, giving them the knowledge and capabilities to effectively engage in their roles as citizens and community members.

The time to pass this bill is now.

Vanessa Cochran teaches the fourth grade at Boeckman Creek Primary School. She lives in Southwest Portland.


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