El Segundo High School Selected as a California Democracy School

ESHS is one of two schools in the South Bay to have received this honor, which sets the high school apart and adds new value to civic learning.


Craig Gast, ESHS political behavior teacher, was instrumental in applying for the designation. “Often, government and civics are not always recognized by the public as being as important as some of the other areas of study,” said Gast. “For instance, many students do not even take government class until second semester of their senior year. By that time, they have already applied to college and have tentative fields of study chosen—all before ever being exposed to the field of study known as political science. I wanted to change that.”


The California Democracy School Project is funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and is under the direction of the LACOE. The project is designed to institutionalize civic learning in high schools to prepare all students for college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century. The project strengthens existing initiatives including the Common Core State Standards, the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.


Many key factors contributed to the selection of ESHS as a California Democracy School. ESHS’s collaborative Annual Civics Dayprogram and the District’s partnership with the City of El Segundo, as well as the adoption of the new ESUSD Graduate Profile, all contributed to ESHS receiving this honor. In addition to the application process showing evidence of ESHS’s related curriculum, LACOE conducted an interview with a selected Community Panel made of up El Segundo civic leaders and ESUSD representatives.


Part of ESHS’ curriculum includes a mock congress where students take on national issues, conduct research, and come up with their own solutions which they present to their classmates. Students then vote on the issues presented, just like congress would. Students also participate in mock elections, and all students are given the opportunity to register to vote. “This designation recognizes that ALL ESHS students are exposed to a complex variety of civic experiences,” said Gast.


Here is a video about the California Democracy School Civic Learning Initiative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwlYxngakBc