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States Lack Civics Requirements

A national assessment of states’ civics education requirements reveals poor coverage of citizenship, government, law, current events and related subjects.

civicsThe fact sheet, produced by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), covers all 50 states and shows that in the 2012-13 school year, 21 states required a state-designed social studies test—a dramatic decrease from 2001, when 34 states conducted regular assessments on social studies subjects. Further, only eight states provide standardized tests specifically in civics or American government.

In a statement accompanying the fact sheet, CIRCLE said, “Social studies courses such as history, civics and economics provide students with the necessary civic skills and knowledge to be effective 21st-century citizens.  However, since the passage of No Child Left Behind, many states have shifted focus away from social studies and have dramatically reduced the number of social studies assessments.

To make matters worse, assessments have shifted from a combination of multiple-choice questions, essay questions, and other assignments to almost exclusively multiple-choice exams since 2000, meaning that the material tested tends to be relatively simple facts rather than the ability to apply information and skills to complex situations."

Because, as the study indicates, current events and the voting process are rarely emphasized in state civics requirements, students may be left in the dark when it comes to voter ID laws. In fact, a pollconducted by CIRCLE for the Youth Education Fund (YEF) showed that young people did not understand the new voter ID laws. According to CIRCLE, “Sixty-eight percent of young people were either unable or unwilling to answer or were incorrect about whether their state required a photo ID to vote.”

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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