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States Review Bringing U.S. Citizenship Tests to Schools

States Review Bringing U.S. Citizenship Tests to Schools

A dozen states across the United States are considering adding citizenship exams to their school curricula. Arizona, the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the exam, will be distributing its exam this year. 

Other states may follow suit, according to an article on nytimes.com. North Dakota's House of Representatives "has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives," the article said.

“I would argue that our secondary schools have no greater mission than to prepare our young people to be informed, engaged citizens,” said Frank Riggs, a former congressman who is president of the Joe Foss Institute, in the article. “So it seemed a simple, common sense yet important idea that our high school graduates across the country be able to demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of civics education as they are graduating high school.”

According to the article, "the move to require students to pass the citizenship test has created controversy, however, and not because of any issues related to immigration. Rather, at a time when resistance to standardized testing is growing, some educators worry that the new requirement will rob teachers of instructional time and will encourage rote memorization rather than a more robust discussion of civic involvement."

“I don’t think the test measures what is most important for students to learn,” said Diana Hess, a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation, in the article. “If all we’re asking students to do is answer very simple questions, we’re not going to be working on the complex understanding that I think students need in order to participate well.”

Advocates of the citizenship test say, the article said, "say it should be a launchpad rather than a destination, likening the facts on the test to multiplication tables in math or the periodic table of elements in chemistry."

“This is my chance to shine and show what my students can do,” said Justin Price, who teaches history, government and economics at Sequoia Pathway Academy, a charter school in Maricopa, Arizona, in the article.

"All but 10 states require students to take an American government course before graduating from high school," the article said. "A handful, including Maryland and Florida, also administer statewide civics tests to students at some point during their school career."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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