Thursday, the Senate Education Committee is scheduled to look at SB1029
, a bill that would require a civics test for high school graduation. And not just any civics test. The same test that's given to people who want to become U.S. citizens.
The good news is, it's not a completely terrible idea. The bad news is, it's not a very good idea. The educational value of having high school students memorize 100 facts about the U.S. government, then successfully regurgitate 60 of those answers on a test, is questionable. And the idea that students who have completed all their required high school coursework successfully would be denied a diploma because they come up short on a civics memorization test is pretty ridiculous.
The civics test given to prospective citizens isn't a test of their broad knowledge of American history and government. It's 10 questions pulled from a list of 100 questions they're given to study and memorize. Six right answers out of ten and they pass. It's probably a worthwhile exercise for new citizens, but for high school students? As a graduation requirement?
If the bill passes, Arizona students will have to answer 60 of the 100 questions correctly to graduate high school or get a G.E.D. If they don't pass the first time, they can take the test again, and again, and again, until they do. Each school board will decide how the test will be administered.
What's going to happen is lots of students will get less than the required 60 right answers the first time around. Teachers, or someone, will have to keep giving the test to students, again and again and again. I suppose it can be given to students in clusters of 10 questions so they don't need to have all 60 answers in their heads at one time — if the local school board decides that's OK, that is. I suppose a missed question can be asked again and again and again until the student gets the right answer. Since it's a graduation requirement, some kind of time consuming work-around will have to be created to get everyone to pass. In our underfunded, understaffed schools with too many students in each class, here's an added mandatory, unfunded mandate of questionable educational value.
Six other states are looking at requiring the test: Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. It's the brainchild of the Joe Foss Institute in Scottsdale, AZ.