- Pennsylvania students would have to take a civics test sometime between 7th and 12th grade, according to a bill now waiting Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
- Students wouldn’t have to pass the test for graduation, but if they earn a perfect score, they would receive a certificate from the state’s education department. The requirement would go into effect for the 2020-21 school year.
- The legislation gives districts the option of developing their own test or using one created by the U.S. government for citizenship, and the test would not necessarily be based on the state’s standards for civics and government.
Sixteen states have now passed some type of civics test requirement, according to the Civics Education Initiative, a two-year campaign led by the nonprofit Joe Foss Institute, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. While the campaign did not meet its goal of having civics test legislation passed in all 50 states, it raised awareness about the gaps in students’ — and adults’ — knowledge of how the U.S. government functions.
For example, almost a third of Americans can't name any of the three branches of government, according to a 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Some educators have raised questions about using the citizenship test as a requirement, saying that students can easily memorize the answers.
In an op-ed, Peter Levine of Tufts University suggested that schools might drop civics courses if they think students can just meet a graduation requirement with a test. “The problem with civics is not that we fail to teach it,” he wrote. “The problem is that civics is often viewed as a set of disconnected facts, not as a challenging and inspiring subject that will continue to interest us after high school.”