Arizona Law Will Require Civics Exam for High School Graduates

Arizona will become the first state to require a passing grade on a civics test for all high school graduates. The new law was passed by the state legislature and awaits an expected signature from Gov. Doug Ducey. 

The law requires high school students to correctly answer 60 out of 100 questions that appear on the same civics exam given to new citizens. 

The Associated Press reports that Arizona may be the first state, but the law is part of a nation-wide initiative: 

The test is being pushed nationally by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute, which has set a goal of having all 50 states adopt it by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year.

The Foss Institute, whose motto is “Patriotism Matters,” has created a civics institute to promote the test to state legislatures as a way to increase the understanding of basic government by students, with the hope they will be better prepared to be engaged citizens.

The law is supported by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizona resident. 

Opposition to the civics test has come from teacher groups and a handful Democrats including State Senator David Bradley: 

“My point now is tests don’t make citizens, citizens are tested by their actions,” Bradley said.

Joe Thomas of Mesa, a high school government teacher, said he was concerned that having students take a 100-question test would take up an entire class period and will not be an effective way of getting students engaged in civics. He said the test is will require rote memorization rather than something that promotes critical thinking.

“The interest is promoting civics and we want to see students engaged,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if a test engages students.”


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