Society

Former Missouri Governor Supports Proposal To Have Students Pass Citizenship Test To Graduate

| by Jared Keever
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Some former Missouri politicians are backing a proposal that would require the state’s high school students to pass a test usually administered to immigrants applying for citizenship. 

The Associated Press reports former Gov. Bob Holden and other leaders said the test would ensure that students are properly educated regarding the workings of the nation’s democratic system. 

A recent study conducted by a conservative Oklahoma research group found that only 3 percent of high school students in that state could pass the so-called citizenship test. Backers of the Missouri Civics Education Initiative admitted they didn't know how their state’s students would fare. But, if passed, the new rules would require that students be able to correctly answer at least 60 percent of the test’s questions before they could graduate.

“When our citizens don't understand basic American civics, they're not likely to vote or take part in policy decision,” Sam Stone, campaign manager in charge of promoting the initiative, told Ozarks First.

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Stone said that by using the existing citizenship test there would be no additional costs associated with test development. 

Students in the Springfield Public System in the state’s capital are already required to take similar tests. They must pass both Missouri and U.S. constitution tests in order to graduate. SPS curriculum coordinator, Nancy Schneider, said her district’s tests were developed based on national criteria and teacher input. She thinks they are pretty good, possibly better than the citizenship test.

“When you look at the test we've developed, we're not asking students to just memorize information about government, we're asking them to read excerpts from the preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,” she said.

She added she wouldn’t oppose the change if the tests seemed appropriate.

“As long as they're asking the information the students are learning so the student have the adequate learning to pass, I think that's fine,” said Schneider.

Holden and others say that a national focus on science, technology, engineering and math education has has diminished the importance of civics education in public schools.

"This initiative incorporated into our educational system at the high school level, is the right place, at the right time to educate America's youth on civic education before they become fully-fledged citizens with responsibility that voting entails," Holden said recently.

Six other states, including Oklahoma, are pursuing similar legislation. The proposals are floated in the states by the national Civics Education Initiative, an organization that says it would like to see similar laws in all 50 states by 2017. 

The proposed bill does not yet have a sponsor in the Missouri legislature. 

Sources: Education Week (AP Story), Ozarks First

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