A Minnesota Republican plans to introduce a bill that would require school districts to report the percentage of students who pass a basic civics test.
A 2016 bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature required all public school students to take an exam of “civics test questions,” which are based on the U.S. citizenship test. Students are required to answer at least 30 of the 50 questions correctly, but don’t need to pass in order to graduate. Schools districts are allowed, but not required, to record the results or report scores to the Minnesota Department of Education.
State Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) said the law “has become the subject of increasing scrutiny and public concern due to a lack of accountability and insufficient reporting requirements.”
Nelson wants to “offer a remedy” by introducing a bill that would require districts to report the percentage of graduates from the previous academic year who passed the civics test.
“This reporting will shine a light of accountability on schools and help administrators, legislators, and families determine what improvements need to be made to ensure graduates are prepared and ready for the responsibility of representative government,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Acton Township), author of the 2016 bill, called for “being consistent, effective and relevant in how we teach civics.”
“Students learn what they think is important. If students perceive civics to be of lesser importance than other subjects, they are less apt to make it a learning priority. Hence, there is a 75-percent lack of civics proficiency among Minnesota students, something we must improve,” said Urdahl, a former social studies teacher.
The Senate Education Committee held an informational hearing Wednesday on the civics exam and heard from experts who testified to “the fact that the long-term success and future prosperity of our state and our country demand that students understand civics,” said Nelson.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 18 states require students to take a civics assessment and 42 states have a civics course requirement.
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