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1/10/2019 10:30:00 AM
Required civics test for graduation not favored by Indiana Department of Education

Scott L. Miley, Herald Bulletin CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier students would need to pass a test required of those seeking U.S. citizenship before graduating high school under a bill authored by three legislators.

Schools would be required to allocate their own resources to administer the 100-question test, although it could be taken online at a student’s home. About 430,000 students in grades 8 through 12 would be eligible for the test in the 2020-21 school year.

The pass rate on taking the test for the first time for those seeking citizenship is 91 percent, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Indiana students would be given three attempts to pass the test.

"I think we have a deficiency in government and civics knowledge in America today and I think it’s getting worse," said Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, one of the authors of Senate Bill 132.

During a committee hearing Wednesday, support for the bill came from the American Legion and AMVETS.

The Indiana Department of Education does not support the bill because it adds more testing at a time when the Legislature has asked the department to reduce testing and increase teaching time, said Kenneth Folks, chief of government affairs for DOE.

Administering the test could conflict with the state’s plans to implement Graduation Pathways by 2023, according to Tim McRoberts, associate executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals. Graduation Pathways is an effort to individualize graduation requirements.

Opponents also said there would be limited time for teachers to prepare and administer the civics test. The bill has been introduced in previous legislative sessions. 

High school students are required to earn credits in U.S. history and U.S. government for graduation. The state does not require that civics be taught specifically as a course, but elements of civics are taught beginning in elementary school, officials said.

An optional state test for U.S. government is also being prepared for use by spring.

A practice immigration test is online at USCIS and asks such questions as: name one state that borders Canada; who signs bills to become federal law (the President); and what happened at the Constitutional Convention (the Constitution was written).

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