Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler wants all high school students to pass a civics test before they can graduate.
The Republican said Thursday that he filed a bill with the test requirement because he is concerned students don’t know enough about the Constitution, the three branches of government and significant U.S. historical events.
“When you start having students graduate from high school who don’t know where we got our independence from and that kind of stuff, I think it’s a little frightening. I want kids to know as much as people who become citizens of the United States,” he said.
The proposed legislation, HB 829, would require all students to take a civics exam with the same questions as those given to immigrants by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service as part of the citizenship test.
Zedler’s legislation is similar to an Arizona law that has been criticized as a waste of time because students don’t necessarily have to learn much. That law requires high school students to pass a civics exam consisting of 100 questions from the citizenship test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Those questions — and their answers — are online.
The Arizona law requires students to answer at least 60 questions correctly in order to graduate from high school.
Ramiro Luna, co-founder of the North Texas DreamTeam, an activist group of immigrant children raised in the United States, said he doesn’t think Zedler’s proposal would be effective, because civics is all about engagement and exercising the right to vote — not just learning to pass a test.
The high school test is being pushed nationally by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute, with a goal of having it adopted by all 50 states by 2017. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year.
Under Zedler’s bill, the Texas education commissioner would determine the length and format of the test and the grade levels when it would be administered. The commissioner would also determine the score that indicates “satisfactory performance.”
The new requirement would begin in the 2015-2016 school year.
The Department of Homeland Security provides a website where people can take quizzes to prepare for the citizenship exam. The 100 questions and their answers are available here. An online quiz with 25 question is here.
When asked whether he took a quiz, Zedler said, “No, but I think I would do pretty well. I know the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. I know World War II was started Dec. 7, 1941. I know what the Civil War was fought over.”
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696