Local superintendents weigh legislature’s civics exam bill

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Republican lawmakers in the State legislature are considering passing a bill that would require high school students to pass a U.S. citizenship test to graduate.

While supporters are praising the bill as a measure that will give the state a more informed citizenry, local superintendents aren’t convinced the program is necessary.

Dr. Lee Hicks, superintendent of Troy City Schools, and Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said that each of their respective school systems already emphasizes the content that would be found on the exams.

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“I haven’t taken a position on it yet,” Bazzell said. “But we do a pretty good job preparing our kids already, I think. We already spend a great deal of time on those various topics. I’m not sure it’s necessary, and it’s just one more thing on out plate.”

The proposed exam would consist of 100 questions taken directly from the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services test that immigrants must take to become U.S. citizens. The questions relate to the workings of the U.S. government and U.S. history and geography. Two examples questions are “How many U.S. senators are there?” and “The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.”

Students would have to get 60 out of 100 questions right in order to pass and graduate from high school. Legislators say that students would have multiple chances to pass the exam.

Like Bazzell, Hicks said that the school system already covers these same topics and that an extra exam could be a burden to both students and teachers.

“We have several courses already in the current curriculum that cover that,” Hicks said. “The workings of the U.S. government is one of the things we teach… Hopefully they understand this would put a little more burden on students and school systems.”

The bill just passed out of a Senate committee last week and is expected to be heard by the full Senate this week. If it passed, it would then go to the House for their consideration.

In addition to the extra requirement students will have for graduation, Hicks said it will also be a burdensome cost to school systems or the State’s education fund and a challenge for teachers to work into the curriculum.

“To require a citizenship test with 100 questions, that’ just another obstacle,” Hicks said. “And who’s going to be purchasing the exams? They’re not free. It will either go to the school systems or more out of the Education Trust Fund, which is already depleted every year.”

Whatever the legislature decides to do, Hicks said the Troy City Schools system will work through it and adjust.

“It’s our job to adjust to the rules and regulations that are passed down,” Hicks said. “I’m confident that many of our students would pass it. Hopefully they will consider all aspects before they pass it.”