Rick Rojas and Motoko Rich report at The New York Times:
This month, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the citizenship exam, stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma. (Immigrants are given 10 of the 100 questions and must correctly answer six to pass.) Other states may follow suit: North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives.
All but 10 states require students to take an American government course before graduating from high school. A handful, including Maryland and Florida, also administer statewide civics tests to students at some point during their school career.
Yet surveys of basic civics information among adults routinely expose a lack of knowledge. A survey last year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that more than a third of respondents could not name a single branch of the United States government, while fewer than a quarter knew that a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate is required to override a presidential veto.
Such facts are the prerequisite of deeper knowledge, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “One has to understand there are three branches of government before you can understand balance of power,” Ms. Jamieson said. She added: “It’s not as if we’re overwhelmed by high-quality civics education right now.”