On January 15, Arizona became the first to require students to take the U.S. citizenship test. AP reports:
Fewer than a dozen states currently require students to take a civics exam, and passing it isn't necessary to graduate in all of them. In most states, civic education instead revolves around a one-semester U.S. history course.
"This has been building for a long time," said Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a civic learning coalition co-chaired by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. McConnell said he and others are wary that legislators are only skimming the surface of what students need to know.
"The folks who are civic educators and experts by and large are pushing for a much, much more well-rounded approach," said Paul Baumann, director of the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement at the Education Commission of the States, a state-led research organization.
For years, education leaders have sounded the alarm on the state of civic education.
Just 13 percent of high school seniors scored as "proficient" or higher in American history on the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Voter participation in the most recent midterm elections was the lowest in decades, and even entertainers like Jay Leno have tapped into the country's weak civic knowledge with laughable pop quiz history tests.
The Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute has set a goal of having all 50 states adopt the U.S. citizenship requirement for high school students by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year. The North Dakota House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the same measure Thursday, but Arizona's proposal was the first to become law.