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Inside the Classroom

Bill requiring high school civics test heads to governor

Jamie Martines
| Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
Kiski Area High School students Brandon Stine and Michael Griffin, both 15, work together on a federalism project during their honors contemporary American government class on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. The Pennsylvania Senate is set to take up a bill this spring that could require students to take U.S. citizenship or civics tests. Teachers' advocates oppose the mandate, arguing civics already is included in government curriculum.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area High School students Brandon Stine and Michael Griffin, both 15, work together on a federalism project during their honors contemporary American government class on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. The Pennsylvania Senate is set to take up a bill this spring that could require students to take U.S. citizenship or civics tests. Teachers' advocates oppose the mandate, arguing civics already is included in government curriculum.

A bill requiring students to take a civics assessment before they graduate — though passing it won't be required — will head to the governor's desk.

Starting with the 2020-21 school year, students will be required to take a civics test, which could be modeled after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services test, at least once by their senior year of high school. Those who pass will earn a certificate of recognition.

Introduced by Rep. Karen Boback, R-Luzerne, House Bill 564 originally made passing a civics test a graduation requirement. That portion was dropped following pushback from teachers unions, local school districts and education advocacy groups.

Eight states already require high school students to pass an exam based on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' citizenship test to graduate. Nine others, including West Virginia, require students to sit for an exam but do not include it as a graduation requirement, according to a September 2017 report by the Education Commission of the States.

While the rigor of coursework varies, all of the 22 high schools in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties that responded to a Tribune-Review survey of 32 schools indicated that courses in civics or government are already part of local graduation requirements. Most of those schools offer the option to take Advanced Placement courses in government or American history.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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