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Kansas lawmakers push civics test for high school graduation

A Kansas lawmaker and the state’s Republican attorney general are pushing a bill to require high school students to pass a civics test to graduate in an effort to increase civic engagement.

The proposal is facing pushback from members of the state’s largest teacher’s union, the second-largest school district, and the Kansas Association of School Boards, which say that students are already getting an education in civics in government and history classes.

The House Education Committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday but took no action.

“We wonder why we are singling out high school kids for this with a high stakes test on civics,” said Kansas National Education Association lobbyist Mark Desetti in the committee meeting.

“There is a great tendency, when you put in place a high stakes test, to teach to that test at the expense of other areas,” he said later in the meeting.

The Kansas State Board of Education, which rejected a similar proposal about six years ago, also opposes the bill. In written testimony, the state school board’s legislative liaisons cautioned that a “high stakes” standardized test won’t promote civic duty and said the bill encroaches on the state board’s constitutional authority to set learning standards and determine the content of tests.

Rep. Steve Huebert, a Valley Center Republican and the bill’s chief proponent, told the Associated Press that the proposed exam would include the same 128 questions in the U.S. citizenship test — one of the final steps for immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship. He said he also plans for the test to be multiple choice and to require high school students to score at least 60% to get a diploma.

The citizenship test includes questions that require test takers to name three branches of government and answer questions about what the U.S. Constitution does and how many U.S. senators there are. Other exam questions require test takers to identify the country’s economic system as capitalism, or a free-market economy, and the “United States” or “the flag” as what Americans show loyalty to when they say the pledge of allegiance.


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