How many justices are on the U.S. Supreme Court? Who can veto bills passed by Congress? Name one freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If a new bill passes the Tennessee General Assembly this session, Tennessee high school students will have to know the answers to such questions to graduate from a public high school.
The bill, filed by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), would make passing a civics exam a high school graduation requirement beginning in 2016. The exam would be developed by the Tennessee Department of Education and modeled after the citizenship test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In recent years, social studies has played second fiddle to math, reading and science in public education, with state tests on social studies subjects being almost impossible to fail and unweighted in school accountability measures.
“We want there to be some basic understanding of how government works,” McCormick told The Commercial Appeal about his proposal, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). “That’s what our democracy depends on.”
The full bill summary is below:
This bill requires each student graduating from a public high school with a regular diploma after January 1, 2016, to pass a civics test composed of the 100 questions from the civics portion of the United States citizenship test administered by the United States citizenship and immigration services. The department of education will prepare the test and distribute it to all LEAs [local education agencies].
In order to pass the test, a student must answer at least 60 percent of the questions correctly. Schools must provide each student with the opportunity to take the test as many times as necessary for the student to pass the test. No student may receive a regular high school diploma unless the student has passed the test.
Want to test your own civics smarts? The Department of Homeland Security has a 25-question practice quiz here.