This post is authored by Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), at Tufts University, and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the deputy director of CIRCLE.
Last month, Arizona and North Dakota became the first two states to require high school students to take and—if they wish to graduate—exceed a cut-off score on the civics test that the federal government administers to individuals seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens. At last count, similar laws are pending in fourteen other state legislatures.
Proponents argue that every citizen, whether native born or naturalized, should possess certain key pieces of knowledge, mostly about the Constitution and American history. Further, they argue that today's students often lack such knowledge; that existing state policies do little to promote civic education; and that a multiple-choice test can improve instruction and motivate students to learn this material.