Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Hime disagrees with the state’s citizenship test requirement for high school students recently signed into law.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Wednesday by House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, intended to help students become more informed and engaged citizens.
House Bill 2030 requires high school students to pass the U.S. Civics Test in order to graduate beginning in the 2022-23 school year. This is the same test given by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is required for anyone applying to become a U.S. citizen.
“My first inclination is the state is creating another roadblock to graduate,” Hime said. “We’re trying to create opportunities for education and a future and this could hold students up.”
Under the legislation, the graduation requirement will apply to students entering ninth grade beginning this school year, according to the bill. Students will have until the 2022-23 school year to pass the test. School districts are required to offer the test at least once per school year, beginning as early as eighth grade at the discretion of the district. Any student may retake the exam upon request, and as often as desired, until earning a passing score of 60 percent or 12 out of 20 questions. Students with disabilities who have an individualized education plan (IEP) will be exempted.
“This law will help ensure students graduating from our public schools will be able to answer basic citizenship questions, understand the rights guaranteed to us under the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments, and explain how our legislative process works,” O’Donnell said. “Unfortunately, today too many adults and young adults in our state and our nation are unable to give an accurate accounting of the information that is basic to our national liberty.”
O’Donnell said too many students graduate without being able to answer basic questions such as how many branches of government exist in the United States or what actually is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Hime agrees students need to be educated on civics and government; however, his concern with the legislation is it requires “rote memorization” versus actual learning. He feels students will be taught to the test rather than a robust curriculum. His other concern is funding. He said there’s no money in the bill for teachers to administer the test or provide remediation for those who fail.
“This is an unfunded mandate,” Hime said. “They didn’t put any money with the bill and obviously with remediation this is going to take time and money.”
The current curriculum consists of two units or sets of competencies which include American and Oklahoma histories. The updated requirement consists of three units or sets of competencies. Those competencies consist of consist of one unit or set of competencies of United States History, one-half to one unit or set of competencies of United States Government, one-half unit or set of competencies of Oklahoma History, and one-half to one unit or set of other approved social studies courses.