SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Students statewide may soon be required to pass the U.S. citizenship test. It’s all part of an initiative by the Missouri Civics Education Initiative to ensure future generations understand American Government and U.S. History.
This initiative would require a passing score in order for students to get their high school degree or G.E.D equivalent.
Current state law requires students to pass some sort of test on the U.S. and Missouri Constitution— but this initiative would standardize the exam statewide.
Most students taking the course Law and Liberty at Parkview High School can name all three branches of government. But more difficult questions like how many justices make up the Supreme Court can stump to students.
These are the kinds of questions immigrants must answer correctly in order to earn U.S. citizenship— questions students in Missouri may soon also have to answer.
"When our citizens don’t understand basic American civics, they’re not likely to vote or take part in policy decision," said Sam Stone, Campaign Manager for the Missouri Civics Education Initiative.
Stone said the test would be made up of 100 questions from the U.S. citizenship and immigration exam. Stone said by using the existing citizenship test, there would be no cost for test development, administration, nor study materials which are available online.
"This state legislative initiative allows schools to administer the test any way they deem fit," said Stone.
Missouri law already requires students to take some form of an exam. Currently, Springfield Public Schools students are required to take a course in American government and pass U.S. and Missouri constitution test in order to graduate. The test was developed from national assessments and teacher input.
"When you look at the test we’ve developed, we’re not asking students to just memorize information about government, we’re asking them to read excerpts from the preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights," said Nancy Schneider, SPS Coordinator of Curriculum and Materials Design.
Schneider said the district is open to change.
"As long as they’re asking the information the students are learning so the student have the adequate learning to pass, I think that’s fine," said Schneider.
Those who support the initiative point out that a heavy national focus on science, technology, engineering, and math has put civics in the backburner— something former Missouri governor Bob Holden worries will affect the future of Missouri.
"This initiative incorporated into our educational system at the high school level, is the right place, at the right time to educate America’s youth on civic education before they become fully-fledged citizens with responsibility that voting entails," said Holden.
Six other states are pursuing similar legislation, including Oklahoma and Utah.
There is no one yet sponsoring a bill for the legislation.