Edming Civics Test Bill Added to State Budget
Wisconsin high school students may soon be required to pass a civics test to graduate. The test would be modeled after the history and government portion of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services exam given by the federal government to people applying for U.S. citizenship.
Wisconsin 87th Assembly District Rep. Jim Edming (R-Glen Flora) introduced the bill requiring a citizenship test for high school graduates. The state Joint Finance Committee recently added his measure to the Wisconsin 2015-17 biennium budget. The budget is expected to go before the full assembly for a vote this month.
“I am pleased that the committee added my civics test to the budget. This 100-question test creates an opportunity for students to learn more about our country’s foundation and the freedoms that we enjoy every day,” Edming said in a statement. “It’s a common sense change that will hopefully spark an interest in civic involvement and a more-informed electorate. Every Wisconsin high school graduate should know what makes America great and what it takes to be a good citizen.”
Edming said his bill follows a national movement with about seven states already adopting a similar civics test requirement for high school graduation. He listed a series of questions that could be asked including “What do the stripes on the American Flag mean?” and “How many seats are in the U.S. House of Representatives?”
The stripes on the flag represent the original 13 colonies. There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Memorial Day is the right time to bring a proposal like this forward to honor members of the Armed Forces who fought and made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the country, according to Edming. “This American heritage, we as Americans, should know,” he said.
Students will be required to answer 60 of the 100 questions correctly. Those applying for U.S. citizenship only answer 10 questions.
Edming called it a “Fun test” that he got “A high C” grade on. He said he answered more than 80 questions correctly. He said the pass-fail test will require only 60 correct answers out of 100 multiple choice questions, and it can be taken numerous times. He added the questions can’t be too tough or it would be impossible for immigrants to pass.
“These questions are for the most part not difficult,” Edming said. “It is something that we as Americans just need a little refresher course.”
Edming, who taught elementary school in Fairchild in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is confident the bill will pass. He said only school superintendents and educators have opposed the bill for how it might make them look.
“There is a lot of testing that goes on, but testing is a barometer so you can tell just what the kids know and if the teacher is up to snuff and taught the kids what you want them to know,” Edming said. “They just look at it as another testing issue.”
The test is flexible and can be taken online, according to Edming. “There are probably some things being tested [in the classroom] that I don’t think need to be tested, but this is something they should be tested in,” he said.
Edming added the ACT test takes almost a full day, but his proposed civics test can be completed by an average high school student in about 15-20 minutes. “This is something I think, we as Americans, should be a little more aware of what these things are,” he said.
Edming hoped the test could be a requirement as soon as the high school graduating class of 2016, stating it is too late to require it for this year’s graduations. He also said it will not add any additional credits required for graduation.
“But if you can’t pass it you aren’t going to graduate,” Edming said.