Gov. DeSantis wants high school seniors to take exam similar to citizenship test
December 10, 2019
NAPLES, Fla. (NSF) — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday his administration will require all high school seniors in Florida to take a civics exam, similar to the one taken by people who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
“This is just one part of our overall effort to make civics important again,” the governor said at a news conference in Naples.
DeSantis said he would direct Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to require all high school students to take the test, but it will not be a graduation requirement.
“For now, a student who does not pass the civics exam may still graduate from high school if all other requirements are fulfilled,” Helen Ferre, a DeSantis spokeswoman, told The News Service of Florida after the announcement.
Improving civics education and learning about the Constitution was one of DeSantis’ promises during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. Florida law already requires students to take classes on civics.
Starting in sixth grade, students must take at least a one-semester civics education course that covers the role of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government, as well as the “meaning and significance” of historic documents such as the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he did not yet know enough about the plan to take a side one way or the other; he agreed with DeSantis' view on the importance of civics education, but mentioned concerns about teachers being asked to do more each year.
"With Holocaust education, civics education, lots of things that are very important, but we also have the standardized tests that students are graded on, and our teachers are graded on, but we'll kinda see how it all shakes out," said Hanna.
Dr. Jane Lo, an Assistant Professor of Social Science Education at FSU, said a test may not be the best option for increased engagement.
"Research has shown that sometimes when you put tests into the framework, teachers end up teaching the test rather than thinking about what students are learning," said Dr. Lo.
She said she was not surprised by the Governor's announcement, after recent legislative pushes.
"In terms of adding onto what's existing in Florida, I'm not so sure that it's completely necessary. I think it's important for all people to understand how government works and understand
the processes and functions, so I think it's really important for people to have that knowledge, but in terms of Florida legislation I think there's been some robust civic education themes already," she said.
Lo also said hands-on experience, and involving themselves with government, may be the best way for students to learn about how it works.
"It's really important for young people to know that the government works for them," said Lo.
She said there are hands-on opportunities available to students in Tallahassee and Leon County already.
"Where they do volunteerism or they go serve at soup kitchens or they work on municipal issues, or they get work done at City Hall."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a practice test available on its website. To see some sample questions from the civics test,