Sunday, January 18, 2015

Arizona Seeking to Boost Civic Education

PHOENIX, AR (PR) - Governor Doug Ducey signed his first bill into law – the American Civics Bill, which will help ensure all Arizona students understand basic American civics.

Quoting what Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has called "the quiet crisis in education," the governor emphasized the need for children to be properly educated about the history and founding principles of our nation. 

"I am proud to sign the American Civics Bill into law, and I thank legislators in the House and Senate for swiftly sending this bipartisan legislation to my desk," said Governor Ducey. "This unifying solution has brought together leaders from all sides of the political spectrum.  Not long from now, our children will be entrusted with protecting the principles on which this country was founded, and it is up to us to prepare them for that responsibility today. As John Adams said, every child in this country should be 'instructed in the principles of freedom,' and with this bipartisan effort, we are closer as a state to reaching that goal."

Arizona became the first state in the nation on Thursday to enact a law requiring high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship test on civics before graduation, giving a boost to a growing nationwide effort to boost civics education. 

The swift action in Arizona comes as states around the country take up similar measures. Arizona's law requires high school students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the test new citizens must pass. 

The bill is part of a larger campaign by the Civics Education Initiative, an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Scottsdale, Ariz., to mandate the U.S. citizenship exam in schools around the country. The group said that 18 additional states are reviewing similar bills, noting that the North Dakota House of Representatives also passed a civics-education bill Thursday.


HB 2064 directs the State Board of Education to include the requirement for students to pass a civics test in the high school competency requirements for graduation, beginning in the 2016-17 school year.


According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), naturalization is the process of granting U.S. citizenship to a foreign citizen or national after he or she meets specific requirements outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act.  One of the requirements is that most applicants must pass a naturalization test, consisting of two components:

1)      English language proficiency
2)      Knowledge of U.S. history and government (known as the civics test)

The civics test is based on 100 U.S. history and government questions. It is administered by a USCIS Officer who asks up to 10 questions on the list. An applicant must correctly answer at least 6 out of the 10 questions to pass the test.

A.R.S. § 15-203 outlines the duties and requirements of the State Board of Education (SBE), including the requirement for SBE to prescribe minimum competency requirements for high school graduation (§15-203 (A)(13)).  SBE last updated the Arizona Social Studies Standard in 2006


1.      Requires the SBE to include in the high school competency requirements a requirement for students to correctly answer at least 60 out of 100 questions on a test identical to the civics component of the naturalization test used by USCIS.
a.       The new requirement is effective for the 2016-17 school year.
b.      Passage of the test is required in order to graduate from high school or obtain a high school 
equivalency diploma.
c.       The requirement applies to district and charter schools.

2.      Allows a school district governing board or charter school governing body to determine the manner and method to administer the test.

3.      Requires the school to document on a student’s transcript when the student passes the test.

4.      Permits a student who does not pass the test to retake it until he or she passes.

5.      States that students who receive special education are not required to pass the test unless specific conditions are met.  

6.      Allows the act to be cited as the “American Civics Act.”

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