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Senate Committee Okays Mandatory Civics Test

Ian Burt via Flickr

A bill that would require Utah students to pass an American civics test in order to graduate high school advanced in committee Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Arizona became the first state in the nation to require students to pass a civics exam in order to receive a high school diploma or GED. Utah is now on track to follow suit. Senate Bill 60 is sponsored by Republican Representative Howard Stephenson of Draper, who calls the lack of knowledge of basic civics in America a crisis.

“We are living in a nation where we feel so strongly in our right and obligation to vote and yet what we find is that most citizens cannot name the three branches of government, they cannot name the chief justice of the Supreme Court, nor can they explain the functions of the Supreme Court,” Stephenson says.

The bill requires students answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly in order to pass and they can retake the test as many times as necessary.

Sydnee Dickson is Deputy Superintendent of public schools. She says although there is no state-wide social studies exam, the office has been working to make civics education more robust.

“To teach these very important principles, it’s not one of merely memorizing and checking off a list and taking a test, but engaging with rich understanding and problem solving,” Dickson says.

The state school board has not taken a position on the bill. It now moves to the Senate Floor for debate.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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