FL State Board of Ed approves controversial civics test for college grads; critics call it dumbed down

A flag flies near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 18. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images.)

The State Board of Education unanimously approved a new rule that allows Florida community colleges to accept a new and controversial test to fulfill the civic literacy requirement to graduate.

Kathryn Hebda, Florida College System Chancellor at the Department of Education, assured the board that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test – Civics (U.S. history and government) with supplemental questions, better known as the Florida Civic Literacy Test, meets the standards of the civic literacy requirement to graduate.

However, the debate continues on the difficulty of the new test and what students should know in civics before graduating from college. Those cornerstone civics principles should include the principles of democracy, the history of our nation and the building blocks of government and court systems.

David Proctor, Tallahassee Community College’s Program chair for history and anthropology, believes the new test is not a “serious college-level measurement of civic literacy,” according to an email to the Florida Phoenix.

Proctor says that the new test could be an effective tool to gather data as part of college-level American history or government courses.

“…but the test by itself is not sufficient to meet the Civic Literacy Learning Outcomes that I helped develop on the DOE Civic Literacy Faculty Committee,” said Proctor.

The Board of Governors, which oversees Florida public universities, already use this Civic Literacy Test to fulfill the civics literacy requirement. This rule allows Florida community colleges to do the same.

Community college students taking the new civic literacy test at no or low cost wouldn’t need to take civics courses and could pass the 100-item multiple choice test with a score of 60, akin to a D.

The controversy comes at a time when students across the country have been struggling to master cornerstone principles in civics in the United States. Just recently, only 24 percent of 8th graders scored at or above proficient in civics on a federal exam called NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress.