Parents, professors, and nonprofits join to petition against new civic literacy test

Volunteers unfurl a giant banner printed with the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Families, college educators and nonprofit organizations filed an appeal Tuesday against the recent ruling by the State Board of Education to allow a 100-question multiple choice test to fulfill the state’s college-level civic literacy requirement.

According to the new rule, students taking the Florida Civic Literacy Test will only need to answer 60% percent of the questions correctly to demonstrate civic literacy at a college-level understanding. There would no college classes needed.

Bob Holladay, an adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College and one of the petitioners, sees the test as a shallow demonstration of civic literacy.

“The purpose, you see, is not to educate your student, but to claim that he or she is educated,” Holladay wrote in a column for the Florida Phoenix.

The petitioning group is requesting a hearing to challenge the rule proposed by the Florida Department of Education, saying that the new test does not adhere to current Florida laws and is a substandard assessment of college-level civic literacy.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is one of the non-profits petitioning against this bill. The group advocates for “academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities,” according to their website.

The ACTA states their interest in promoting civic literacy and their concern over Florida’s civic literacy test, saying “If the intent behind educating college students in American history and government is the perpetuation of an informed and engaged citizenry, the Department of Education’s proposed rule allows students to bypass the objective.”

The Tallahassee Historical Society, Inc. also is listed in the petition. This non-profit focuses on promoting and sustaining a general interest in history.

The Tallahassee Historical Society states that “the Department’s proposed rule devalues the teaching of history by encouraging students to satisfy a college history requirement by taking and minimally passing a multiple-choice test.”

The petitioners also include parents of students in Leon County and Frank M. Baglione, a history professor at Tallahassee Community College.