Bill proposes new high school graduation requirement: citizenship test

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AUSTIN — What is the name of the national anthem? How many justices are on the Supreme Court? What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

Those are just a few questions from a federal immigration and citizenship test high schoolers will be required to answer to graduate under legislation passed Thursday overwhelmingly by the Texas House.

“I just think it’s common sense to require for a high school diploma the same test we would require for citizenship,” said Rep. Gary VanDeaver, a New Boston Republican and former educator sponsoring House Bill 515 that would swap the civics test for the 11th grade U.S. history test.

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The test would require students answer the same 100 questions the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agents ask those seeking citizenship. Federal government interviewers ask applicants 10 of those 100 questions and require applicants verbally answer six correctly.

Students would take the test electronically and in a multiple choice format, under the bill which now heads to the Senate. Students could retake the test as many times as needed to answer 70 percent of questions correctly.

“I think it’s testing the very things we want our children or our students to come out of high school knowing,” said VanDeaver, who admitted he hadn’t taken the test on his own recently. “Shame on us if we’re allowing our high school seniors to graduate without knowing what’s on that civics test.”

While the bill passed 141-3 in the chamber, parents actively fighting to reduce the number of high stakes standardized tests say they’re mildly annoyed the state added that test, but say they think it will be less onerous than the 11th grade U.S. history test lawmakers deleted.

“We don’t love it, but we can sort of live with it,” said Theresa Trevino, president of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment.

The bill also eliminated the eighth grade social studies STAAR test, two fifth- and eighth-grade reading and math retake exams and two optional end of course high school exams.

What parents are worried about, she said, is a provision in the bill requiring students take a five-part writing exam beginning in 2021 which she said is difficult to accurately grade.

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