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States Move to Make Citizenship Exams a Classroom Aid

This month, Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the citizenship exam, stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma. (Immigrants are given 10 of the 100 questions and must correctly answer six to pass.) Other states may follow suit: North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives.

The move to require students to pass the citizenship test has created controversy, however, and not because of any issues related to immigration. Rather, at a time when resistance to standardized testing is growing, some educators worry that the new requirement will rob teachers of instructional time and will encourage rote memorization rather than a more robust discussion of civic involvement.