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Bill Would Require High School Students To Pass Civics Exam

Students studying

Requiring high school students to pass the same exam as those seeking U.S. citizenship is a cause du jour for some lawmakers around the country — and Indiana is no exception.

The House Education Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a bill from Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, that would require high school students to pass the 100-question civics exam before graduation.

Students would get as many attempts as needed to pass the test with a score of 60 percent or higher, though students would be responsible for the cost of the exam after taking it the first time.

"We want our students to grow up to be engaged citizens in our government, in our local government, at every level," Wesco says.

He says he decided to sponsor the bill after the record-low turnout for midterm elections in Indiana last year.

The committee did not take a vote on the exam.

Chairman of the committee, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, says he's supportive of the bill‘s goal of education about government but leery of adding another standardized test for students.

"I appreciate [Wesco] bringing this together. I wish we could figure out another way, maybe ISTEP should be more focused on that, or [state education] standards, but I do think it is worthy to be discussed," Behning says.

Some critics of the bill say the state‘s standards, which were just put in place this school year, already cover the material in the civics exam.

"Grades 5, 8 and 12 are all grades in which civics education and much, if not all of the content in this 100-question test are covered," John Barnes, lobbyist for the Indiana Department of Education says.

Other critics say forcing a new test onto students won‘t help them love their country, or get them to participate in the political process when they get older.

Indiana is one of at least 18 states considering a required civics exam for graduation. Arizona because the first state in the U.S. to pass the proposal into law last week.

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