Missouri law will require civics test for high school students

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COLUMBIA — Missouri passed a new law requiring all students entering ninth grade in public, charter, and private schools to pass an American civics test. 

"Missouri has been a leader in the area of civics education for years, and we have really set the bar high for the rest of the nation in terms of how to appropriately educate children about civics issues," Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Board Association, said.

Randol said this bill has been filed multiple years, and it's a lot different the way it passed this year than the way it was filed. The way it was filed, it would have wiped out a lot of requirements, and the Missouri School Board Association felt that would be a huge step backwards.

But she said she is glad that the law doesn't require replacing current curriculum, and the bill allows integrating those questions to Missouri schools' current curriculum.

"The students will still be required to pass their test on the constitutions and all the assessment before," Randol said. "This doesn't change that. This just adds some questions that needed to be integrated into the curriculum throughout the course in order for students to successfully pass their citizenship requirement."

The new law will begin after July 1, 2017 for students. Missouri is not the first state to have this law. 

"A number of other states, because they have actually more flexible or lower standards than Missouri, they have been looking at legislation to require the citizenship test," Randol said. "For Missouri, that would be a step backward because we already go above and beyond what's required in the citizenship test."

Randol said the test would not be the same but similar to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services questions used to test new citizens. The test will reflect the same content, and it will consist of 100 questions.

Melody Rodriguez, a parent who has children ranged from 7 to 15, said she has concerns about kids or people who don't know their basic rights and laws in the U.S.

"As a citizen of United States, you have to know things in the civics test," Rodriguez said. "I believe that all high school students should know basic laws of the United States and how our government functions. It's common sense, they should know that."

Alexis Hoffman, a new freshman in high school, said she is glad to have this kind of test in the future.

"I think it's necessary to take this test because all citizens should know their rights and the government," Hoffman said.

KOMU 8 randomly picked six questions from the U.S. Citizenship Test and asked six people in Columbia. No one got all the answers right; only one person named all three branches of U.S. government. 

See how you would do with a multiple choice version of those questions: 



This act also allows a school district to recognize a student's participation in the Constitution Project of the Missouri Supreme Court, as described in the act.