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GOP bill would require civics test to graduate high school

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin students would have to pass the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test to graduate from high school under a new Republican bill moving through the Legislature despite educators' misgivings.

Rep. James "Jimmy Boy" Edming's bill calls for students to correctly answer at least 60 of 100 questions on the civics section of the test taken by those seeking U.S. citizenship. Examples of questions include how many amendments have been added to the Constitution (27), naming a branch of government (legislative, executive or judicial) and which war Dwight Eisenhower served in as a general (World War II).

Students would be allowed to retake the test until they pass. The requirement would apply to students at public schools, charter schools and schools participating in the state's voucher program, which subsidizes private school tuition. The requirement would go into effect beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

Arizona and North Dakota have implemented similar requirements.

Edming, a freshman legislator from Glen Flora in northwestern Wisconsin's Rusk County, wrote in a April 24 memo seeking co-sponsors that he's shocked at how few people understand the workings of the U.S. government. He said Wisconsin high schools should help instill the responsibilities of citizenship.

"(The bill) will help ensure knowledge of the United States and its government and foster greater civic participation within our students," he wrote.

A half-dozen Republicans, including five Assembly members and one senator, Van Wanggaard of Racine, have signed on as co-sponsors. The Assembly's state affairs committee has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he supports the bill.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy said in an email that the agency opposes the bill. He said DPI officials feel that creating another test for students is unnecessary.

Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, echoed McCarthy, saying in an email that adding a high-stakes graduation test doesn't help alleviate educators and parents' concerns about over-testing. Bales also said there's no evidence it would improve outcomes for students or lead to success after high school.


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