Indianapolis– On Thursday, Senate Republicans voted to pass a proposal that would require high school students to pass a civics exam, without any classroom instruction, in order to graduate. The exam would be identical to the United States Civics Test administered to individuals seeking citizenship in the United States.
The intent of Senate Bill (SB) 132 is to ensure that high school students are educated about our government. Unfortunately, by simply adding another test to the never-ending list of tests students must already pass to graduate, this proposal would not do that. All this bill does is add more to the plates of high school students who are trying to graduate. It also further limits the ability of teachers to teach freely, as it forces them to prep students to pass yet another state mandated test without any additional classroom time. Teachers already sacrifice creativity and freedom in their classrooms because they have to focus on teaching to the test, and not to the subjects.
Not only would SB 132 negatively impact students and teachers by putting pressure on them to prepare for yet another mandated exam, but the exam in question is not even necessary. Students are already required to learn about civics to graduate high school under the Core 40 diploma requirements. High School students are already required to pass tests on American Government in order to pass their civics classes. Why are we putting more strain on teachers and students, and risking a decline in graduation rates?
Indiana legislators must stop forcing teachers to redesign their teaching styles and lesson plans to cater to exams, and give them more freedom to be creative in their teaching and more time to implement classroom best practices. If I had to guess, this would probably be more engaging for students anyway, allowing them to better learn and memorize the information they are taught. SB 132 is not going to lead to students being more educated about their federal and state governments. It is going to result in lesson plans being created solely to prepare students for an unneeded exam rather than improve their academic achievement.
Of course, I think that it’s important for students to have a full understanding of their government and pay attention to the legislatures at the state and federal levels, but SB 132 does not accomplish this. It will only require students to remember information for a short time that will likely be forgotten not long after their tests. Quality instruction with meaningful classroom discussion is how we build civic-minded and involved citizens, not another mandated test.