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Students take state civics test for first time

posted Mar 29, 2016, 8:19 PM by Jeffrey Wolf

By: Kylie Coffin, Co Editor-in-Chief

Posted December 22nd, 2015

On Tuesday, December 22 Slinger High School students from the class of 2017 will be taking the Wisconsin State Civics Test during their government class. If they do not currently have a government class this semester, students will take the test during their last government class next semester. This test is a new graduation requirement for all students living in Wisconsin, and it goes into effect for the 2016-2017 school year, meaning current seniors are exempt from this additional graduation requirement. The Wisconsin State Civics Test is based off of the Naturalization Test that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services use as a part of citizenship requirements. The test is made up of civics questions pertaining to American government, history, culture, and geography. Each school district in Wisconsin is able to write their own tests and determine when during the year the test will be taken. Students are required to answer 60 of the 100 questions correctly in order to pass. Once students pass the Civics Test, it will be shown on their transcripts and diplomas.

Students have been preparing for this test for essentially all of their academic careers. When they began learning about the role of government, students were building necessary knowledge for later in life that was expanded upon in social studies classes each year. Much of the knowledge that is needed for the Civics Test was covered in 8th grade social studies and in American Studies I, II, and III (or Advanced Placement United States Government) at Slinger High School. Classes have been preparing daily for the test by practicing with direct test questions from the actual naturalization test packet and also by incorporating much of the government questions into the curriculum for various units. For example, in American Studies III questions on the Civics Test dealing with the presidency and executive branch are covered in the fifth unit, while questions involving the Constitution are taught in the very first unit. Some of the questions require a basic understanding of current politicians at the local and state level. For example, knowing who Wisconsin’s current Senators  and Congressional Representatives are is also significant. Many students will have seen the questions on the test at least once or twice (if not more) before they take the test for the first time.

While students will be well prepared to take the Civics Test, if any student struggles to pass the test the first time teachers will be working with those students to practice so that they will be able to pass it on the second try. The next time the test will be held for anyone who does not pass with a 60% or higher on December 22 will be during exam week.

The idea for this test came from the Wisconsin State Legislature, where many State Senators and Assembly people felt that too many students graduating from Wisconsin high schools did not know enough about American democracy, history, and culture. Because of this, the Civics Test was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. There are several other states that are also requiring students to pass this type of civics exam in order to ensure students are prepared to be citizens and are knowledgeable about government by the time they graduate high school.

Current Slinger High School teacher for World Studies, American Studies III, AP US Government, and Nite Crier adviser, Mr. Wolf, sees the positive impacts of both the new Civics Test and the teaching that occurs every year in Slinger. “One thing we do here at Slinger High School which I’m very proud of is that we go beyond just the basics [of government] by looking into things like politics and looking into things like elections and when they are conducted.” Mr. Wolf went on to say, “I think it’s [the Civics Test] going to be a very positive impact to know this basic information, but we go well beyond this in American Studies III.” Mr. Wolf explained that things such as The Active Citizen Project help develop students’ understanding of the intricacies of local government in ways that are often as significant as having general knowledge of national government. The Active Citizen Project is an American Studies III project in which students attend a local government meeting of their choice and explain what they experienced, how it can have an impact on his/her life, and how he/she can impact the government as well. Mr. Wolf said, “I think the test is good, but I think it’s important that students- in order to become that active citizen- need to know more than just basic facts. They need to understand certain issues, understand how government works, and what kind of impact they will have on it.” Thankfully, Slinger High School gives students the opportunity to be both active and very knowledgeable citizens by the time they graduate.