Legislature to debate high school civics test Thursday

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PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Legislature's education committees approved bills creating a new high school civics test Thursday, setting up floor debate and votes in both chambers for Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's top early-session priority.

The Senate education committee approved the bill 6-1 and the House panel on a 6-2-1 vote. The full House and Senate have set debate and votes for Thursday afternoon.

House Bill 2064 and Senate Bill 1029 are identical, so a combined bill can quickly head to Ducey, who has made it his first priority in the new session.

The proposal requires high school students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test. They must pass to earn a high school or GED diploma starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

The test is being pushed nationally by the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, which has set a goal of having all 50 states adopt it by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The institute says legislatures in 15 states are expected to consider it this year.

The North Dakota House of Representatives overwhelming approved the same measure Thursday, but Arizona's is expected to be the first pass a full Legislature.

Ducey called on the Legislature to make the civics test the first bill to hit his desk as governor. He said studies show that students just don't know enough about basic government to grow into effective citizens.

"These are our children, and not long from now, it will be for them to vote on who sits in your chairs and who stands at this podium," Ducey said in his State of the state address Monday. "How can we expect them to protect the principles on which this country was founded, if we are not preparing them for that task right now?"

Republican Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, sponsoring the bill in his chamber, called the test a needed measure.

"Requiring that students pass this test is not by any means a silver bullet, but I think is a step, a small step forward," he said. "And I think we need to encourage the people of America to become more aware of the values of America."

The lone Democratic senator who opposed the bill in committee, David Bradley, said passing the test would do nothing to make good citizens. He said that despite the bill sponsors' promises, there is a cost to the state.

Bradley also said that "this is not the end-all be-all to citizenship and it doesn't get us any further down the road."

A high school government teacher, Joe Thomas of Mesa, said he was concerned that having students take a 100-question test would take up an entire class period and is not an effective way of getting students engaged in civics. He said the test is will require rote memorization rather than something that promotes critical thinking.

"The interest is promoting civics and we want to see students engaged," Thomas said. "I don't know if a test engages students."

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PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Legislature is set to consider legislation creating a new high school civics test that is a priority for Gov. Doug Ducey.

The Senate and House education committees have set scheduled hearings for Thursday morning. The full House has set debate and votes for Thursday afternoon and the Senate is expected to do the same.

House Bill 2064 and Senate Bill 1029 are identical, so the bill can quickly head to Ducey.

The bills require students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the test required to become a U.S. citizen. Passage would be required to earn a high school or GED diploma starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

Ducey says students aren't learning the basic civics they need to be good citizens.

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© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.