Students Weigh In on Bill to Require Citizenship Exam Passage Before Graduation

Central Academy U.S. History class. (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa – A bill is now under review at the Iowa House of Representatives that would require high school students passing a citizenship exam in order to graduate high school.

The Iowa Senate passed SF 2341 February 28, 2018.

If passed by the House and signed by the governor, the bill would require students to get a 60 percent or higher on the exam.

Des Moines Public Schools History Teacher Canada Snyder said it would not affect her classroom.

“I don’t think anything specifically would change with my curriculum,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s AP U.S. History class at Central Academy is weighing out the pros and cons in the bill.

Van Meter High School Sophomore Cameron Smoilk said, “I feel like if we live in America we should know as much about it. I think it is a cool idea.”

Roosevelt High School Sophomore Isabel Steffes said, “I think it is a really important issue to tackle that we have an uneducated public who don’t know a lot about their government or basic citizenship stuff. I think it is kind of an unfair system cause it’s a lot of random questions that not everyone will know.”

Roosevelt High School Sophomore Kiki Levy said, “I still wouldn’t know random facts like the 13th president, or something like that. Some of the questions I think are out of reach for many students.”

Topics covered on the exam include: U.S. history, geography and other civics-related topics.

Students can begin taking the exam in seventh grade, as many times as he or she wants.

Snyder said her classroom focuses on changes over time in history.

“As a history teacher I’m not as concerned about kids memorizing the 13 colonies, I’m not concerned about kids memorizing the exact dates of the president. Those things are not as significant as understanding continuities and changes over time,” Snyder said.

The civics exam would be in multiple choice questions. It would be the most-recent copy of the exam provided by the United States citizenship and immigration services.

If passed, the bill will take effect in schools beginning July 1, 2019.