A state law requiring Kentucky high school students to pass a civics test in order to graduate goes into effect this year.
High schools in Northeast Kentucky are not waiting until the last minute and many already have administered the test.
Some schools are making the test part of social studies at the freshman or sophomore level so that most — if not all — students will have a passing grade socked away long before their senior year.
The General Assembly passed the law in 2017. It requires students to pass a 100-question test prepared or approved by the local board of education. Questions must be taken from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services test — the test required to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Greenup County High School administered the test to sophomores and juniors in the last school year with a 100 percent pass rate, principal Jason Smith said.
“We made the decision to get ahead of the game,” he said. Greenup also added a sophomore-level course and will focus on 10th graders this year with practice questions before the exam.
Paul Blazer High School administered the test to all freshmen, sophomores and juniors last school year, principal Jamie Campbell said. Students who did not pass will re-take this year, he said.
All of Raceland-Worthington High School’s rising seniors have passed the test and civics is embedded in freshman social studies classes. That is where students will prepare for the test, principal Tom Collins said.
Russell High School also teaches civics in ninth grade and took the additional step of making the civics test part of its digital driver’s license — the array of things students are required to know in order to use school computers and other technology equipment, according to principal Anna Chaffin.
Fairview High School’s social studies department is developing a test and will administer it to students in all four grades this year, principal Eric Hale said.
Seniors in particular will get multiple opportunities to complete and pass the test, he said.
Students must correctly answer at least 60 of the 100 questions to pass, and may retake the test as many times as necessary to pass.
Typical questions include:
— Where is the Statue of Liberty?
— Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
— What does the Constitution do?
— What are the first 10 amendments to the constitution called?
— How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
Aside from the graduation requirement, the test provides a solid foundation for citizenship, according to school officials.
“They’re going to be voting citizens one day. There’s nothing wrong with making sure they are proficient in civics education,” Smith said.
“It’s a common sense approach to a life skill that’s needed by our students to leave high school and be functioning members of society, and to know how the government works and the history, the essentials,” Campbell said.
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