Costly civics test added to high school reporting requirements

The Minnesota Department of Education would be required to add civics test scores to its test reporting list if a bill headed to the Senate floor after its E-12 Education Committee hearing this week becomes law. Although there was no roll call vote, the Republican members of the committee voted in favor of the additional reporting. DFLers voted no.

A bill passed in 2016 requires schools to test students with 50 of the 100 questions that are given as part of the immigrant naturalization exam. As a result, students are required to answer 30 of the 50 correctly and districts may record the test scores on a student’s transcript. However, the scores are not required to be reported to MDE nor can a student be denied a diploma for not passing the test.

If this bill passes, the test could further advance the district-by-district comparison that already happens with current statewide standardized tests. There are no consistent administrative procedures for when the civics test is given, nor is it dictated which students must take it. Additionally, it doesn’t make it clear if any students would be exempt from taking the test.

Minnesota currently spends $10 million a year on testing. This bill would cost an additional $434,000 in the first year of administration and $15,000 per year after that. There have been efforts recently to reduce the number of standardized tests required and even to replace high school tests with more meaningful measures such as the ACT. None of those bills have advanced under Republican leadership, despite their popularity with Minnesota families. (SF 2964)