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Bill requiring Oklahoma students pass civics section of U.S. citizenship test before graduating approved in House

“Unfortunately, too many of our students graduate high school without basic knowledge of how our nation was founded or how our system of government works."

OKLAHOMA CITY — House Bill (HB) 2030 will require Oklahoma high school students to pass the civics portion of the United States' naturalization test to graduate, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. State House members passed the bill on Monday (March 8) with a vote of 80-18. 

Terry O'Donnell (R-Catoosa) said he proposed the bill to help students become more engaged citizens. 

“Unfortunately, too many of our students graduate high school without basic knowledge of how our nation was founded or how our system of government works,” O’Donnell said. “This legislation would help correct that, leading to a more engaged and informed electorate in the future.” 

O'Donnell said too many students graduate from Oklahoma schools without being able to answer basic questions about the U.S. Government - such as how many branches of government exist in the U.S. or what actually is protected under the First Amendment of the constitution. 

He said students would only have to achieve a bare minimum score of 60 to pass the test before graduation. 

“That is not too high of a bar for young adults who will become part of our work force and our communities, and who will be future voters and perhaps even members of our government bodies,” he said.  

Some House Democrats opposed the bill, saying it was just another standardized test that students are already burnout on taking. 

“I like the idea of our students taking the US Naturalization test as an assignment as a part of a unit when the content is delivered, traditionally in the 8th grade,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa). “I can’t support making it a graduation requirement which only creates more unnecessary mandatory testing for our children. Oklahoma parents have spoken loud and clear- our kids have testing fatigue. Testing isn’t the only way to assess a child’s mastery of a subject.

The test is the same required of anyone looking to become a citizen of the United States. 

Fourteen other states have adopted similar bills, with Arkansas passing a similar law. 

HB 2030 will mandate subject matter standards for history, social studies and U.S. Government courses in Oklahoma public school to include the study of important historical documents (the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation and Federalist Papers). The bill will set standards for teaching about the U.S. Government to include simulations of the democratic process and lessons on the structure and relationship between national, state, county and local governments. 

An amendment to the bill would exempt students that have an individualized education plan. 

The bill will now head to the state Senate. 

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