Preparation for new Arizona civics exam begins

 

Lexi Noble, a 10th-grader in the Flagstaff Unified School District, had little time to prepare for a prototype of Arizona’s new civics exam.

Her AP World History teacher emailed “us the study questions the day before we took it,” she said. “I was not even aware we were taking the test until I got the email.”

Noble scored an 80 on the 100-question test, one of the highest marks in her class period, she said.

Initial assessment is still a year off, but students, parents and school districts are searching for the best way to ensure success on the state’s newly implemented civics exam.

“I prepared myself by going through all 100 or so questions with my family the night before, so I felt OK going into the civics test,” Noble said.

Beginning with the class of 2017, high school seniors must pass a civics exam in order to graduate. Early in 2015, Arizona became the first state in the country to approve the exam, which requires students to correctly answer 60 out of 100 questions to pass. Students can retake the test if they fail.

Charles Tack, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Education, said the state sent out a template of the exam so high schools around Arizona could receive feedback from students and decide how to prepare students for the next school year.

Clarice Clash, senior director of curriculum for the Tucson Unified School District, said TUSD schools are not distributing the template to their students, but they are using the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) guidance to help prepare teachers to prepare their students.

“Teachers will use their discretion on how to prepare students. TUSD curriculum is being reviewed to ensure alignment and teacher support,” Clash said.

Clash also suggests that students work closely with parents to review practice exams online. A sampling of the questions:

Question: We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
Answer: Six (6)

Question: Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
Answer: The President

Question: Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
Answer (s): To print money, to declare war, to create an army, to make treaties

Question: When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
Answer: April 15

Question: How many amendments does the Constitution have?
Answer: Twenty-Seven (27)

Matt Strom, assistant superintendent of Chandler Unified School District, said they recently administered the civics exam to all their 11th graders, the graduating class of 2017, and 95.4 % percent of the students passed the exam on their first attempt.

Strom attributed success on the initial exam to the district’s Social Sciences department.

“The content on this exam is something that schools are already covering at some point,” Tack said. “This is content students should know already before they take it.”

Noble said the exam was not as difficult as she anticipated despite no in-class preparation.

“The questions were not very difficult, mostly common sense on the multiple choice questions. For the free answer questions, I knew the obvious ones, but for the ones I didn’t know, I would answer with various celebrities,” she said.

Tack said the idea behind this exam is to make sure students are graduating high school with the basic understanding of historical facts that new citizens are expected to know.

“It is not the most challenging test, and there is not as much pressure to pass as other standardized exams since students can take it as many times as they need to,” Tack said.

Michael Edmond is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at michaeledmond@email.arizona.edu.

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