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Wisconsin Budget Recommendations Include Citizenship Test

Wisconsin may be the next state to require students take a citizenship test in order to graduate high school or get their GED.

The Joint Finance Committee this week included the citizenship test requirement in its budget recommendations. It was among a slate of education initiatives recommended by the committee voting along party lines.

 A separate bill to require the test had already been introduced May 4 in the General Assembly. But putting it in the budget instead fast-tracks the proposal. It could now be on the governor's desk by June.

The proposal calls for students to take the test starting in the 2016-17 school year.

If the measure is approved, Wisconsin would join five other states (Arizona, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, and Tennessee) so far this year that have approved laws to require the test, according to the Wisconsin Leader-Telegram.

However, as the stories note, not everyone is on board. The state's Department of Public Administration and some teachers oppose it. Opponents are concerned about over-testing and how it would be administered. They also question how well it would actually measure students' civic knowledge.

Civics education has become a front-burner topic lately. Education Week wrote a comprehensive piece in March on the push for citizenship tests in many states.

In April, I wrote about the National Assessment of Educational Progress' (NAEP) most recent report showing only 23 percent of the nation's 8th graders scored proficient or above on the civics test. The findings created even more attention and urgency around the topic.

Earlier this month Ohio partnered with iCivics on a website that will provide teachers with Ohio-specific civic lessons. 

Supporters are concerned about how little today's youth know about the country in which they live. They want to make sure today's graduates are also informed citizens.

Questions on the citizenship test (it's multiple choice) include: How many years are in a U.S. Senator's term and how many amendments are in the Constitution?

If you want to test your own knowledge, the Civics Education Initiative, a group pushing to make the test a graduation requirement, posted some of the questions on its site

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