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U.S. Citizenship Test May Become a Graduation Requirement in North Dakota

To earn a high school diploma in North Dakota, students will have to pass a U.S. citizenship test if state lawmakers approve legislation to make a 100-question exam a graduation requirement.

The chairman of the state's House Education Committee, Mike Nathe, announced this week that he would propose the measure during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January. The proposal would take effect for the class of 2016.

The test would gauge what students know about American government (What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?), history (Name one American Indian tribe in the United States) and civics (What is the name of the national anthem?).

The responses are open-ended, not multiple choice, and many have several valid answers.

The Associated Press reports that similar efforts are underway in Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

To pass, students would have to answer at least 60 questions correctly. Immigrants seeking citizenship have to pass a 10-question civics test asking basic questions about American history and government, and about 93 percent succeed.

Roughly two-thirds of native-born Americans could get the required six out of 10 right answers when asked the same questions in a telephone poll, according to a survey conducted by the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Commissioned in 2012, the telephone survey of more than 1,000 native-born Americans was designed to mimic the actual test. Thirty-five percent of people answered five or fewer correctly, but they weren't allotted time to study beforehand.

The most commonly missed questions revolved around the different functions of government. Almost 60 percent of poll respondents could not define what an amendment was and 75 percent didn't know the role of the judicial branch.

The 10 survey questions were selected from the same bank of 100 questions that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses.

State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said each school district would decide how to administer the test.

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