If I dug hard enough in my boxes of “stuff” in my garage, somewhere I have an early 50’s Iowa grade school report card for my mother (who passed away 14 years ago), where it had a specific printed line item for the grade she had earned in ‘citizenship.’
The understanding of it back then was an abstract judgement of how you conduct yourself in normal society. And in some schools, it’s used yet today with phrases such as “_______ is a very dependable student. She frequently helps her classmates without being asked to do so. Thank-you for your help” scribbled in the margin as an explanatory/praising phrase on the report card. Basically, a nice way to classify a child’s behavior amongst their peers.
Articles have been appearing in the media recently about how a group in South Dakota (as well as in 6 other states) want to take the definition beyond getting along with your peers, and require actual state level testing on actual citizenship:
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” state coordinator Georgia Hanson said. “The kids should know this stuff.”
South Dakota schools already must cover statehood and the United States Constitution, “not later than the opening of the eighth grade and shall continue in the high school,” according to state law.
But Hanson’s group would go a step further.
Starting with the 2016-17 school year, the North Dakota measure would require all public, private, and home school students to answer at least 60 percent of questions on the test correctly to be eligible for a diploma. Students can take the test once a year, any time between seventh grade and graduation.
Organizers for the South Dakota initiative plan to introduce a bill for the 2015 legislative session, though Hanson said there was no rush.
“We’ve got time here to get this put together, and we want to make sure that everybody has a chance to either sponsor it or support it,” Hanson said.
The South Dakota law the article mentions (but fails to cite) is SDCL 13-33-4, which reads:
13-33-4. Instruction on United States and state Constitutions required–Years when given. In all public and nonpublic schools located within the state there shall be given regular courses of instruction in the Constitutions of the United States and the State of South Dakota. Such instruction shall begin not later than the opening of the eighth grade and shall continue in the high school to an extent to be determined by the South Dakota Board of Education.
The law goes back to the state’s codification of laws back in 1939, and may pre-date it even further. So it’s not as if South Dakota ignores a basic need for this type of instruction. I don’t have a problem with this broad kind of guidance.
Maybe it’s my contrarian nature, but I can’t escape the notion in my head that the proposal being floated seems like yet another legislative measure for yet another standardized test for yet another graduation requirement. Yes, it’s about things that kids should know, but it’s also coming in the form of a mandate that a special interest wants to see thrust upon school children. And I’m quite sure that it will be administered without funding, leaving it at the expense of school districts and the state.
Before we get too far down the road on a bill being introduced, I think I’d raise the question of how adding this graduation requirement and changing the state’s legal requirement on instruction for the US Constitution was received by the South Dakota Board of Education when it was presented to them.
If it was ever presented to them.
If the parents in the state feel the instruction that schools are currently offering in this area is somehow deficient, the State BOE standards for that type of curriculum should be the first place to look. Going down the legislative path just opens the door for the “Why SDSU is better than USD” standardized graduation requirement, or the “Blogs are Awesome” curriculum law.
And that’s the last thing schools need from the state legislature.
But, that’s just my 2 cents worth. What do you think?
(If you’re interested in finding out what the current graduation requirements are, there’s a 24 page booklet from the DOE available to view on-line.)