The Bulletin Board

Under new law, high school seniors must pass civics exam to graduate

By: - August 3, 2021 5:16 pm
The state house as viewed through a stone arch

Supporters of the bill had portrayed it as a means to increase housing stock in towns and cities without large apartment complexes that tend to draw controversy. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Future New Hampshire high school seniors will have a new requirement to graduate: a passing grade on the national civics exam given to new Americans.

Under a law signed by Gov. Chris Sununu last week, high schoolers two years from now will need to pass the 128-question civics naturalization examination in order to graduate. 

That exam, developed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, includes a range of questions over how the U.S. government works, from broad questions like the number of amendments in the Constitution (27) and the number of representatives in the U.S. House (435), to more specific queries, such as naming one of the documents that influenced the creation of the Constitution (for instance, the Federalist Papers).

The test is required for all U.S. residents applying for naturalization, the process by which they can become American citizens. House Bill 320 adds it to the required high school curriculum in New Hampshire.

Granite State students must achieve a 70 percent or higher on the test to graduate, the law states. But schools can modify the test for students with disabilities according to their individualized education program.

The bill passed largely on party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

Rep. Michael Moffett, a Loudon Republican and the bill’s sponsor, argued during the hearing process that the bill would help turn around a perceived lack of knowledge in civics and U.S. government among high school graduates. In presenting the law, Moffett criticized some schools for prioritizing lessons about climate change over civics education. 

Opponents, who included the New Hampshire School Board Association, countered that the new law would only force schools to “teach to the test,” and noted that high school students are already expected to demonstrate competency in government and civics as part of the state statute defining an adequate education. 

The law takes effect July 1, 2023.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel. Email: [email protected]