• Description

The policy solution that has garnered the most momentum to improve civics in recent years is a standard that requires high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship exam before graduation. According to this analysis, 17 states have taken this path. Yet, critics of a mandatory civics exam argue that the citizenship test does nothing to measure comprehension of the material and creates an additional barrier to high school graduation. Other states have adopted civics as a requirement for high school graduation, provided teachers with detailed civics curricula, offered community service as a graduation requirement, and increased the availability of Advance Placement (AP) U. S. government classes. When civics education is taught effectively, it can equip students with the knowledge, skills, and disposition necessary to become informed and engaged citizens. Educators must also remember that civics is not synonymous with history. While increasing history courses and service requirements are potential steps to augment students' background knowledge and skill sets, civics is a narrow and instrumental instruction that provides students with the agency to apply these skills. This analysis finds a wide variation in state requirements and levels of youth engagement. While this research highlights that no state currently provides sufficient and comprehensive civic education, there is reason to be optimistic that high-quality civics education can impact civic behavior.