A controversial civics test won’t be used by certain colleges — at least for now

By: - August 7, 2020 4:54 pm

A flag flies near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18. Credit: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Parents, professors, and nonprofits have been fighting against a new rule that would allow college students to earn a civics competency credit — required for graduation — by taking a multiple-choice test that calls for only a D to pass.

That’s not going to happen, at least for now.

Earlier this week, the civics-related rule was quietly withdrawn by the state Department of Education, meaning the controversial test will no longer be accepted by certain colleges as a valid display of civic literacy competency at a post-secondary education level.

The rule was related to the state’s community colleges, and did not impact the controversial civics test at four-year universities.

In mid-May, the State Board of Education had approved the rule. But for months after, critics claimed that the test violated current laws and appeared to dumb down civic literacy for Florida students.

The test was known as the “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test with supplemental questions,” or the Florida Civic Literacy Test.

Bob Holladay is an adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College and a long-time vocal critic of the new civics test. He doesn’t view the withdrawal of the rule as a victory.

That’s because he thinks the Department of Education will continue to push for the controversial test later down the line.

“This thing is not over. We anticipate that the DOE will try to find a legislative remedy here,” Holladay said.

That usually means lawmakers in the state Legislature might weigh in and create a new law surrounding civic literacy testing.

The Phoenix reached out to the Department of Education for a comment on the rule withdrawal but the agency has not yet responded.

There was no explanation as to why the rule was withdrawn, according to the state records.

Thomas Crapps, the lawyer involved on behalf of Holladay and others, said “I think [the DOE] decided there was a better way to address this issue.”

Now that the ruling has been removed, Holladay is interested in working with the Department of Education to help develop a test that better demonstrates civic literacy at the college level.

“We’re not opposed to students taking this test. What we are opposed to is this being the only thing that students have to take to meet a civic literacy requirement,” Holladay said in a conversation with the Phoenix.

As for now, the state still allows other methods to demonstrate civic literacy at a post-secondary level. Those methods include taking Advanced Placement courses and passing the AP exam and taking civics courses in college.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.