Tag Archives: Joyce Rankin Colorado State Board of Education

Leadville News – April 15

Students Must Pass Civics Test – Can You?

By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education

“An informed citizenry is the heart of a dynamic democracy.” – Thomas Jefferson

Joyce Rankin

Civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizenship. The United States Citizenship Civics Test is the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass. Unlike Colorado some states are requiring that students pass the test before receiving a high school diploma.

Currently only 24 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in civics. Proficient is defined as “competent or skilled” however a passing grade in many states, and for those desiring citizenship is 60 percent, which, I believe is a pretty low bar. According to a recent study a third of all U.S. citizens can’t name even one branch of our federal government.* An organization called the Civics Education Initiative believes that high school students should be required to pass the 100 basic facts immigration test. I would add that if those entering our country need to earn a score of 60 percent, shouldn’t current citizens be able to answer all 100 of the questions correctly?

Under current Colorado law (C.R.S. 22-1-104), Colorado students are required to take and satisfactorily pass a Civics course to graduate from High School. Remarkably, in Colorado, this is the only graduation requirement in state law. The actual law states: The history and civil government of the state of Colorado shall be taught in all the public schools of this state.  Note the word “shall” in this statement.  It’s critical, when reading bills, to note “shall” as opposed to “may”. Both terms are used in bill writing and, of course, have very different meanings.  You seldom see the word “shall” because Colorado is a local control state. This bill however states that history and civil government “shall”, or “will be”, taught. The bill goes on to state that: Satisfactory completion of a course on the civil government of the United States and the state of Colorado, (which includes the subjects described in subsection 2 including history, culture, and contributions of minorities, including, but not limited to, the American Indians, the Hispanic Americans, and the African Americans), shall be taught in all the public schools of the state.

In the previous paragraph you may have noticed that students are “required to take and satisfactorily pass” a Civics course. What does satisfactorily mean? That is left up to the school district.  Some districts may require a higher standard to pass than others. Is one correct answer “satisfactorily passing”? It depends on your school district.

Some people believe that there are too many tests given to students and we can’t possibly add another. I believe that next to reading and math, being a good citizen should be the foundation of our educational system and our country.  Our state should rise to the challenge and require high school graduates to not only be able to pass the test but understand the history and responsibilities behind the answers.

* There are three branches of Government: Legislative, Judicial and Executive.

Joyce Rankin, a retired teacher, is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.

Leadville News – March 12

Testing, Testing – It’s Just Around the Corner

By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education

Joyce Formal sport coat

State Board Rep Joyce Rankin

Do you remember the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)? Yikes, was it that long ago? ITBS, developed in 1935 by the University of Iowa, was administered as a tool for improving K-8th-grade education. Students took tests at each grade level to determine how they were learning. In 2017 Iowa’s new testing program, Next Generation Iowa Assessments (NGIA), was rolled out.  Nearly all of the school districts in Iowa currently use this assessment tool. Many other states are also using Iowa’s tests. Over the years other tests have been developed by different testing companies and Colorado, it seems, has tried more than a few.

Colorado has changed tests over time, in attempts to align with the Colorado State Standards.  There have been ongoing concerns with the time it takes to administer tests and turnaround time, but these times have improved. 

Here is a review of the latest progression of testing in Colorado:

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test was replaced, in 2017, in favor of the Colorado Measurements of Academic Standards (CMAS) tests in Math and English Language Arts (AKA Reading, Writing and Arithmetic!). These tests are ninety minutes shorter than previous tests.  CMAS Tests are given every year from 3rd – 9th grades. Social Studies which encompasses, History, Geography, Civics, and Economics, is administered on a sampling basis with schools participating once every three years. Science tests are taken in grades 5, 8 and 10.

students_ hands rasied

Leadville students at a Lake County Intermediate School assembly in 2017 are engaged and ready to learn. Photo: Leadville Today/Brennan Ruegg.

The college entrance exam, the SAT, is taken in 11th grade with the preliminary tests PSAT 9  and PSAT 10 given in 9th and 10th grades respectively. The meaning of the acronym SAT is complicated.  Originally it stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. Then the name changed to Scholastic Assessment Test. In 1997 the people who created the test announced that the acronym SAT no longer stands for anything.

This year testing will take place from April 9-27.

The SAT can be used for college admission and is known as a “high stakes” test. Students try to get the highest score possible, and there are strict protocols for test administration: students must sit at least four feet apart, if students talk, during the test, they will be dismissed and not receive scores, and students arriving after the exam begins are not admitted. Last month the New York Post reported cheating by 200 students at a Bronx high school.  Students broke every rule set forth by proctors of the exams. For such a high stakes test, it is imperative that strict protocol rules are followed.

We’ve gone from Iowa Tests of Basic Skills to SAT. But what about the Kuder Preference Test? Remember that one? When you finish taking it, you will get an idea of your career path. I just completed the free online version: I’m destined to be a TEACHER! Whew!

Joyce Rankin, a retired teacher, is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.