Press Releases | General Education

Florida Dept. of Education Action on Civic Education is Wrong

May 13, 2020 by ACTA

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has long been impressed with Florida’s commitment to improving civic education. The state passed legislation in 2017 to address a well-documented crisis of civic understanding by mandating that students “demonstrate competency in civic literacy” in order to graduate from state colleges and universities. Legislators clearly intended for Florida students to complete a foundational course in U.S. history or government, or to demonstrate civic literacy by taking an assessment designed to evaluate collegiate-level understanding. 

We were, and remain, impressed that the statute specifies meaningful learning objectives: “an understanding of the basic principles of American democracy and how they are applied in our republican form of government, an understanding of the United States Constitution, knowledge of the founding documents and how they have shaped the nature and functions of our institutions of self-governance, and an understanding of landmark Supreme Court cases and their impact on law and society.” The statute envisions a rebirth of civic education that, if it were to be achieved, would go a long way toward restoring public confidence in our representative institutions and improving our public dialogue.

Unfortunately, today’s action by Florida’s Department of Education has seriously eroded the legislature’s civic education requirement. Rule 6A-10.02413 will allow community college students to demonstrate competency by attaining a mere 60% on the “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test—Civics with supplemental questions.” A multiple-choice test based substantially on the USCIS citizenship test (for which answers are publicly available at the click of a mouse) is not a reasonable or appropriate substitute for a foundational course in U.S. history or government. Nor is such a test comparable to the AP history exam—an instrument carefully designed to assess college-level competencies. As such, ACTA urges the Florida Department of Education to reconsider today’s action and to commit to providing a meaningful civic education to all students.

“Public colleges have a responsibility to prepare graduates for a lifetime of informed citizenship. The public good at stake is worth the resources necessary to teach Florida students about our country’s principles, institutions, and history” said Michael Poliakoff, president of ACTA. “We are alarmed to learn that the Florida Department of Education has approved a rule that will allow community college students to satisfy the state’s civic education requirement by passing a basic multiple-choice test. Relying on what is essentially a middle school-level assessment bypasses the legislature’s clear intention, which was to strengthen civic education in the state of Florida.”


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