Press Releases | Civic Literacy

Florida Department of Education Withdraws Rule Weakening Civics Education in Response to ACTA Challenge

August 7, 2020 by ACTA

Washington, DC – On August 5, the Florida Department of Education withdrew a proposed rule which would have seriously weakened a 2017 statute requiring Florida students to “demonstrate competency in civic literacy” in order to graduate from a state college or university.

In May, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) joined in a petition seeking determination in administrative court that the proposed regulation is an invalid exercise of the authority delegated to the Florida Department of Education. The petitioners argued that the Florida Department of Education’s proposed rule would undercut the legislature’s intention by allowing community college students to demonstrate civic competency by attaining a mere 60% on a newly constructed memorization test derived in large part from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test. The withdrawal of the proposed rule means that colleges will continue to require students to complete a foundational course in U.S. history or government, or demonstrate proficiency on an exam designed to assess true collegiate-level understanding (for example, the AP U.S. History Exam).

“I am so pleased that the Department of Education withdrew the rule,” stated Professor Robert Holladay, a signatory of the petition. “ACTA’s willingness to get involved in this rule challenge changed everything and made this of national interest.  I could not be more grateful to them.”

“ACTA is proud to partner with local stakeholders working to ensure that every college graduate is well-prepared for informed and engaged citizenship,” said Michael Poliakoff, president of ACTA. “In 2017, Florida positioned itself as a national leader by specifying meaningful civics standards to guide curricular reform on college and university campuses, including a requirement that graduates demonstrate an ‘understanding of the basic principles of American democracy’ and ‘knowledge of the founding documents.’ The proposed rule would have undermined lawmakers’ bold efforts.  The renewal of civics education has never been more important, and we look forward to working with Florida’s public leaders in their efforts to improve civic literacy.”

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