Policymakers | General Education

Florida Challenged Over New Civics Literacy Exam

POLITICO PRO   |  May 27, 2020 by Andrew Atterbury

TALLAHASSEE — Civics education advocates are fighting to invalidate an exam recently approved by the Florida Board of Education as an option for students to meet college graduation requirements.

In a petition filed Tuesday with the Division of Administrative Hearings, the Washington-based American Council of Trustees and Alumni said the adoption of the test shortchanges civic literacy “in favor of memorization of facts.” The council was joined by two Florida parents, a pair of Tallahassee professors, and the Tallahassee Historical Society.

Florida’s civics education system in the past has been praised by organizations, including ACTA, a national education reform group. But the Board of Education now is catching heat for amending a rule established by the state Legislature.

“We are disappointed to see the Florida Department of Education so determined to undermine lawmakers’ bold efforts in 2017, which could make Florida the national leader in civics education,” said ACTA President Michael Poliakoff in a statement Wednesday.

The petition claims the state Department of Education violated state civics education rules when it introduced a test that ACTA said fails to adequately gauge a student’s understanding of the subject. Answers for the exam, comprised of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization test and some additional questions, are easily accessible online and water down the test, according the group.

The filing also claims that the state’s decision to apply the new rule retroactively is against the law. The Board of Education failed to follow proper rulemaking procedures when crafting the change, wrote the groups.

An administrative law judge has not yet been assigned to the case.

Florida’s civic education system, recognized as one of the top in the U.S., requires students to pass a civics course and state exam in middle school. The test, which 71 percent of students passed in 2018, counts as 30 percent of the civics class grade.

But students also must pass a civics literacy exam in high school or college before they can earn an undergraduate degree from state schools, a policy often touted by state lawmakers and groups such as ACTA.

Since last school year, Florida students have been required to prove their civic literacy by taking a three- credit-hour course or by passing the Advanced Placement history or government exams or College Level Preparatory Program tests.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More