And unfortunately, they don’t know anything.
To determine students’ level of basic civic knowledge, we surveyed Arizona high school students with questions drawn from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) item bank, which consists of 100 questions given to candidates for United States citizenship. The longstanding practice has been for candidates to take a test on 10 of these items. A minimum of six correct answers is required to pass. The service recently reported a first-try passing rate of 92.4 percent.
The Goldwater Institute survey, conducted by a private survey firm, gave each student 10 items from the USCIS item bank. We grouped results according to the type of school students attend—public, charter, or private.
Here were the ten questions, by the way:
- What is the supreme law of the land?
- What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
- What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
- How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?
- Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
- What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
- What are the two major political parties in the United States?
- We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
- Who was the first President?
- Who is in charge of the executive branch?
Now for the results…
All three groups of Arizona high school students scored alarmingly low on the test. Only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students attending public schools passed the citizenship test. The passing rate for charter school students was about twice as high as for public school students. Private school students passed at a rate almost four times higher than public school students.
This was also in the results:
The surveyor interviewed 1,134 high school students attending public schools. Not a single student surveyed got more than seven of the 10 questions correct.