Civics knowl­edge now re­quired to earn Florida col­lege de­grees

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Les­lie Postal

Florida col­lege stu­dents who start their ed­u­ca­tion this fall will need to prove, be­fore they earn de­grees, that they know some­thing about Amer­i­can democ­racy, the na­tion’s found­ing doc­u­ments and land­mark events in United States his­tory.

Stu­dents can meet this new “civic lit­er­acy” re­quire­ment by tak­ing and pass­ing cer­tain Amer­i­can his­tory or gov­ern­ment cour­ses in col­lege or by pass­ing tests in those sub­jects.

The State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved the rule for state col­lege stu­dents this week. The Florida Board of Gov­er­nors ap­proved an al­most iden­ti­cal rule for univer­sity stu­dents in March.

The new rules, which come thanks to a 2017 state law, kick in for stu­dents who start col­lege in the 2018-19 school year and ap­ply to all new stu­dents, whether they’re en­rolling at Va­len­cia Col­lege, the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida, or any other of the 28 col­leges and 12 uni­ver­si­ties in Florida’s pub­licly funded higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

All new col­lege stu­dents can meet the civics re­quire­ment by tak­ing one of the two cour­ses while in col­lege. Their other op­tions: Stu­dents who took Ad­vanced Place­ment U.S. his­tory or A.P. gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics classes in high school can meet the new col­lege re­quire­ment, if they passed those AP ex­ams with cer­tain scores. They’ll need a score of 4 out of 5 on the U.S. his­tory exam and a 3 out of 5 on the gov­ern­ment one to meet the civics man­date.

Stu­dents can also take and pass a CLEP exam — a cred­itby-ex­am­i­na­tion pro­gram that many col­leges ac­cept — in Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.

And, if they are at a state univer­sity, they can also take and pass the U.S. Citizenship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices civics test — but with ex­tra ques­tions be­ing crafted by state ed­u­ca­tors, in­clud­ing those at the Lou Frey In­sti­tute at UCF. The ex­tra ques­tions are nec­es­sary be­cause the citizenship test doesn’t cover ev­ery­thing Florida’s law de­mands, par­tic­u­larly the re­quire­ment that stu­dents un­der­stand land­mark U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sions, of­fi­cials said.

The state col­leges de­cided not to make the citizenship test an op­tion until ad­min­is­tra­tors had time to review those sup­ple­men­tal ques­tions, said Made­line Pu­mar­iega, chan­cel­lor of the state col­lege sys­tem, speak­ing at this week’s state board meet­ing. But the citizenship test likely will be an op­tion at the col­leges in the fu­ture, she said. lpostal@or­lan­dosen­ 407-420-5273

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