High school students spend far more time in school learning about America’s history than they do learning about its civic values, according to a 50-state survey by Education Week in 2018. The results show that while most states require students to study civics, just eight require them to take a yearlong civics or government class in order to graduate. In comparison, a year of U.S. history is a graduation requirement in 31 states. This comes on top of any U.S. and state history mandates focused on the lower grades.
When it comes to testing, though, the requirements break down a bit more evenly. Fifteen states require students to take a U.S. history exam, compared to 19 states for civics. But students are not necessarily required to pass some of these exams and, in the case of civics, the assessment used in some states is essentially a version of the 100-question test taken by immigrants seeking citizenship status.
A final caveat: This survey only covers mandates for specific courses at the high school level in civics, government, or U.S. history. Many states embed civics, history, and other social studies topics in their required teaching standards and then leave it up to school districts to decide how to package that instruction.
Design & Visualization: Laura Baker
Education Week Library Staff contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 2018 edition of Education Week