MPI Backgrounder Examines Redesigned Citizenship Test Taking Effect October 1st
Report Details Redesign Process, Examines Whether the Government Met Its Goals
WASHINGTON – More than a decade in the making, the redesigned citizenship test that becomes mandatory for all applicants effective Oct. 1, 2008, has two main goals: Provide a more meaningful opportunity for would-be Americans to demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and allow greater standardization in test administration.
A new MPI Backgrounder, High Stakes, More Meaning: An Overview of the Process of Redesigning the U.S. Citizenship Test, details the process to redesign the test (which had not substantively changed since 1986) and offers some policy recommendations. The report also examines whether the federal government met its goals with the redesign.
The most significant change to the test is the new civics portion. As before, applicants must correctly answer six out of 10 questions drawn from a master list of 100 civics questions. However, the 100 questions have undergone a significant overhaul with new questions emphasizing core concepts of American democracy and new items about geography, Native Americans, and women.
It remains unclear whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was able to fully reconcile its desire to ask questions about complex U.S. civics concepts with the requirement that applicants need only speak, read and write English at the “ordinary usage” level.
A full assessment cannot be made until the data are released on the actual performance of limited English proficient applicants taking the old and the revised citizenship test, the Backgrounder found.
The report is available online here.