Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey cited a survey that was discredited five years ago to argue that the state’s students are performing dismally on civics and that a new statewide civics test is needed.
In his state of the state address, Ducey said 96 percent of students can’t pass a basic civics test as he called for a new statewide test that would be required for graduation. Bills to enact that test are being fast-tracked at the Legislature and could be approved Thursday.
The survey Ducey relied upon was done for the Goldwater Institute and is widely cited by groups promoting civics education.
But Goldwater spokeswoman Starlee Coleman told The Associated Press on Wednesday the institute withdrew the survey results in 2009 after a company that conducted the survey for Goldwater failed to show its basic research met Goldwater’s standards. Another survey done for an Oklahoma group showing similar dismal testing results also has been discredited.
Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Wednesday that the bad study doesn’t mean students shouldn’t have a better grasp of civics. He said the governor isn’t backing away from his request for the civics test to be the first bill to reach his desk.
“It should cause concern if even one Arizona child doesn’t know the answer to these basic American civics questions, including the name of our country’s first president,” Scarpinato said. “Gov. Ducey is in good company in calling for this bipartisan legislation, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former U.S. senators Dennis DeConcini and Jon Kyl.”
In his speech, Ducey cited the Goldwater survey results, saying, “when 96 percent of our kids could not pass, you know something is missing.”
Both the Goldwater and Oklahoma surveys have been cited by the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute, a nonprofit group pushing adoption of civics tests nationwide. Frank Riggs, the institute’s president, said it was reviewing both surveys.
There is little doubt that Americans don’t have a firm grasp of civics. A 2014 Annenberg Public Policy Center survey showed only about a third of adult respondents could name all three branches of government, for example.