How many Minnesota students passed a US civics test? A plan before lawmakers would make the number public

Minnesota students are required to take the 50-question test under state law and lawmakers said they wanted more information about how students fare on average.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester
Minnesota Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, speaks with reporters at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, about a proposal to add Minnesota to an interstate nursing compact.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Education could be required to make public the number of students who pass a state-mandated civics test under a proposal before the Minnesota Legislature.

Students in Minnesota public schools have to take the 50-question civics test as a graduation requirement. Those who get 30 questions or more correct out of 50 get a passing grade on the assessment. But they don't have to meet that mark to graduate from high school.

The questions are pulled from a list of 100 that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services uses to naturalize new citizens.

And the bill's author Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, on Monday, March 21, told a state Senate education committee that information about the percentage of students that passed the test statewide should be publicly reported.

“This bill just asks schools to report what they’re already doing," Nelson said. "All we’re asking is that we get some kind of view on how our students are doing.”


Prior versions of the proposal have sought test results from each school. But Nelson said she tailored the bill to give a broader view of how Minnesota students were doing in terms of their education in civics.

A group advocating for a rigorous education for Minnesota students and former Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Anderson spoke in favor of the bill during committee discussion and no one testified in opposition. The panel ultimately advanced the plan on a voice vote.

“We need something like this to put our finger on the pulse of where our young people are on civics," Anderson told the Senate panel. "I can tell you my impression is is that they’re not where they should be."

The bill moves next to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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