Could You Pass the Citizenship Test?

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MSN Citizenship Test

A survey finds Americans don’t possess history knowledge needed to be informed and engaged citizens.

Only 47 percent of Montana Residents earned a passing grade on history questions from the U.S. citizenship test. Believe it or not, Montana ranked the fourth highest-scoring state for the test.

How the States Fared

The top states after Vermont are Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and Virginia.

The five lowest performing states are: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana at the bottom of the list.

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only in Vermont could a majority (53 percent) pass; in the lowest performing state, only 27 percent were able to pass.

Even more disturbing, only 27 percent of those under the age of 45 nationally were able to demonstrate a basic understanding of American history. Nationally, only four in 10 Americans passed the exam.

Three percent of Montanans scored an A; 13 percent received a B; 15 percent a C; and 15 percent a D on the 20-question survey.

History Education Not working


“Unfortunately, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has validated what studies have shown for a century: Americans don’t possess the history knowledge they need to be informed and engaged citizens,” WW Foundation President Arthur Levine said.

“American history education is not working, as students are asked to memorize dates, events, and leaders, which the poll results shows are not retained in adulthood,” Levine said. “Based on our research, this is not an issue of whether high school history teachers are adequately prepared or whether kids study American history in school. The answer to both questions is yes. This is an issue of how we teach American history.

Now it is too often made boring and robbed of its capacity to make sense of a chaotic present and inchoate future. Instead, knowledge of American history must serve as an anchor in a time when change assails us, a laboratory for studying the changes that are occurring and a vehicle for establishing a common bond when social divisions are deep. This requires a fundamental change in how American history is taught and learned, to make it relevant to our students lives, captivating, and inclusive to all Americans.”

Woodrow Wilson American History Initiative

The results of the national fall survey demonstrates that a waning knowledge of American history may be one of the greatest educational challenges facing the United States. As a result, the Foundation is launching a major national initiative to transform how American history is learned today, providing high school students with an interactive digital platform intended to make American history more interesting and appreciated by all learners, particularly those who do not see the importance history plays in the now and tomorrow.

Relying on the latest developments in cognitive learning, the Woodrow Wilson American History Initiative will offer experiential learning opportunities such as digital games, videos, and graphic novels. Building on the Woodrow Wilson Foundation’s successful HistoryQuest Fellowship professional development program for social students and civics teachers, the Initiative will also provide resources and learning opportunities for K–12 history teachers to improve their instructional practice. MSN

Founded in 1945, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation identifies and develops the nation’s best minds to meet its most critical challenges. The Foundation supports its Fellows as the next generation of leaders shaping American society.