Legion department tests, awards students

The American Legion Department of Wisconsin’s Americanism and Government Scholarship program has been testing youth in the state for 23 years on knowledge of U.S. citizenship, the U.S. Constitution, flag etiquette and government at the federal, state, county and city level. The test is offered to students in grades 10 through 12, who are either home-schooled or enrolled in a public, private or parochial school in Wisconsin. Thirty two scholarships are awarded yearly, 10 $250 scholarships to both sophomores and juniors, and 12 $500 scholarships to seniors. See the 2013 winners here.

The Americanism and government test moved from paper-based to an online format this year, allowing eligible students to take the test at their convenience during the 12-day testing period in April. "This being our first year utilizing computer-based testing in our high schools, versus the old method of direct mail and Legionnaires visiting the schools, has greatly enhanced visibility and participation (for the test)," said Wayne Jensen, department commander.

Three separate email campaigns were sent to public and private schools starting in January to promote the new online test. And the success was overwhelming — nearly 4,400 students from 162 schools took the test by accessing it from the department’s website, www.wilegion.org.

The Americanism and Government Scholarship test is comprised of 50 multiple choice and true or false questions, followed by a 300-word or fewer essay question. The essay question validates the student’s test. This year’s essay question was, "Imagine you are a member of a city council that is considering a curfew that will prohibit minors from being out between midnight and 5 a.m. List the pros and cons and explain why you think so."

Students were allowed one hour once they began the test, and they were not able to restart or pause during the test, use notes or resources, or change answers to questions. Test scores were viewable upon completion.

Once the testing period ends, the Americanism and Government committee chairman meets with district chairman to select the scholarship recipients. A rating sheet for the essay question helps determine a winner in case of a tie from the 50-question test. View the rating sheet here.

"Of equal importance is the utilization of this program to introduce our youth to the Oratorical Contest, Boys State and Girls State, County Youth Day and all of our other scholarship programs," Jensen said. "This was an important strategic initiative reward that enhanced participation in all our Americanism and Children & Youth programs."