Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived? If your answer was American Indians, you’d be on your way to mastering a civics test that all Arizona high-school students must pass this year.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed the American Civics Act in 2015, making Arizona the first state to enact a law requiring students (beginning in 2017) to score 60 percent or higher on a civics test in order to graduate from high school or to obtain a high-school equivalence certificate.
For Riley Danler, 17, the law provided the inspiration to create his first iPhone and iPad app, designed to help students pass the test. The Primavera Online high-school senior says a conversation with his grandmother got the ball rolling.
“My grandma is the executive director at the Arizona Bar Foundation, and she was talking about how they had been looking for someone to develop an app that helped students learn the material in a fun way,” says Danler, who developed the app with his father, Thomas Danler.
“My dad and I had been looking at different projects to build and monetize apps with templates and tools that people could license and reskin to sell or use — so I knew the stuff to do it fairly quickly was out there, and I thought it would be a pretty cool project if it helped people in some way, too,” he says.
Arizona High School Citizen is free to download from the iTunes app store by searching “AZ HS Citizen.” The trivia-style game divides questions into subjects, including Principles of American Democracy, System of Government, Geography and Symbols and Holidays.
Once a player has logged into a subject, he or she has 30 seconds to answer each question. Players can see how they are scoring and the percentage of correct answers at the end of the test. You find out immediately if you’ve given a wrong answer, and the correct answer is displayed.
Danler is concentrating on finishing high school but may create another app some day.
“Before this,” he says, “I had very little experience in any type of app development. I had taken some programming classes at school, and had played around some with Xcode (programming language for Apple devices) while I was looking at some projects with my dad, but I hadn’t ever actually done any other apps.”
The test questions are identical to the civics component of the naturalization test given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Danler says he reformatted them to fit a multiple-choice format and made up the incorrect responses.
“I think there are always people who worry about passing tests,” he says. “Hopefully, the app will help those kids and anyone who just wants something fun to help refresh them on the subject.”