Tennessee's social studies scores from the first year of the TNReady test show just how much harder it is. High school results in all subjects were released Friday with a warning that they represent a "reset moment" for the state.
Just 20 percent of Tennessee high school students are on track in math. Roughly 30 percent are considered up to par in English. And U.S. history is about the same with fewer than a third of students on track. That's in stark contrast to the old end-of-year exam, when sometimes not a single person would fail the social studies portion.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen says it shows that the old multiple choice format was too easy. Students could often use the process of elimination.
"The test had been one that students were able — at some level — to game," McQueen says. "It wasn't a rigorous test. It didn't have the depth you would have as an expectation with our new standards. And certainly it didn't have writing components and the depth of reading rigor that should be part of U.S. history."
For all subjects, McQueen is discouraging any direct comparison to the old test. She acknowledges that the scores are far lower than anyone would like. But she sees them as a new baseline. And she argues the state is finally giving tests to students that are as challenging as the college entrance exams they're also expected to take.
The scores released Friday are only for Tennessee high schoolers. Elementary and middle school students did not complete testing in the spring because of glitches with the new online test and subsequent problems with the paper backup. None of the scores will negatively affect teacher evaluations this year.