Tennessee Approves Tougher Student Standards
The state Board of Education has approved tougher standards for Tennessee students and dropped the Gateway exams.
The new guidelines include math all four years of high school and mandatory chemistry or physics in addition to biology.
The requirements will take affect in the 2009-10 school year and will affect current 7th graders.
The Gateway exams are a series of tests that have been required for students to get a diploma.
Other changes approved Friday include aligning language arts and math standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade with national standards.
The changes mean that all Tennessee students, whether they're bound for college or the work force, will follow the same academic track of study that meets national standards for a high school diploma.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has a degree in physics, called the sweeping changes a "milestone."
"Today starts some heavy lifting," Bredesen said during the state board's meeting. "This is national level stuff that's going on here. States are trying to figure out how to do this, and Tennessee is leading."
The state board will replace the Gateway exams— a series of three tests — with statewide end-of-the-year course exams that will account for 25 percent of a student's overall course grade.
The goal is to have the exams in 10 courses: English 1, 2, and 3; algebra 1 and 2; geometry; U.S. history; biology; chemistry; and physics. The exams have yet to be developed.
Gateway exams, however, still will be given this year and next year.
Gary Nixon, executive director of the state board, said the new standards are "rigorous but they are doable."
"What we want students to do is to develop their minds, and think critically ... and to better assure that when our students graduate from high school, they are truly prepared."
Bredesen held a series of meetings with business leaders last year and heard complaints that Tennessee high school graduates lack basic math and English skills, among others. The main goal of the education overhaul is to ensure that children in grades K-12 learn more rigorous material and take tests that more accurately gauge their progress.