Lord says the standards of No Child Left Behind have led many states to make tests easier so more students can pass. According to research Lord has done with PIPE, South Carolina's testing is the hardest, while Tennessee and Texas currently are considered the easiest.
Another issue with state testing is which students even take the tests.
Private school students aren't required to take TCAP or Gateway tests because private schools build curriculums differently from public schools. A proposed bill sponsored by 92nd District Rep. G.A. Hardaway sought to require private, home schooled and church-affiliated school students to submit to the same testing as public school students. The bill was defeated in committee last week, but Hardaway says his reasoning for sponsoring the bill was to get the state to examine the tests and standards.
Hardaway says by including every student in the language of the bill, it would force everyone to discuss the testing.
"It makes some sense to have a leveling of the playing field in what students know and don't know," Hardaway says. "They've dumbed the tests down to where a lot of them just don't make sense. They want to show improvement and proficiency, which is misleading because you've got higher test scores because you've got easier tests."
86th District Rep. Barbara Ward Cooper, a former private and public school teacher who sits on the General Assembly's education committee, says she believes all students should be treated the same.
"All the schools should meet the same standard," Cooper says. "Testing isn't always the best way to measure what you know. Some teachers that pass the teaching tests aren't good teachers."
Woods says the changes should address the problems and improve what students know when they graduate from high school.
"If you cannot apply your knowledge, you probably won't be successful in the workplace or in college," Woods says. "By revising standards and assessments, it'll move us to very real results. If you graduate with a diploma in Tennessee, we want that to mean something."
Tennessee Department of Education