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FORT MILL, SC (WBTV) -
The standardized U.S. History exam given at the end of the course is challenging South Carolina students to the point that 47 percent failed the exam last year.
The question is why?
WBTV went to Fort Mill High School to get some answers.
Gales Scroggs, the Assistant Principal for Curriculum Instruction, says the test covers 405 years of American History. Students have one semester to learn it all. "405 years, 75 days of instruction, all assessed in 55 questions. The questions are blind questions to the teachers as we are never allowed to see them ourselves", says Scroggs.
Scroggs taught American History last year. He says "55 question multiple choice test covering 405 years of content that the students are struggling because I feel it's too much. Too little time to get that all squeezed in".
Teachers say there are different levels of students - advanced placement, college prep, and regular level - but the same exam is given to all students.
Senior Will Hooker took the exam last year. He says did very well because "I was taught very well. I was prepared".
Stephanie Dearduff says how a student performs on the test "depends on your teacher". She remembers when she took it the questions looked familiar and she was confident she would ace it.
But she didn't do as well. She says it was challenging, and confusing at times. "The hardest part was reading the length of it. Sometimes on one of the questions it would be a long paragraph. You would read, read, read it and wouldn't understand it", she says.
Will Foster, also a senior who took the test, says "it was certainly a lot of information to be covered through the year but I didn't think it was too bad. I was expecting it to be very hard. it was ok."
Fort Mill had an 81.5 percent pass rate last year. Assistant Principal Scroggs says teachers come in on their own time, without compensation, to work with students. He says "we've had Saturday blitzes. U.S. History students are asked of their own will - can you come in on a Saturday so we can help prepare you".
Still teachers worry about the perception of low scores. Nicole Eskew, one of the History teachers, says "at first you're a little self defeated because you think did they not get what I was teaching".
But Eskew says she watches how students respond during the semester on mid-term exams, projects and during interactions. She knows they're learning. To prepare students for the standardize test, she says "I use what's in the state's standards. I don't teach from text books. I use the curriculum guide".
Teachers acknowledge "the point of the test is to hold teachers accountable. Are they preparing their students to graduate high school?"
But if the test is a graduation requirement, what does it say that there is such a high rate of failure statewide? "I believe it's stating the test is not valid. The test is not accurately measuring what we want it to measure for our South Carolina graduates", says Scroggs.