KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — State lawmakers are speaking out after parents expressed concern about the recently implemented third-grade retention law. This also comes after the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program or TCAP scores were released.
The retention law passed in 2021 and has gone into full effect for the 2022-2023 school year. It aims to ensure third-grade students have proficient reading skills before moving on to the fourth grade.
However, some parents, like Kristy Altman, have said it puts too much emphasis on the TCAP.
“The amount of stress that this situation has placed on families in our communities… it’s a failure across the board at the state level,” Altman said.
She said her family received a notice that her third-grader son would have to sign up for summer school based on a pre-test he took before his TCAP.
“With my son, he has a 95 in [English Language Arts], so that’s an A in ELA, he’s a great student, his vocabulary is fantastic, so even if he wasn’t proficient on the test and they recommended that he be retained, his teacher would have no say and no recommendations for him,” Altman said.
Her son passed the TCAP, which she credits to his teacher, but they had to wait until mid-May to learn the results.
Lawmakers like Republican Rep. Jason Zachary said there is confusion surrounding the law.
“Only those who score between 0-22, on that TCAP test, they’re the only students that are required to go to the summer learning program, and they do that and they get tutoring in fourth grade, and they advance onto fourth grade,” Zachary said.
He said that students who score in the “approaching” range or 23-33, were able to re-take the test. If the score stayed in the “approaching” range, a parent can fill out an appeal form Monday and the student will move on to fourth grade, as long as their pre-test score is in the 40th percentile.
“This idea that we’re going to hold back 60 percent of third graders is simply not accurate and those who are portraying that narrative simply don’t understand the legislation,” Zachary said.
Katherine Bike serves on the Knox County Board of Education and is the parent of a third grader, who scored in the below range, or 0-22.
“I questioned myself, I thought maybe I wasn’t paying attention, and so I started reaching out to other parents, other people and teachers, and come to find out there are so many parents, even just in Knox County that are in this very same boat, whose kids are actually performing better than my son,” Bike said.
She hopes lawmakers will hear out their concerns.
“Why would it be okay to mandate students to go to a summer camp that isn’t proven, that doesn’t have any proven results? I think that would be my big question,” Bike said.
She also worked on a resolution with the board to amend the state law back in December that would have given school districts the final say on the law. She spoke with Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson regarding the resolution at the time.
“If we’re making decisions on retention, it should be done with the local teachers and specialists and the parents. It shouldn’t be decided by a number from the legislature,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said making sure teachers are well trained and have small classes will improve reading skills in third graders.
The Tennessee Department of Education reported that 40% of 3rd-grade students scored proficient in ELA this year.