What proposed changes to the state's third-grade retention law look like

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Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 19:31:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Lawmakers are proposing some changes to the controversial third-grade retention law. One change to the law would require the state to outline how parents can appeal the decision if their student is at risk of being held back.

Lawmakers mentioned at Wednesday’s education committee meeting that parents and teachers have been blowing them up. Some of them are angry about holding back third graders who aren't testing proficiently in reading.

“Now I love teachers like everybody else, don’t get me wrong, but let’s don’t lose focus on what we’re trying to do here is not soften it up, not feel sorry for everybody, but to get our students in the State of Tennessee to be able to read when they get to the third friggin grade," said Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga

Gardenhire said there's no excuse that roughly 60% of students can't read. But a lot of parents and teachers feel that a TCAP test is not the best indicator.

For students who don't test well, they will be held back unless they go to summer school or get tutoring.

One proposed change to the new law would require the state to have on its website an explanation of how parents can file for an appeal. But if it becomes law, it won’t go into effect until the next school year.

There's also discussion on sending more than $7 million to schools so they can hire tutors from private companies. Some districts have been scrambling to get enough staff for summer school.

“I do think it puts a lot of unnecessary stress on an 8 or 9-year-old, and my last concern is, just me based on the research I’ve done, that TCAP isn't really a true measure of that child’s literacy," Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said

The proposed changes cleared the first hurdle. Next, the billgoes to the finance committee.

"I’m concerned about those kids who started kindergarten in a virtual school because of covid, and then are now going to kind of be held to the standard when they’re just trying to get themselves back on track," Akbari said.

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