Tennessee bill could help prevent third grade retention

The bill would add an extra avenue for students to advance to fourth grade.
The bill would add an extra avenue for students to advance to fourth grade.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:19 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:12 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Third-graders in Tennessee might have an easier path to fourth grade, which eases parents’ concerns that their child might be held back if they don’t score high enough on state tests.

“Certainly, it’s a step in the right direction,” said Kristie Flohra, Hardin Valley PTO member and the parent of a third-grader.

Right now, third-graders in Tennessee take the TCAP standardized test. If they score below “proficient” on the English section, they either have to retake it with a passing score, go to summer school, or be held back. That’s regardless of the student’s grades throughout the year.

“Placing the whole thing on one test seems a bit challenging to me,” Flohra said.

The bill passed a house committee on Wednesday. It would give students an extra avenue by using the Universal Reading Screener, which is another standardized test. Students scoring in at least the 50th percentile can move ahead to fourth grade.

“If our children that come out of 12th grade are not ready to either go into a trade school, a community college, or four years, then we’re doing them a disadvantage,” said State Rep. Mark White, a Republican from Memphis who introduced the bill.

Flohra said parents she’s spoken with were happy their kids would get a second chance, but won’t call it a perfect system either.

“We certainly don’t want to pass them on when they’re not ready to go onto the next level,” Flohra said. “But, I do think it’s more important to look at the whole child, rather than a single test in this case.”

The bill also calls for kids in kindergarten through second grade, who don’t score high enough on the Universal Screener, to still move onto the next grade. However, they would be given a tutor the next year to get them up to speed.

The bill is making its way through committees right now before it can be voted on.