Governor Lee comments on changes to third-grade retention law amid last week of summer school
A mom of a soon-to-be fourth grade student said, “My baby was asking me, ‘I did good, and I brought home my grades, why me?’”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Third grade students across Tennessee are in their last week of summer school.
They only had to go if they didn’t pass the English Language Arts portion of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). It’s the first year the law went into effect and many parents and students said it was stressful.
“I didn’t want my baby to be held back for something I could have prevented,” said Roneka Holt, a Pulaski mom of soon-to-be fourth grade student, Carter Lee Holt.
She made the decision to put him in the summer school program after he didn’t pass the ELA portion of the TCAP, but it wasn’t without self-doubt.
“My baby was asking me, ‘I did good, and I brought home my grades, why me?’” Holt said.
It’s those concerns WSMV4 brought to Governor Bill Lee.
“We’ve talked with dozens of parents who say their kids are traumatized from the TCAP,” said WSMV4′s Marissa Sulek. “Are there any changes you are looking to make to the retention law? Because these kids have gone through a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety.
“Yeah, it’s very hard,” responded Governor Lee. “We know when a child can’t read it’s very difficult on parents. But what’s even worse for a kid is to be pushed into grades when they can’t read. That would almost ensure their failure going forward.”
“What do you mean by they ‘can’t read,’” Sulek asked.
“They fail assessments that indicate they are ready to move forward into the next grade and their ability to read and comprehend at the level that should put them forward,” said Governor Lee.
For next year, lawmakers are making changes. They’ve added amendments to the Third Grade Retention Law:
- Appeals process that allows schools to assist parents and guardians
- A student who scores “approaching proficiency” moves onto fourth grade if they score in the 50th percentile of a benchmark reading test, pending summer school and tutoring requirements
- Required tracking of students throughout summer school and tutoring programs
- A student who is retained in grades K – 3 must be assigned a tutor
- Tennessee Department of Education may sign up with three online tutoring providers
“We think this legislation is the right way to do that,” said Lee. “There are so many options for children who need to take a retest, need to do tutoring, go to summer school, take next year’s tutoring. There are multiple paths for success.”
But even with those multiple paths, Holt says there’s still a stigma students, like her own, face.
“He still feels so bad,” she said. “And I was just like ‘it’s not us, baby, it’s not us.’”
The amendments to the Third Grade Retention Law go into effect for the 2023-2024 school year.
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