Changes to Tennessee’s third grade retention law advances

Legislators are considering changes a law that focuses success on passing one test.
Amendments to the law are being discussed after parents expressed outrage over the requirements.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:35 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 12:44 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - On April 17, Tennessee students will start TCAP testing. If Tennessee third-graders they don’t meet certain benchmarks, they are at risk of having to repeat the grade. Although, some lawmakers have been working to make changes to that law.

The House K-12 Subcommittee selected four bills that could change the third grade retention law. These bills need to pass through the House and Senate to go into effect:

HB 1364 doesn’t change how the third grade retention law affects students, but it would change who receives the progress reports. Instead of only sending the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act progress report to the governor and other leaders of the legislature, the entire General Assembly would be included.

HB 0270 proposes a second chance for third graders who do not meet expectations on the TCAP ELA exam. It would allow schools to factor in other state reading reviews throughout the year. It would also allow local school districts to file and appeal for students at risk of being retained.

HB 0978 would let parents file an appeal with the Tennessee Department of Education on behalf of their student.

HB 0437 would add details of the appeals process on the TDOE website for parents and local school leaders to reference.

Those against Tennessee’s third grade retention law say they do not want the state to decide if students need to repeat third grade based on one test. As the third grade retention law currently stands, Tennessee’s third graders who don’t meet the state’s expectations on the TCAP will need to get a tutor, go to summer school, or repeat the grade. Republican Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville, supports the law as is, but several Democrats are advocating for more changes.

“Where we’re at this particular time is because the state or local ELA’s, our teachers, and our parents have failed our kids. And in my opinion, we continually just keep moving the threshold further and further down,” said Richey.

There were 19 proposed amendments, but four made is out of the House K-12 subcommittee.