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Lawmakers Propose Changes For Third- and First-grade Student Retention

113th General Assembly In Session:

By Sabrina Bates
MVP Regional News Editor

A bill that went into effect last summer in Tennessee pertaining to the retention of third-grade students was met with backlash by school boards and districts across the state.
The new law requires third graders who scored below proficient on the English Language portion of the statewide TCAP test to be held back.
The law went into effect for students who were in kindergarten when the global pandemic known as COVID-19 forced school systems across the country to close their doors and send students home in the spring of 2020.
Under the legislation, third graders with low TCAP reading scores are required to attend summer school with a 90 percent attendance rate, utilize tutoring throughout the fourth grade and score better on the reading portion of the test in the fourth grade.
Students who were held back in kindergarten through second grade will not be retained in third grade.
With numerous school boards across the state passing resolutions asking legislators to amend the third-grade retention bill, a flurry of new bills on that topic were recently filed by Tennessee lawmakers for the latest legislative session.
Several versions of the amended bill place retention decisions in the hands of the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) or school districts or public charter schools as opposed to a retention decision solely on one test score.
Another proposed bill allows a below-proficient-test-scoring third grader to advance to the fourth grade if 66 percent of third graders in the district score on-track or mastered proficiency on the TCAP reading assessment and the school director and parents have a written agreement to promote the student.
Legislators will also consider another proposal that promotes a third grader if the student scores in the 40th percentile or better on the state’s universal reading screener and assessments determine the student is prepared for the next grade.
All of the proposals are under evaluation by subcommittees of the Tennessee General Assembly.
In related news, a bill proposed by Representative Scott Cepicky of Maury County requires the state department of education to create a first-grade assessment to determine if a student is prepared for first grade based on knowledge gained in kindergarten.
A kindergarten student must also be seven years or older by Aug. 15 to be considered for promotion to first grade.
If the bill is passed, it would go into effect in the 2024-25 school year.

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