Image Credit: TN Dept of Education
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
After spending the school year preparing their third-grade students for high-stakes state testing, school districts received raw scores for the TCAP reading test late Friday afternoon. Those scores show that 60% of third-graders across the state failed to meet proficiency levels required to be promoted to the fourth grade.
According to a Monday news release from the state, those numbers do still include students who may qualify for exemptions if they are English language learners, have a reading disability, or have already been retained in the past.
Districts then had to contact parents and notify them of the results and provide them with options. Students were given the chance to increase their score in a retake of the test, with some of those retakes occurring as soon as Monday morning.
If scores do not increase, students will have to attend a summer learning camp, where they will be tested again at the conclusion of the summer, or they could opt for year-long tutoring throughout the fourth grade. Parents did have the option to appeal those results.
Governor Lee calls this year’s testing a success. The 40% proficiency rate is almost a 5% increase over last year’s scores.
“The ability to read at grade level determines a student’s success in the classroom and beyond, and we’re encouraged that our strategic literacy investments have already resulted in historic gains across the state,” Lee stated. “As we continue our work to deliver strong reading skills to benefit every student, we’re committed to giving families multiple pathways that will support student promotion and achievement.”
An amendment on the law signed by Lee will add a second test option to advance next spring along with further funding for tutoring.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn also credits the state’s programs with the gains made.
“The significant gains that we see on the third grade ELA TCAP reflect the success that schools across the state are seeing under Reading 360 and other literacy efforts and will change the lives of thousands of students,” Schwinn said.
“These results demonstrate that our state’s literacy strategy is working,” said Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Chairman Bo Watson. “It is not easy work, but it shows if we stay the course we can make a positive difference.”
Students who fall in the “approaching” category must attend 90% of summer school and take a post-test that shows at least a 5% increase in score or be assigned a year-long tutor. Those who are “below proficiency” must participate in both learning opportunities.
Metro Nashville Public Schools released a statement saying that approximately 38% of their third-graders did not meet proficiency.
In Knox County, the percentages were about the same, with just under 40% of third-graders not scoring at the proficient level. This means approximately 1600 students in Knox County will have to retake the test or complete the requirements for promotion.
Hamilton County Schools fared slightly better with only 23% of third-graders needing additional help before being promoted.
HCS Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson said, “We have worked to put strategies and resources in place to make sure every student has a pathway for promotion under the law.”
Memphis-Shelby County School has not made their percentages public yet, instead stating that “Standardized test data is released by the state.” In 2022, only 23% of students scored at or above proficiency on the TCAP test.
It is unclear when the state will release district numbers, but it is evident that districts statewide are scrambling to retest students and finalize plans to implement summer learning opportunities and tutoring programs while parents are seeking ways to file appeals in order to prevent retention.
Opponents of the state’s third-grade retention law still say placing so much weight on a single high-stakes test is not the answer.
Senator London Lamar stated, “Our third graders are so much more than a single test score. We should be investing in innovative solutions like smaller classroom sizes and reading specialists, not more high-stakes testing.”
Parents can find information regarding timelines and the appeal process here.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com