Legislators Propose Variety Of Bills To Change New Third-Grade Retention Law

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

At least 18 different bills have been proposed in an attempt to consider concerns regarding the new retention law that could potentially have thousands of students facing summer school in order to keep from repeating the third grade.

Legislators vary in their approach to the law, with some proposing that retention be taken off the plate altogether. Others are recommending changing the criteria used to determine which students have to attend summer school, and others are looking to pour even more money into remediation programs.

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One proposal even looks at expanding the current retention bill to include the possibility of holding students back at the kindergarten level based on scores from a reading test given at the end of that school year.

The third-grade retention law was passed in 2021 as part of a special session called by Governor Bill Lee. The intention of the session was to address learning gaps that were a result of school interruptions due to the government’s response to COVID-19. The law led to the creation of summer learning camps and additional tutoring programs.

The current law requires that any third-grade student who does not meet proficiency but is labeled as “approaching” in the Language Arts portion of the TCAP test must attend summer camp and show “adequate growth” on a post-test to be able to move on to the fourth grade or they must agree to participate in intensive tutoring throughout the fourth grade. Students who are “below” proficiency must complete both intervention programs.

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Students who were previously held back, have a reading disability, are English language learners, or who test at proficiency at the start of fourth grade cannot be retained.

Reactions to the law have been mixed with many people appreciating the updated intervention options but finding fault with the retention portion of the legislation.

Governor Lee has maintained that the retention policy and the interventions are what is needed to ensure that students are not being pushed ahead into higher grade levels when they are not prepared to be successful in them.

“If you really care about a child’s future, the last thing you should do is push them past the third grade if they can’t read,” Lee has previously stated.


Those in favor of the retention law believe having students go through a grade for a second time can provide a much-needed opportunity for those students to receive extra interventions that set them up for greater success in the future.

Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka-District 64) says, “We have to do something in early education to change the dynamic that we have right now. We can’t keep going with the status quo.”

Legislators are not in complete agreement with the governor, though. Critics say that research shows that retention does not have an impact on future success and is actually linked to a greater possibility of a student becoming a high school dropout.

“I’m not saying you should never retain a child,” stated Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville-District 13), “But the decision should be made student by student, by their teachers and parents – not because of sweeping legislation that based on a single test score.”

The House is set to begin reviewing bills in the Education Subcommittee on February 14. The full Education Administration Committee will meet on February 22 to discuss early childhood literacy.

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

One thought on “Legislators Propose Variety Of Bills To Change New Third-Grade Retention Law

  • February 7, 2023 at 5:29 pm

    Leave the law alone. For the first time parents and teachers are having their feet held to the fire to educated their children. If a child is held back, in my understanding, the school doesn’t get paid for that student. I call that a great incentive to buckle down and teach. If parents don’t want their child held back, it behooves them to spend a little time finding out how their child is doing early on in the third year and find out what they can do to help. A teacher can’t do it all alone, it takes responsible parents, proper teaching methods and sticking to curriculum. That is, no social engineering.


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