The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Tennessee’s controversial third-grade retention law had new rules go into effect this week.
Third-grade students are at risk of getting held back, per this written law, if they do not pass the state reading test. Students will be required to attend summer school and/or tutoring the following school year to prevent being held back.
Some parents and local school boards have spoken out against the law, saying retention is a local matter and should be based on more factors than one test.
“While I appreciate the concern of the lawmakers, I definitely think it’s an overstep, or an overreach for them to start making decisions about our children when they’re just a number on the page,” parent Anna Sturm said.
New rules were passed last week by a joint government operations committee that outlines an appeal process for parents.
The new rules say that a parent or guardian must have an appeal submitted within 14 days of receiving the notice of the student’s retention risk. There will be people designated by the education commissioner to review the appeals. If students demonstrated growth on reading screeners or benchmark assessments, or if the student has experienced a “catastrophic situation” near the time of the test, the appeals will be approved.
During the ruling hearing, some lawmakers expressed concern surrounding the law.
Senator Page Walley (R-Savannah-District 26) said he has heard from many constituents that they are concerned.
“I’m not sure that we were as thoughtful as we needed to be legislatively when we passed the law to begin with,” Walley said.
Explaining that he wants to keep decisions at a local level, but also wants something to be done to improve Tennessee’s literacy rates, Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon-District 17) said he is also struggling with the law. Last year, only about 36 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the state reading test.
“It’s not that I’m jumping up and down with this, but I’m reluctantly going to have to support it because I don’t see any other school system saying, ‘we fixed the problem’ or ‘we did it,’” Pody said.
FOX 17 News reached out to lawmakers in the committee asking whether they plan to file legislation to modify the law based on concerns they have from lawmakers.
Replying via email, Senator Walley says he does not plan to introduce legislation but does plan to work alongside lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee to consider modifications or delayed implementation.
Current exceptions to the law include students with learning disabilities or suspected learning disabilities, English language learners, or students who have already been held back.
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