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Third grade retention law hinders Humboldt students

by ARIEL McRAE  |  Associate Editor

All across the state of Tennessee educators, parents and students are in the midst of summer school due to a new law regarding third grade retention for the covid era class. Students in third grade during the 2022-2023 were subjected to new standards put in place by the now retired Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and Gov. Bill Lee. This has had a significant impact on school systems across the state, including Humboldt City Schools.

Humboldt City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Epperson said they were on the phone on Friday, June 2 trying to contact parents and get every child that needs to be in summer school in order to enter fourth grade into class by Monday, June 5 before it was too late. Too many missed summer school days, according to the law, will have a child repeating third grade if parents are not careful.

Within the third grade retention law, it states in layman’s terms that third grade is when children start to be separated from their peers in terms of reading comprehension. The idea was that if the state can catch the students who are only approaching proficiency or those well below proficient early enough, then they will be better off for the rest of their school aged career. With the law implemented into practice, it now means that any third grader in the state could be subjected to summer school for them to move forward into fourth grade. If they did not make a sufficient enough grade on both the Aims-Web universal screening benchmark assessment taken three times throughout the year as well as the English and language arts portion of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) at the end of the year, then summer school would be a requirement if a parent did not want their child retained back into third grade for a second year.

For the Aims-Web test, students had to score 40-percent or higher and for TCAP, they had to score in the proficient level in order to skip out on the possibility of retention. Out of 81 third graders, only 12 students in the Humboldt City Schools system scored proficient on the TCAP test and one scored exceeded. The 27 students in the approaching level as well as the 40 students in the below level had a few options presented to them. Summer school was non-negotiable.  After a retake test where students had the opportunity to try and score proficient one more time before summer, four weeks of summer school are automatically required for an appeal with the state. Attendance during summer school has to be 90-

percent by the end or the student would not be eligible for appeal to enter fourth grade.

Each student is unique in his or her choices after summer school. Depending on their initial original scores with the Aims-Web, even if they are eventually promoted to fourth grade for the 2023-2024 school year, they could have to attend every session of TN All Corps tutoring throughout the year. During summer school, students will be presented pretests with the hope that they will show marked growth by the end of the four weeks. If a child shows a five-point adequate growth on their post-test, then they will have to appeal retention. If a student does not score five points above where they initially scored on the TCAP, then they could be denied their appeal to move to fourth grade.

Those exempt from this new retention law are English learners with less than two years of ELA instruction, previously retained students from kindergarten through third grade, those with disabilities that impact reading and those with suspected disabilities that impact reading. Every other student that did not meet those requirements or did not have a catastrophic event that impacted their ability to perform, they are subject to repeating third grade for an additional year.

Some parents have chosen to not fight with the appeal, opting for their children to be held back in order for them to experience their full summer vacation. Dr. Epperson and her team, Jozelda Porter and Beverly Cannon, agree that not every student who needed to be in summer school was in attendance. They also said that they understand how this might have an affect on the child moving forward if they are held back behind their peers.

The goal currently is to have all the children present and learning so they can have the opportunity to move on with their classmates into fourth grade. The school is also looking for tutors during the day to help with the tutoring requirements for next year. Finding tutors without the allocation of funds has proven to be tough so volunteers are necessary.

If you are passionate about helping students succeed in English and language arts, please contact the school at 731-784-2652 and let them know your availability for the upcoming year.

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