KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Tennessee Department of Education has opened its form to appeal third-grade retentions from the end-of-semester TCAP exam.

The department said eligibility for an appeal is based on if a student scored in the 40th percentile on the state Universal Reading Screener test or if a “catastrophic event” occurred leading up to the TCAP exam.

Parents must file the appeal within two weeks of notification of the test score.

Parents are able to file an appeal to prevent their child who would be held back from advancing to the fourth grade under the state’s new third-grade retention law.

The law’s first year has been frustrating for some parents as they weigh their options on how to get their child to the fourth grade. Appeals are only open to parents of students who scored a “2/Approaching” score on the TCAP.

If the appeal is denied, those “approaching” students will need to complete summer school or have a tutor in the next school year to advance to fourth grade.

Amy Collette filed an appeal Tuesday morning for her daughter at Kingsport’s Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Collette said she has been frustrated with the law the entire school year, especially after her daughter, who scored straight As on her report card, now faces retention.

“It has been a weight on many of us the whole year,” Collette said. “Now we’re just sitting and waiting for the state to decide all these things, so we filed our appeal today, but we don’t know how long that will take or when they will approve it.”

Collette said her daughter has test anxiety and utilized a tutor to better prepare for the TCAP. She said holding her back after excelling at everything but the TCAP ELA exam is unfair.

“She gets nervous when she takes tests. It’s also the first time a third grader has taken the TCAP,” Collette said. “There are kids who don’t need to be retained who are getting caught in this retention law, mine included.”

This group of third graders is the first to experience the new law. They were in Kindergarten when the pandemic hit. Collette said that has made the early years of learning much more difficult, and they shouldn’t be held back for something out of their control.

“They were in Kindergarten when COVID happened and schools ended abruptly,” Collette said. “Their first-grade year was filled with COVID, quarantines and teachers being out.”

Collette said it was an easy process filing the appeal. All it requires is basic information and her daughter’s state student ID.

“It took me 90 seconds to fill out the form,” Collette said.

Kingsport City Schools (KCS) offered TCAP re-takes Tuesday.

Of the children facing retention, district officials said about 110 are eligible for an appeal.

District Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Rhonda Stringham said they expect to know the result of the appeals soon.

“The state department has told us that we will hear back in two weeks,” Stringham said. “We’re hoping that they will contact families sooner.”

Many school districts are making an effort to contact families impacted by retention, including KCS. Stringham said the district has been in contact with families for months through emails, direct calls and information sessions.

Over the next two weeks, the district will hold four sessions to help parents through the appeal process.

The Tennessee Department of Education said the catastrophic event appeal can apply to a death in the family, loss of home, significant medical diagnosis or abuse, among others.

Parents can also appeal on their child’s universal reading screener score, a test given three times each year.

KCS Director of Performance Excellence Michael Hubbard said the score factored into the appeal comes from the most recent test.

“The universal screener is a required assessment that we give,” Hubbard said. “We do one in the fall, one mid-year and then one in the spring. One of the pathways with the state is the spring administration.”

Weighing her options, Collette said her daughter had a good experience with a tutor last year despite the outcome of the TCAP exam. She said her daughter was above the 40th percentile on the universal screen, but she will choose the tutor option should her appeal not be granted.

“It was beneficial for her, but it didn’t necessarily improve a test score because a test score is not indicative of what kind of student my daughter is,” Collette said.

The TCAP appeal form does not require parents to know the exact score from their child’s universal reading screener, but parents will need to obtain their child’s state student ID from the school district.

You can find the TCAP appeal form HERE.