NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — State lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill they hope will address the shortcomings of Tennessee’s new third-grade retention law.
During a House K-12 Subcommittee meeting, Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) presented an amended bill combining the “good ideas” from other lawmakers’ bills into one.
The bill addresses testing, appeals and help for students who are held back.
Under current law, students who earn an “approaching” or “below” score in English language arts (ELA) on the third-grade TCAP cannot advance to the fourth grade unless they retake the test and score proficiently, attend a summer learning loss bridge camp or are assigned a tutor for the entirety of the next school year.
The legislation would change that by allowing students who score as “approaching” on the TCAP to be promoted to the next grade if they scored in the 50th percentile on the most recently administered benchmark assessment prior to the TCAP.
This would result in fewer students being held back than if the current law remains unchanged, Cepicky said.
Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) said this would also alleviate the “one test, one day” concerns about the current law.
The bill would also change the process of appealing a decision to retain a student. Right now, an appeal can only be filled out by a student’s parent or guardian. Under the bill, parents would still initiate the appeal but school officials would be allowed to help fill out the paperwork, a change lawmakers hope will ease the burden on parents.
The legislation also adds something that Cepicky said was left out of the third-grade retention law. He said they forgot to put in the initial bill that if a student is retained in kindergarten through third grade, they will automatically be assigned a tutor for the upcoming school year.
The legislation would add that to the current law and also allow the Department of Education to procure three online tutoring providers for schools to use.
The House K-12 Subcommittee approved the amended bill and referred it to the full Education Administration Committee. The Senate version of the bill is scheduled to go before the Senate Education Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), on Wednesday.
Several local school boards, including those from Johnson City, Kingsport and Sullivan County, have expressed concerns about the third-grade retention law, which went into effect this year.