Tennessee’s Lee signs amendment to third-grade retention law

Row of children’s books
Photo: Robyn Budlender/Unsplash

(The Center Square) – A bill to update Tennessee’s third-grade reading retention law has been signed by Gov. Bill Lee.

Starting this year, the bill will update a law originally passed in 2021 where students must show proficiency in order to advance to the fourth grade.

A fiscal note on the bill states that 9,000 students will be retained each year that will amount to $12 million in increased tutoring for students in kindergarten through third grade. Of that, $4.5 million will be funded by the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, the state’s K-12 school funding formula.

If a student does not score proficient on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, the student could be retained. Up to one-third of the state’s third-graders might not qualify to advance, though the numbers are not certain until this year’s results are available May 19.

Senate Bill 300 allows a second state test to be used for students who are not deemed proficient by the TCAP results. If the student is in the 50th percentile or higher on that test, and are rated as “approaching” proficiency on TCAP, the student could advance on that basis.

There are exceptions to the rule for students with disabilities, students who have previously been retained and students with English as a second language. Students can also take a summer reading bridge camp – where they must have 90% attendance – and maintain a state-funded tutor during fourth grade to advance. Students can also re-take the TCAP test to advance.

The bill also allows schools to assist parents if they want to appeal the retention decision, and it allows for additional state funding for tutoring.

Jon Styf
Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.

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