Reading Scores Show Promise as 3rd Grade Retention Law Takes Effect

Nashville education blogger TC Weber takes a look at a recent Comptroller’s report on literacy in the state and finds some reason for encouragement. There’s a bit of confusion, too, in terms of whether or not the growth reflected in the results shared will translate into better overall reading scores.

The issue is particularly salient this year, as a new law takes effect requiring retention for any third grader who fails to meet state benchmarks in reading.

Here’s more from Weber on the Comptroller’s report:

A recently released report from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office shows that Tennessee K-3 students are making positive, albeit slight, growth in acquiring reading skills. Those conclusions were drawn from state-mandated K-3 universal reading screeners (URS), which all school districts are required to administer as part of legislation passed in 2021 during a Special Session of the General Assembly on education.

Based on graphs included in the Comptrollers report, third-grade students saw the most movement, with students starting at 43 percent in the Fall of 2021, growing to 45 percent in the Winter, and then achieving a Spring 2022 score of 46 percent.

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New Third Grade Law “Devastating”

One middle Tennessee mom says she was devastated when she learned of Tennessee’s new third grade retention law that goes into effect this year. The law requires that any third-grade student who scores at “below expectations” or “approaching expectations” on the state’s TNReady test in reading be held back unless they complete summer school and possibly enroll in a tutoring program during the school year.

Nearly 70% of all Tennessee third grade students score at that level on TNReady in any given year. In other words, even if a majority of them complete the summer program and participate in tutoring, a significant portion of third grade students will be forced to repeat third grade in 2023.

Here’s more from WKRN on this story:

One day and one test could change the life of Anna Sturm’s son.

“I was devastated when I read it,” she said. “As a mother, it was such a disheartening thing to read that this is going to be something that could impact my child and thousands and thousands of children.”

The news report also notes that the Murfreesboro City Schools have crafted a resolution asking the state to reconsider the legislation and make changes when they return to session in January.

That’s something the bill’s sponsor says he may be open to – though he was vague on what those changes may look like:

It’s worth noting, too, that the policy is based on a single test taken on a single day – and it’s a test that has not exactly been reliable in recent years:

The legislature appropriated no additional funds to help schools support third grade students nor are there funds available for the necessary summer reading and school year tutoring programs mandated by the law.

Instead, it seems legislators just passed a law and hoped that change would magically happen.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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