3rd-grade students at risk of being held back due to retention law

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 7:04 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - More than 2,000 third graders at Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) are at risk of being held back under the state’s retention law for students who have difficulty reading.

This is determined by students’ performance on the “i-Ready reading proficiency” assessments, which determines the reading levels and capability of students.

The district says assessments like this are considered predictors of how students will perform on the English section of the TCAP exam.

Educators around the state are concerned about their students having to take the exam in the aftermath of storms that devastated much of the Mid-South, including some schools.

“There are going to be students where their teacher, principal and their L.E.A say that you passed to the fourth grade, but because of this law... they will be told, ‘No, you do not pass to the fourth grade, you will be retained,’” said Alicia Norman with Porter-Leath’s Next Memphis program.

Norman said the law is actually harmful to students who were not lucky enough to have access to high-quality education at a young age.

“The early years, 0 to 5, is going to build that foundation for kindergarten, so it is really important that we prioritize early care so that our children can have everything that they need to be ready for critical kindergarten commitment, and then the critical third-grade commitment,” she added.

Norman says NEXT Memphis, along with other Memphis education coalitions, went to the Tennessee State Capitol to demand a delay or amendment to the law.

But questions about the future still remain unanswered with the state in the middle of a teacher shortage and students relying on summer school and tutoring to get back on track.

“I’d really love to see their blueprint for what it’s gonna look like next year when you have thousands of third graders that will probably be repeating third grade,” said Norman.

TCAP testing runs through early May.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, results will be available on May 19.

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