Parent Advocacy Group Calls for Amendment to Third Grade Retention Law

Advocate Andy

Tennessee PTA says retention decisions should be made at the local level

The Tennessee Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is calling on the General Assembly to amend a law that could mean up to 70% of the state's third grade students face retention this year.

A Tennessee law taking effect this year requires that all third-grade students who test below "meets expectations" on the state's TNReady reading test be retained (repeat third grade) unless they complete summer tutoring and receive supplemental reading support in fourth grade.

While the Tennessee PTA agrees that student success in reading is important, the organization questions whether the results of a single test should be the sole determinant of student retention.

The organization is calling on the General Assembly to take action this legislative session to give more power to local school districts when it comes to whether or not to retain a student.

Specifically, the PTA says:

"The board of directors deems that local education agencies are best suited to craft individual retention policies that promote the success of their students. The Tennessee PTA Board of Directors asks that the third grade retention legislation be amended to ensure that decisions are made individually and based on a student’s capabilities, and not as a collective in order to ensure the success of every student."

Rather than use a single test to determine retention, the PTA suggests using multiple measures, including growth over time and teacher review of student potential. Some research suggests that students who repeat third grade are more likely to drop out of school early. That is, rather than retain students, the state may be better served by improving supports for students in fourth grade and beyond.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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