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School Board sends resolution to state pushing back against Third Grade Retention law

On Monday night, the Moore County School Board unanimously approved a resolution pushing back against the state’s new Third Grade Retention law. (A Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — In a move that echoes other school boards across the state, the Metro School Board voted on Monday to send a resolution to the Tennessee General Assembly pushing back against the state’s new Third Grade Retention law.

State legislators passed the new policy during a 2021 special session stating that “beginning with the 2022-23 school year, a student in third grade shall not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student is determined to be proficient in English language arts (ELA) based on the student achieving a performance level rating of on track or mastered on the ELA portion of the student’s most recent Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test.”

It’s a sentence that may seem innocent enough to to most laymen but immediately spelled trouble to educators around the state, including those in Moore County. As it went into effect on July 1, it became obvious to many that the new law would hold back any third grader who performs poorly on the English language arts portion of the TCAP test regardless of grade average, test anxiety, or other limiting factor that only those on a local level would know to consider.

As reported in our previous coverage of this issue, {click this link to read that story} most educators consider third grade to be a crucial academic years for students that can determine their academic success. It’s the pivotal point where reading comprehension begins to trickle down in to all other subjects.

But according to local educators we spoke to, holding a child back can come at a huge psychological and emotional cost. It’s often a life-altering decision that can carry long term effects. Many expressed frustration at that decision being taken out of the hands of those closest to the child.

“The educational outcomes for the students who have been retained have been mixed, with one reported negative outcome being that retention laws can have adverse effects on students with disabilities and at-risk students,” the resolution states.

The resolution also adds that in other states, legislation regarding third grade retention often also allows school districts to promote student without proficient standardized test scores if they “showed progress based on school district data and demonstrated ELA proficiency in a alternative way.”

“The Moore County Board of Education urges the General Assembly to amend TCA 49-6-3115 to allow school districts to make retention decisions for third grade and fourth grade students based upon all school district information on each student,” the local resolution ends.

Director of School Chad Moorehead says rather than “recreate the wheel” he based the local resolution on a similar one passed by the Williamson County School Board. Moore County’s version passed unanimously and will be immediately sent to our state legislators as well as the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) and the The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA).

When we asked Director Moorehead whether or not the Board’s wishes would fall on deaf ears, he sounded mildly hopeful that parts of the new law might be reversed based on educator feedback.

“I feel like there will be some change in the law, but do not feel like it will be returned to complete local control,” he said.

To send an email to Representative Iris Rudder, who represent Moore and parts of Franklin and Marion counties, click here or you may reach her Nashville office at 615-741-8695. To reach out to Representative Pat Marsh, who represents Bedford, Moore, and parts of Lincoln County, click here or call 615-741-6824. To reach out to Senator Shane Reeves, who represents Moore, Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, and parts of Rutherford County, click here or call 615-741-1066. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}

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