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Officials: 40% of Tennessee third grade readers ready for fourth grade

Tennessee officials released data showing that less than half of the state's third grade student readers are ready for the fourth grade.
Officials: 40% of Tennessee third grade readers ready for fourth grade
Posted at 4:36 PM, May 22, 2023

The Tennessee Department of Education has released data that shows that only around 40% of the state's third grade student readers are ready for the fourth grade. 

The data is taken from a state-wide knowledge assessment test called the TCAP which state education officials say is crucial in determining a path for a student's move into the fourth grade.

The data appeared to show a stark difference between those who passed and those who did not. 

With 40% of kids meeting or exceeding grade level expectations, Tennessee educators say those children will be able to move onto the fourth grade with no intervention. However, 60% of the state's children will either have to retake the test, go to summer school or appeal the decision based on the state's Third Grade Retention Law. The law will affect this year's third graders, while the legislature is amending its language to possibly apply to other grades in the future. But any changes won't go into effect until next school year. 

The data is broken down by category, with 13% having exceeded expectations, 27% having met expectations, 35% having approached expectations, and 25% having come in below expectations.

This is growth as compared to last year's scores, as the proportion that exceeded state expectations increased by three percentage points, as did the proportion that met expectations. 

"Students, teachers, districts, and families have worked incredibly hard to improve reading proficiency in Tennessee and their efforts should be celebrated,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. 

"The significant gains that we see on the third grade ELA TCAP [testing] reflect the success that schools across the state are seeing under 'Reading 360' and other literacy efforts and [it] will change the lives of thousands of students. While we still have a long way to go before we reach the goals laid out in legislation, I appreciate the ongoing efforts of Tennessee schools as they implement summer and tutoring programs to provide students not yet on grade level with the supports they need to thrive," Schwinn said. 

Reaction from school districts

Metro Nashville public elementary schools will be contacting third grade parents to inform them of the results. 

The district said it understands the anxiety and frustration that students, parents, and teachers are feeling because of the state’s third grade retention law and the lack of the assessment results that will not only inform summer plans but that also could have a dramatic impact on students' futures. 

The district said it hopes to provide information to families before school dismissal, but said data was not provided by the time elementary schools dismissed for the day. 

Officials said that students who score in the "below" or "approaching" categories on a portion of the test will be provided a re-take examination at their schools between Monday, May 22, and Wednesday, May 24, for a chance to improve their score before the end of the school year. 

Other Tennessee school districts said they would try to inform parents as soon as possible so that options can be provided for students. 

A new Tennessee law requires third-graders to score proficiently on portions of the standardized test to be promoted to the fourth grade, or they must meet the requirements to be exempt or follow another pathway to be promoted to fourth grade. 

Some Tennessee third-grade students are exempt from the law's proficiency requirements because those students fall into one of several categories, including those who are English Language Learners, those who have a disability that impacts reading, or those who have been held back previously.

This story was originally published by Emily West of Scripps News Nashville. 

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