Chronicle of Mt. Juliet

More than 600 county students may repeat third grade

More than 600 third grade students in both Wilson County school districts have found themselves possibly having to repeat the grade in the fall.

On May 19, individual English Language Arts scores for third graders were shared by the Tennessee Department of Education with Tennessee school districts, which were responsible for communicating with families about their student’s score and pathways to fourth grade promotion, including the TCAP retake opportunity, free summer camp and/or tutoring in the upcoming school year. 

Third grade students who scored “below” or “approaching” are eligible and will be prioritized for these supports, although some students may meet certain exceptions outlined in the law. 

Wilson County Schools released a brief informational statement on May 22, outlining the basic information released by the TDOE.

There were approximately 1,430 third graders in WCS during the 2022-2023 school year. Of those, 50.2 percent of the third graders scored at the proficient level on the ELA portion of the TCAP. That was an increase in proficiency from previous years. In 2021-22, 47.9 percent of third grade students were proficient in ELA.

Parents of the approximately 500 students who scored below proficient and did not qualify for an allowed exemption were notified by email on May 19.  The email informed parents about the opportunity for their child to participate in a retake opportunity starting on May 22.  The retake process continues through June 5.

Others who did not score proficient but were exempt from having to retake the test, or any other option to avoid retention of third grade included those who are English learners with less than two years ELA instruction, students who were previously retained in Grades K-3, students with a disability that impacts reading and/or students with a suspected disability that impacts reading.

Within LSSD, 46 percent of the 478 third graders were proficient on the ELA portion of the test.

“With our size, were have been able to individually communicate with all families impacted by scores and talk-through options,” said LSSD Director Brian Hutto. “Additionally, we had in person sessions several times this second semester to review the legislation in preparation.”

Parents will also have the opportunity to appeal the retention determination starting May 30 with the TDOE if the student received a score at or above the 40th percentile on their spring universal reading screener.

In addition, students can go to summer school this year. Summer Learning Camp will begin on June 5. 

A more comprehensive breakdown of the WCS data with be presented at the June 5 WCS Board of Education meeting.

Parents who opt not to take advantage of any of these options will see their student repeat the third grade during the 2023-2024 school year.

In 2021, the Tennessee General Assembly updated state law to ensure all students have the support they need to read and perform on grade level.

Specifically, all school districts and public charter schools must use phonics instruction, high-quality materials, and administer an approved universal reading screener three times a year to all students in grades K-3 and provide a home literacy report. Additionally, all school districts and public charter schools now offer free reading support and resources, summer programming, and small-group tutoring, according to the TDOE website.