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Bill addressing third-grade retention recommended for passage by state senate

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By Sabrina BatesMVP Regional News Editor

Out of the slate of proposed bills this legislative session targeted at a third-grade retention law that went into effect this school year, one proposal is making its way through committees and is recommended for passage by Tennessee lawmakers.

The current law requires a student in the third grade to not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student is determined to be proficient in English Language Arts, based on the student’s 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. In response to the law, legislators filed a flurry of changes to the bill after school districts and school boards across the state filed resolutions against the measure.

Senate Bill 300, proposed by Bristol Republican Sen. Jon Lundberg, made the cut through the Senate Education Committee. It was recommended for passage with an amendment last week and moved to the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

The companion version, House Bill 437, which was introduced by Memphis Republican Rep. Mark White, is under consideration in the House Education Administration this week.

The proposals would allow a student who scores within the 50th percentile on the TCAP to be promoted to the fourth grade, if the Local Education Agency agrees to provide tutoring throughout the student’s fourth-grade year.

In addition, any student in kindergarten through third grade who is retained would be assigned tutoring services through the Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) for the entirety of the upcoming school year. 

Tutor services would be state-funded under the proposed legislation. Online tutors would also be made available and funded at the state level through the Department of Education.

During the Senate Education Committee meeting last week, Sen. Lundberg said the fact that 67 percent of students in the state are not proficient in reading is offensive.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, it is estimated that approximately 9,000 students in grades K-3 will be retained each year and will be required to be assigned a tutor for the school year, or 9 months. Tutoring services are estimated to cost $150 a month per student. Tutoring services for retained students in grades kindergarten through third are expected to increase state expenditures by $12,150,000.

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