“My son is going through counseling right now,” Knox County Schools parent Shelly Walker said. “We got down to the root of it because he’s having nightmares about failing third grade.”
Walker says her son is emotionally and physically burnt out and, frankly, won’t send him to summer school.
“As a parent, I just feel like this is failing the public school system,” she said. “So, I spent my weekend, last weekend, applying for all the private schools in Knoxville and trying to figure out which ones I could maybe still enroll him in for fourth grade.”
“I think we see how this works going forward,” Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) said. “I’m comfortable with where it is.”
It’s a ubiquitous sentiment among top Republicans.
“There could be some fine-tuning, but as far as the general direction of the law, I’m satisfied with it,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said.
Lee says he’s a grandparent of young kids and understands the challenges and importance of making sure students are ready to move forward.
“We have tutoring, we have summer programs, we have retesting to make sure that these third graders can, in fact, read and are ready to go before they move to fourth grade,” he said. “We should not push them forward if they’re not able to succeed going forward.”
Lee and other top Republicans have consistently said children have to be able to read to move forward.
“We need to make sure that kids can read. One of the worst things we can do is push a kid forward into school who can’t read,” Lee said. “It’s almost a certainty for their future failure.”
But parents see lawmakers making decisions without including teachers and administrators – the people on the ground. Plus, they say their children can read, and one test doesn’t define that.
“Maybe they don’t care. I don’t know,” Walker said. “It seems like they don’t care because they’re sitting behind these desks, forming these laws for these kids they know nothing about based on this one test.”
Walker and other parents made the point that the anxiety over this law has led to disastrous outcomes.
“He’s crumpled up in a ball, just crying because he’s gut-wrenched about what he has to go through come this next week. As a parent, we don’t know when it’s retaking, we don’t know what’s happening, his teachers don’t know what’s happening,” Walker said. “I don’t know his test scores, we don’t know what he’s missed on the test. Like none of it. None of it is shared with us.”