MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Across Tennessee and in Shelby County, the results are in on how students did on retakes of the crucial TCAP test.

Keith Williams is a Memphis Shelby County School Board member.

“I do know when they gave the makeup and the retesting that students did, the failure rate went down some, but there are lots of variables out here that we do not know about,” Williams said.

Of the roughly 6,000 MSCS students who retook the English language arts portion of the exam, nearly 5,000 once again fell short of expectations. Only eight percent hit the state’s benchmarks.

However, the good news is another 12 percent improved their scores enough to skip summer school and advance to the fourth grade with mandatory tutoring.

“A third grader would not have known how to punctuate a sentence using quotation marks. I thought that was beyond, to be fair, because that’s not a skill taught in third grade,” Williams said. “You have to be fair to students, be fair to children, and be fair to teachers.”

But will the retake results mean many third graders will be held back?

“All of this must come with parental consent. They have the final control,” Williams said. “The district could not afford to absorb that many students in the third grade another year and it would also throw off the synchronization of how students move and other grades.”

Still, a lot of questions remain about Tennessee’s third-grade retention law and its impact on individual students, families, and educators.

“That has to be considered, Alex, when you talk about how many of these students have accommodations, how many are special needs, and how many of them have all of these other things that we don’t know of that number,” Williams said.

TCAP results from some other neighboring school districts include 31 percent passing a retake in Arlington, 24 percent in Bartlett, 16 percent in Tipton County, and 12 percent in Fayette County.

“I think the law itself and the conception of the law, I don’t know its purpose,” Williams said. “But if the purpose is just to maintain children, that’s the wrong purpose. The purpose ought to be for any test you find out what they don’t know, you expose them, and retest them.”