MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than half of third-graders in Tennessee fell short of the threshold required to move on to fourth grade, leaving many parents and students scrambling over what to do this summer to get them promoted to fourth grade.
As many parents with third graders try to up their TCAP scores by doing a retake, attending summer school, or undergoing tutoring, Sharonda Williams is a mom on a mission.
“He (her son) knew he’d have to go summer school and there’s a possibility he could be retained. Just seeing the frustration with him and also hearing stories of other kids who really felt like they were a failure, I felt like I as a parent had to do something,” Williams said.
What she did was challenge and stand up for her third-grade son, Roderick Williams II by appealing his TCAP results.
“He had made really good grades during the school year. They took benchmark testing throughout the year. He scored above the grade level. So, I just didn’t feel like one TCAP test should determine if they move to fourth grade or not,” his mother said.
Williams submitted an appeal to the Tennessee Department of Education. A few days ago, she received a letter from the state.
“Because he had scored above the 40 percent percentile on the screener. So, I filed the appeal that Tuesday, and that Thursday I checked my email, and it was approved. It said he would be promoted from third to fourth grade,” she said.
She was thrilled, but probably not as much as her son.
“Yes, he was really excited when I told him you won’t have to go to summer school. He was really excited, hanging out, trying to relax until the next school year,” Williams said.
Still, many state leaders say the third-grade retention law is working.
“I think we see how this works going forward and I’m comfortable with where it is,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
“I think they need to rethink because I know adults who suffer from anxiety with tests, and I don’t feel like it’s fair,” Williams said.
But for Sharonda Williams, the appeal process is a life lesson in persistence that paid off and one she wants to share with other parents.
“The only failure is when you don’t try. I just really hope that parents will go out there and fight because I don’t feel it’s fair for our children to be defined by one test,” she said.
Parents or legal guardians can file an appeal within 14 days of being notified that their child is at risk for retention. The appeal window is open from now through June 30. Click here to file an appeal.