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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Forty percent of Tennessee third graders met grade-level expectations for English Language Arts (ELA) in the TCAP standardized test, state officials said Monday.

That means 60% did not meet expectations. They may be required to attend a Summer Learning Academy and be tutored during fourth grade. Students who do not participate in these programs may be held back.

Parents can appeal the district’s policy.

Still, state officials accentuated the positive, noting that the percentage of proficient readers increased by 4.3% from last year, the largest one-year increase since the academic standards were updated in 2017.

“Tennessee continues to work hard to achieve high standards and achievement for our students,” said House Education Administration Chairman Mark White (R-Memphis)“I want to thank all our Tennessee teachers for their work in creating this success for our students!”

Graphic provided by state of TN

Memphis Shelby County Schools said by email Monday that the district reached out to parents by email, text, and robocall but Taryn Jones said she missed the memo.

“I just think that’s kind of bogus of them. Today I think is a little bit too late to get kids to try to go to summer school. They should have been on this a couple of weeks ago, not even a couple of weeks ago actually, a couple months ago,” said Jones. “I wanted to go on road trips and stuff, but if my son has to go to summer school that’s going to mess everything up.”

Last summer, one in four students attended an MSCS summer program for enrichment, arts, athletics, or support. District leaders say they “feel good about staffing for 2023.” They are also offering special incentives for teachers to take on that task.

But Democratic leaders in the state say they don’t feel good about laws pushed by the Republican administration that could put 60% of the state’s third-graders at risk of being held back.

“No one benefits from this manufactured chaos,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis said. “There are so many student interventions we could be supporting to improve reading comprehension. High-stakes testing, with the threat of failing third grade, is not one of them.”

MSCS Board Member Amber Huett-Garcia said the scores show there is work to be done.

“60 percent is alarming to me,” she said. “Our parents are bright. Our community is bright. I think it’s reflecting years of under investment in systems of support for families.”

Third-grade reading proficiency is essential for promotion to fourth grade in Tennessee.

“The state board of education has defined adequate growth as 5 percent gains on the TCAP so they not only have to attend but they have to show they have remediated some of the skills that caused them not to get a proficient score,” Huett-Garcia said.

Huett-Garcia is hoping families stay encouraged.

“Having a first-grader in Memphis Shelby County Schools. I would say your child is not defined by one test score,” she said.

Information for parents is here.

Statewide TCAP results for all grades and all subjects will be released in June.