MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Some schools have already welcomed students back into the classroom across Tennessee. This week marks the first few days of summer school for many third-graders since the third grade retention law was enacted.
“This year has definitely been a little different with the third grade retention law put in place; I know that was a little bit of a surprise, so parents definitely wanted to make sure that their students were prepared and getting everything they needed,” explained Stefanie Edgell, who is working inside Walter Hill Elementary School this summer.
Edgell is one of many third grade teachers.
“We have a lot more third grade students this summer. In the past, we’ve kind of been a little bit equal with our summer camp students, but this year our third grade group is large,” explained Edgell. “It’s not been a big problem, but I definitely think that there were some other students that might have wanted to be at summer camp, and our third grade spots may have been taken for those positions or kids spots.”
The new law requires third-graders who do not get a certain score on the TCAP standardized test to repeat the grade.
“It’s really just unexpected. It wasn’t at the beginning of the year, so we’re all trying to work together to make sure everyone’s successful,” said Edgell.
For the most part, Edgell said she is taking the changes one day at a time. Since the law was put in place, she is now focused on making it a great summer, especially for the children who may have not expected to be in the classroom.
The increase in students has required more teachers to be on staff during the summer.
“All of the other current grade levels currently have six teachers with our fourth grade just having two. However, our third grade has 10 teachers for third grade,” explained Brent Bogan, assistant principal of Walter Hill Elementary School and the site director for the summer camp.
Bogan told News 2, one third of the summer student population consists of third-graders, which is higher than usual.
It’s not only been an adjustment for school staff, but also communicating with frustrated parents has had its challenges.
“Some of the parents I’ve spoken to, they had pre-planned trips that have been planned a year, two years out, and they are now having to cancel those trips in order for their child to be able to attend summer camp,” Bogan explained. “Just the whole emotional aspect of their child thinking that they were going to go into the fourth grade, and now based upon their TCAP scores, now being told that in order to do so they’re going to have to jump through some other hoops to get to that next point.”
Within 24 to 48 hours after the start of summer school, Bogan stated he received phone calls from parents who needed to enroll their child(ren).
After the TCAP results were published, parents had the opportunity to appeal the decision before the state. For some parents, the appeal process has worked, but for those who are denied, the next steps can be difficult.
“We are having students who are newly enrolled as of today who have not been here all week, based on the new information they have received from the state,” Bogan said. “We anticipate in the next couple of days we are going to see another increase of students as those parents are checking their emails from the state. If their appeals have been denied, then we’re going to see some more students entering here.”
However, Bogan said there is a silver lining; as schools adjust to the new changes, administrators are able to put systems in place to help third-graders throughout the school year.
“I think if there is one advantage of this is we know what’s in place for next year, and so our second grade teachers have really been making sure that the children are adequately prepared for some of those reading standards that they are going to be exposed to for that TCAP test for next year, and hopefully we will see continued improvement and growth with those students,” Bogan said.
Bogan is encouraging parents to explore all options for their third grade students, including summer camps, after school tutoring, and the appeals process.
Right now, the summer school/camp operates the entire month of June, four days a week, Monday through Thursday.