WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The new third-grade retention law continues to frustrate Tennessee parents.

“We have to make sure that this tool we use is used in the right way,” Wilson County parent Daniel Gragg said. “Not as a frying pan to hit the kids over the head with.”

“They are nine years old,” Knox County parent Shelly Walker said. “What is happening with this?”

But Tuesday, the state opened up the appeals process for TCAP scores.

The rules originally said parents and guardians must file the appeal within 14 days of test results. But the Department of Education (TDOE) clarified with WKRN News 2 on Tuesday that it’s keeping the deadline open until June 30.

The TDOE provided a loose timeline that showed it would report TCAP retake scores within 48 hours of June 7. A post-summer school test would open on June 13. If a student doesn’t show growth on the post-test, they could potentially still be up for retention—families will know by July 14 at the earliest if their student went through summer school.

If they did not go through summer school, families will know the state’s decision concerning their retention on June 24, at the earliest.

To appeal your student’s TCAP score, you can do so here, while you can read more about the appeals process and law itself here.

“The goal is to make sure that when somebody is progressing to the next grade, they have the skills and abilities to do that,” Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) said.

Several Republican lawmakers have responded to the negative feedback from parents.

Pody recently received criticism for comments he made to a local Republican chapter back in February. He said, “I’ve had parents tell me, ‘Senator Pody, we’ve got vacation plans!’ Vacation plans? Your child can’t read.”

Tuesday, he defended those comments.

“To turn around and say that, ‘My summer vacation is more important than my child’s education,’ I do not think that is right,” Pody said. “I am going to put my foot down wherever I can and say, ‘Your child’s education is more important than a summer vacation.’”

Parents have consistently argued their children can read, and one test doesn’t accurately portray that one way or another. 

“You can’t measure a kid’s ability to read or his success based upon one data point,” Gragg said.

But Pody points out between TCAP retakes, the appeals process, summer school, or tutoring, there are opportunities to prevent retention. “We’ve made a lot of off-ramps for them to move on.”

Some parents have said their children are running out of gas at the end of an emotionally challenging year.

“We’re not going to summer school, this kid is burned out, like burned out to the max.” Walker said. “There’s been so much pressure on them.”

Gragg’s son goes to school in Pody’s district. When asked if he had a message to lawmakers, Gragg made a plea. “Take time to listen to the teachers, the people in the classrooms and in the schools, working with our kids because there’s a disconnect here.”

To successfully file an appeal, the TDOE sets out two potential parameters:

  1. The student received a score at or above the 40th percentile on their spring universal reading screener, OR
  2. A catastrophic situation occurred during the days leading up to the TCAP test that impacted the 3rd grade student’s ability to perform on the test. Catastrophic situations include, but are not limited to, a death in the immediate family, loss of a family home, significant medical diagnosis, abuse, physical or emotional neglect, or household dysfunction (e.g., substance abuse, incarcerated relative, mental illness).