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Putnam Board Voices Concern About 3rd Grade Retention Law

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Board Voices Concern About 3rd Grade Retention Law

The Putnam County School Board passed a resolution Thursday night asking the state to keep student retentions a local decision.

The request is in response to a state law that would retain 3rd grade students that do not meet standards on the ELA section on state testing. Director of School Corby King said the law has good intent but is too restrictive to just one test result.

“The big thing for me is a lot of these students are what we would consider on grade level,” King said. “The overwhelmingly majority of those on grade level. They are just not meeting expectations on one test.”

Based on last year’s test results, just over 500 Putnam students would be impacted by the law. King said under the law, local input or any other academic data would not be considered in retention cases.

“This law does not allow for teacher or parent input or any other data points,” King said. “So, the teacher grades, the teacher that worked through the year, the parents talking about their child at grade level, it doesn’t allow any exceptions for any of that. It doesn’t take into consideration the benchmark exams, universal screener score or anything besides that one test score.”

School Board Member Jill Ramsey said she agrees that students should be proficient readers, but the law is not fair to students.

‘We make decision at schools base on multiple points of data and never on one piece of data,” Ramsey said. “The fact the state wants us to make major changes based on one piece of data is not right.”

School Board Member Lynn McHenry said he believed the decision to retain a student should stay local with teachers, not with the state.

“We know our kids and they don’t,” McHenry said. “It is quite simple. So that’s the reason why I look at it and say we need this resolution to let them know that’s how we feel.”

King said the law would offer ways for students to not be retained. For example, TCAP scores are ranked in four categories: below, approaching, meeting and exceeding expectations.

King said students that are approaching could avoid retention by attending summer school or a year-long 4th grade tutoring program. Students below most participate in both programs. King said this would cause several issues such as staffing,  delayed graduation times and class scheduling.


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