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Straight-A 3rd grader misses required TCAP score by 1 point after tornado destroys her school, and her mom is demanding answers

Crestview Elementary families in Covington speak out about taking and retaking TCAP after tornado destroys school.

COVINGTON, Tenn. — Crestview Elementary School third graders in Covington, Tennessee, have finished TCAP retesting, with their parents upset over the retention law still in place after their school was demolished by a tornado on March 31. 

Parents and local officials said they wrote letters to Governor Bill Lee asking for an exemption since their students didn’t have a school to prepare for the exam, but that exemption was denied.

Emerson Akins is a third grader at Crestview and her mom said she’s a straight-A student. Despite her grades and work ethic, she’s still at risk of being held back after missing the required score cutoff for the TCAP English and Language Arts section.

“I’m very sad I didn’t make it,” Emerson Akins said.

Her mom, Jennifer Akins, said it’s not because she didn’t study for the test.

“We’ve practiced all year long,” Jennifer Akins said. “We’ve done the passages at night. We make her read and read and read. Her teachers say she’s ready, this test just apparently disagrees.”

Jennifer said Emerson’s score was approaching grade level at 86, which apparently was just one point shy of passing the exam.

We reached out to the Tennessee Department of Education for TCAP scale score ranges, since they aren't publicly available, but have yet to hear a response from them. 

“She questions whether she’s good enough,” Jennifer said. “How can you explain to a child, you had all A’s, I can’t expect more from you, but the state does.”

Emerson said the test being timed gave her testing anxiety.

“It was on a time limit, so you were kind of rushing,” Emerson “It was very stressful because every time I would finish a question, I would look at the clock making sure I’d have enough time. I thought I did very, very good but knowing that I missed one, that was very heartbreaking.”

While officials and parents worked on an exemption for third graders to not take the test, Governor Bill Lee denied it, instead, the state offered other options.

The students' scores won’t count toward their grades, scores won’t be used in teacher evaluations and appeals will be allowed, but students and parents say that’s not enough.

“It doesn’t really feel good that you're being held back,” Emerson said.

It’s important to note the students were not in a physical school due to the tornado damage for three weeks. Jennifer said they only got back into a different school building one day before their exams started, missing a large portion of typical TCAP review sessions.

Jennifer said she is grateful for how the school district handled the situation but wishes the state made a better decision for kids who were so heavily impacted by the March tornadoes in Tipton County.

“[They missed] the review part of TCAP where they would’ve taken the practice tests and they would’ve received all of the skills that they had learned all year long,” Jennifer said. “She missed all of that because we didn’t have a school. The tornado came through on March 31, she went to the school on April 25, she started the test on April 26.”

The window for parents to appeal their child’s “approaching” score begins May 30 and closes June 30, 2023.

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