MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
When it comes to the 3rd grade retention law in Tennessee, the stakes are really high for students, especially since nearly four in five Memphis Shelby County Schools (MSCS) students failed the 3rd reading test last year.
While those in Chattanooga area schools want the state to amend the law, it's unclear yet if the MSCS board will make a similar request.
Former third-grade teacher Tikeila Rucker said her heart is "always with students."
"What I’ve always known is that the test is not always an accurate assessment of what they learn and what they know," Rucker said.
Rucker said she wants MSCS to draft a resolution like other school districts in the state to amend its third-grade retention law.
The law, passed in 2021, requires schools to hold back third graders who don't pass the Tennessee Ready Reading Test.
“For there to be a bill passed that will be punitive for almost 70 percent of our students across the state of Tennessee — that is concerning to me,” Rucker said.
According to state data, just 23 percent of MSCS 3rd-grade students passed the reading portion of the exam last school year.
Statewide nearly two-thirds of third graders also failed the test.
That's why Thursday the Hamilton County School Board of Education is set to vote on a resolution requesting the state to amend the law and allow school districts to make retention decisions themselves.
Rucker wants the MSCS board to follow suit.
“[I'm] hopeful that our school board will pass a resolution and communicate this information throughout the district because they have access to all parents that have children in the system," Rucker said.
MSCS told ABC24 the district has “been at the forefront of raising awareness about the importance of improving adult and child literacy rates across our region," and that they "welcome support from our state legislators and community partners in these efforts.”
For now, Rucker waits for possible action and worries for many 3rd grade students at risk of repeating the grade.
“We’re concerned about it as parents; as citizens, as the community," Rucker said. "This is something that they should that the reign [on] and lead us on this because that is what they were elected to do."
The district also says they are offering tutoring throughout this school year ahead of the state testing and will also offer their summer learning academy for students who need extra instruction.