1. TDOE released initial data on how students and families navigated the retention exemption process.

During the 2022-2023 academic school year, the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act was implemented to accelerate student learning in the wake of COVID-19 related to disruptions to learning (TDOE, 2022). Districts were required to implement this law and provide tutoring and summer learning camps amidst the pandemic and staffing issues across the state. TDOE released information  for students who did not score proficient on the ELA portion of the TCAP, describe pathways to avoid retention and continue with promotion to 4th-grade. Of the students who were promoted to 4th grade, 24% were students who have a disability or suspected disability that impacts reading; received less than two years of ELA instruction as an English Learner; or were previously retained in grades K-3, or they qualified for other local exemptions. Almost 40% of Tennessee’s 3rd-grade students scored proficient on the Spring TCAP. A 3rd-grade data overview below revealed additional information on how many students were promoted based on a particular promotion pathway.

Figure 1: Almost 40% of the students were promoted based on the available pathways for students and families  (TDOE, 2023)

Promotion Pathway Percentage of Students Promoted 
TCAP Retake  5% of 3rd-grade students scored proficient on the TCAP Retake 
Adequate Growth (AG) in Summer Programming 2% of 3rd-grade students who attended summer camps met adequate growth and the 90% attendance requirement 
Parent Appeal 10% of 3rd-grade students were promoted based on parent appeals
Exemptions  24% of 3rd-grade students met other exemption requirements 
Tutoring 17% of 3rd-grade students will test for adequate growth (see below) at the conclusion of 4th-grade tutoring 

TCAP season is on the horizon this spring, with ongoing discussion on how schools will prioritize strategies to ensure that students and families are aware of potential retention in 4th grade, and ensuring the necessary supports are provided for their success. 

2. More than 12,000 students are at risk of being retained in 4th-grade if they don’t meet adequate growth requirements. 

TCAP data from the spring of 2023 revealed that 60% of 3rd-graders were at risk of retention due to not scoring proficient on the 3rd-grade ELA TCAP  (TDOE, 2023). Students and families had to follow a series of requirements to be promoted. Per the law, if families opted for 4th-grade tutoring in order to be promoted, their students must demonstrate adequate growth on the 4th-grade TCAP for ELA to be promoted to 5th-grade. Although TDOE has not finalized the definition for adequate growth, the proposed definition is that “students demonstrate 4th-grade adequate growth by increasing the probability of being proficient in ELA on a future TCAP”, (TDOE, 2023). Complicated adequate growth definitions make it difficult for districts and families to to set goals for student proficiency, and to predict how many students may be retained after 4th grade. However, some legislators have expressed concern and may propose legislation to provide more pathways for 4th graders (The Tennessean, 2024). 

SBE Board Members suggested that TDOE release retention data by district in order to highlight bright spots and to share best practices to produce better student outcomes. Additionally, the board members expressed great interest in ensuring that parents receive consistent and thorough communication from TDOE and individual districts about the implications of the retention law.

3. TDOE finalized new A-F grading criteria, adding a new measure of growth for the lowest performing 25% of students while removing chronic absenteeism and the English Language Proficiency Assessment as possible indicators. 

TDOE released details regarding the new A-F state accountability system (TDOE, 2023), which is required according to a 2016 law. TDOE developed a formula to calculate letter grades for every school, which are in addition to federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability requirements. During town halls, public comment, and working group meetings, stakeholders discussed how to best measure school performance and ways to report that information to families in a transparent way. Throughout all of public engagement opportunities, there was a general consensus that TVAAS and AMO growth are important metrics to prioritize in the new A-F calculation. Tennessee’s new A-F school grading system consists of three indicators: Achievement, Growth,  Growth of the Lowest Performing 25% Student Subgroup, and an additional metric of College and Career Readiness for high schools. Each indicator will be measured in all subjects with different weights grade levels and subjects. TDOE chose to include TVAAS but did not include AMOs but weighted absolute achievement more in comparison to other measures.

Figure 2: The new A-F measuring system prioritizes proficiency and uses fewer measures (TDOE, 2023).

4. TDOE published the school letter grades on a dashboard in December. 

During public engagement town halls across the state, TDOE communicated their plans to publish A-F letter grades on the state report card. Before letter grades were released to the public, districts had a preview window to verify the data and calculations Based on the current timeline, letter grades will be published on the state report card in early 2024 with additional performance metrics, including the new accountability indicators and the state’s federal performance metric (TDOEa, 2023; TDOEb, 2023).  TDOE released the dashboard and spreadsheet to the public on December 21, 2023, which was after the state board meeting.

5. TDOE proposes new Social Studies standards that will be implemented for the 2026-2027 academic school year. 

Per State Board Policy 3.209, the State Board of Education is responsible for reviewing the state’s academic standards at least every eight years. However, social studies standards fell under the previous six-year timeline for review (TDOE, 2023) and underwent a review and revision process starting in 2017 (TDOE, 2023). 

Major changes were made to elementary grade-level standards. For K-2, standards are arranged by content strands or themes. For each content strand, students look first at their community in Kindergarten, the state in 1st-grade, and nationally in the 2nd-grade. Social studies courses were rearranged for grades 3-5 to ensure that students learn about TN history and are prepared for World History in 6th grade. In 3rd and 4th grades, students will learn about U.S History, but will no longer learn Geography in these grades Geography. Additionally, 5th grade Social Studies will focus on TN History and Geography. Across all grades, districts and teachers can select historical figures within standards so students are aware of important figures in their community, which will ultimately create more variation across schools and districts.

There was some concern from some board members that standards were loosely aligned with TCAP Social Studies expectations for students. Some board members expressed an interest in students in grades 3-6 learning key concepts prior to taking their first Social Studies TCAP in 6th grade.

Equity Considerations

  1. Students will be retained if they do not meet adequate growth in 4th-grade. How will TDOE  ensure that schools are providing proper support to these students? 
  2. Commissioner Reynolds demonstrated interest in discussing A-F revisions. How will TDOE collect and distribute feedback from a diverse array of stakeholders in the next planning cycle? 
  3. When and what support will be provided to schools with D and F ratings? How will support be differentiated based on need?