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Schools brace for impact of state law
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It is currently unknown how the Tennessee Literacy Success Act will affect Warren County third graders, but the school system is aiming to be proactive regardless of the outcome. 

At the Warren County School Board meeting Monday, Director of Schools Dr. Grant Swallows discussed the Literacy Success Act and how he plans on preparing third graders. This new law requires third grade students to demonstrate proficiency on TCAP in English Language Arts. If a student does not score “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” on the exam, they would have to repeat third grade if no intensive intervention is available. 

Swallows says there are currently a few proposed bills addressing this act that could change it.

“Some people like to call it the third grade retention law. We’ve talked about that a number of times with this body. I don’t have any updates about that, but I do know that I looked through the proposed legislation from the 2023 general assembly on Friday and I saw no less than four bills that address this one act. They are all over the board. We have no real direction about that. We as a school district need to prepare for what that looks like,” said Swallows. 

Swallows says it is important to meet with the parents and go over what this act means. Meetings have been scheduled at every school with a third grade. They will start on Monday, Jan. 30 at Morrison Elementary at 5 p.m. and then go to Hickory Creek Elementary at 6:30 p.m. The next night, Jan. 31, they will start at Centertown Elementary at 5 p.m. then go to West Elementary at 6:30 p.m. On Monday, Feb. 6 they will start at Dibrell Elementary at 5 p.m. and then go to Bobby Ray Elementary at 6:30 p.m. Last, on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. they will go to Eastside Elementary and then Irving College at 6:30 p.m. Warren Connect students can attend any of the sessions. 

This law has a lot of parents worried and Swallows is aware of it and hopes to calm some fears at these meetings. 

“I think we have a lot of people that are concerned, but we are also wanting to make sure they are supporting their students in a positive way. We don’t want seven, eight and nine-year-old students coming to the TCAP in April with the pressure of thinking if they don’t do well on this exam then they may possibly be in third grade again. That is a possibility, but there are several things that are hopefully being put in place where we can give them the opportunity to be successful, one, on the exam and, two, if they don’t do well on it, give them the opportunity to attend our acceleration academy or our summer school program and hope they might be promoted from there,” said Swallows. 

He says the school system is doing all it knows to do to help the third grade students be prepared for the TCAP test, but asks parents to also help.

“We want them to know we are doing all we can to help them in school, but we need their help as well. One of the important things that the law says is if a student doesn’t take the exam, then they will be retained. It is important that in April and May that we are getting people to school and taking the exam and making sure we are doing the best we can on it,” said Swallows.

School Board Chairman Tommy Culwell agreed. “These meeting should be a reminder to us as parents to make sure your child is reading. Make sure your child is doing the best they possibly can and simply be involved. It shouldn’t be the burden of the teacher solely at that age to make sure your child is where they need to be. We have that responsibility as parents as well,” said Culwell. 

This months, students completed their winter screener to help determine the level of growth throughout the year and those results will be shared at this meeting as well.