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Exemptions and Appeals


The law includes four (4) exemptions to 3rd grade retention.

If a student who scores BELOW or APPROACHING on the ELA section of the TCAP meets one (or more) of these exemptions, they can be promoted to the 4th grade without having to participate in one of the promotion pathways.

The four exemptions (also seen on the bottom of the “Pathways to Promotion” graphic) include:

  • Students who are English Language Learners (ELL or EL) with less than two years of ELA instruction
  • Students who were previously retained
  • Students who have a disability that impacts reading (as recorded/documented by the District and/or the TDOE)
  • Students with a suspected disability that impacts reading

Districts must determine whether an individual student meets one of the circumstances that exempts the student from retention. All decisions regarding exemptions must be made on a case-by-case basis considering the unique needs and circumstnances of the individual student and documented in the student’s file.


Per the Tennessee Department of Education:

If a 3rd grade student receives "approaching" on the ELA portion of the TCAP, the child's parent/legal guardian may submit an appeal within the designated appeal timeline upon receiving the retention decision from their child's school.

Authorized school personnel (principal, guidance counselor, teacher, or other administrator) may also file an appeal on behalf of a parent if written consent is received.

All appeals must be received within the designated appeals timeline and through the appropriate form.

The criteria for an appeal, the appeal timeline, and the written consent form will be shared by the TDOE in Spring 2024.


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