Historic Session to Help K-12 Tennessee Students Comes to a Close

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On Jan. 22, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly closed a historic special session to address learning loss and the negative effects on student proficiency in reading and math marked by time away from the classroom due to COVID-19. 

 “COVID-19 has severely disrupted education in Tennessee. Our decisive action to intervene on behalf of Tennessee students will equip them for success, educating our kids better in the future than before the pandemic,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the General Assembly for their swift passage of legislation that will benefit our students.”

 In addition to interventions for Tennessee students, the passed legislation increases the salary component of the education funding formula by 4 percent.

 “I am grateful for a productive and efficient conclusion to a legislative session focused on helping children, parents and teachers,” said Lt. Gov. McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “Tennessee has made tremendous improvements in education over the last decade. The coronavirus public health crisis began to put all of that at risk. The steps we took this week will reverse the learning loss that has taken place and prevent any further erosion of our progress. I appreciate Governor Lee calling this special session to draw our attention to the pressing needs of education in this state. The House and the Senate came together to ensure our progress continues. I appreciate the efforts of each and every one of my colleagues for their efforts this week on behalf of our students, teachers and parents.”

 Gov. Lee’s slate of education priorities included learning loss, phonics-based reading instruction and accountability measures to inform student progress.

 “This is a momentous day for Tennessee, for our students, and for our parents because our General Assembly has drawn a line in the sand, and we have said we can no longer accept that only one third of our students are proficient in reading and in math,” said Tennessee House Speaker Sexton (R-Crossville). “We want to be number one in education; I appreciate Gov. Lee for his vision, as well as Lt. Gov McNally, and the House and Senate for their partnership as we all have worked together this week to transform educational outcomes for Tennessee students.”   

The passed legislation includes the following measures:

 Intervening to Stop Learning Loss – SB 7002/HB 7004

-Requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps, beginning summer 2021

-Program prioritizes students who score below proficient in both reading (ELA) and math subjects

-Creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students throughout the entire school year

-Strengthens laws around a third grade reading gate so we no longer advance students who are not prepared

 Building Better Readers with Phonics – SB 7003/HB 7002

-Ensures local education agencies (LEAs) use a phonics-based approach for kindergarten through third grade reading instruction

-Establishes a reading screener for parents and teachers to identify when students need help, well before third grade

Provides training and support for educators to teach phonics-based reading instruction

Accountability to Inform – SB 7001/HB 7003

-Extends hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so that students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments

-Provides parents and educators with assessment data including TCAP testing to provide an accurate picture of where Tennessee students are and what supports are needed to offset any learning losses