From staff reports

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced last week special session legislation addressing K-12 student learning loss and the adverse effects on Tennessee students’ proficiency in reading and math after extended time away from the classroom due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of education and we are on the cusp of severe consequences for our students if we don’t act now,” said Gov. Lee. “Data suggests that Tennessee third graders are facing an estimated 50% drop in reading proficiency and a projected 65% drop in math proficiency and that is not an acceptable path for our kids. I thank Lt. Gov. McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly for acting quickly on behalf of our students and taking up intervention measures during the special session.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that only 34% of Tennessee students are proficient or advanced readers by fourth grade. Research shows that students who do not achieve reading proficiency by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school, be incarcerated or experience poverty as adults.

In addition to learning loss interventions and accountability hold harmless measures, Gov. Lee will propose adding funding for teacher salaries.

“Educators across the state are working tirelessly to turn the tide for their students and help them regain critical math and reading skills,” said Gov. Lee. “We believe they should be compensated for their efforts and look forward to working with the General Assembly to provide funding for our teachers.”

Three bills have been filed in the Senate to accommodate the governor’s wishes:

Intervening to Stop Learning Loss — SB 7002• 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• 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• 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

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