SummerSchool

The state legislature is requiring all school districts, including Trousdale County, to create summer learning camps in an effort to bring up proficiency rates in reading. The summer camps are optional for the first two years, but could become mandatory in 2023 for students who are falling behind.

Trousdale County Schools are developing plans for optional summer learning camps as part of legislation passed by the General Assembly during a special session last week.

Legislators passed a $160 million package that includes adopting a new reading standard for students to pass third grade, raising teacher pay and not using student testing as part of this year’s model for teacher accountability.

Third-graders who do not score at least proficient, or on grade level, on the state’s annual TCAP tests will soon have to either attend summer school or commit to a year of tutoring or risk repeating the grade under a new policy approved during the special session, strengthening a 2011 state law. The retention policy would apply to third-grade students beginning in the 2022-23 academic year.

“We’ve been studying it and playing out scenarios and setting priorities,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield. “The only time they’ll be required is beginning in the summer of 2023, if a third-grade student is not proficient on the TCAP test.

“We’ve got some educating of parents, to let them know this is coming. This year’s first-grade class, the third-grade retention rule would first affect them.”

While details are still tentative, Trousdale is looking at running its learning camp from June 1-July 1. Classes would run from 8 a.m.-noon Monday-Thursday.

“We felt like that would be more palatable to all our groups,” Satterfield said. “We want to get our top teachers to work with those students. But they’re exhausted and I know they need time to recharge.”

The learning camps would be available to up to 24 students per grade for students who have just completed K-8. Buses would run to provide transportation and both breakfast and lunch would be served to students.

Additionally, the school system is looking at providing an optional afterschool option for grades K-2 from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Students would be able to have physical education, art/music and extra academic instruction during that time. Parents would be responsible for picking up their children who attend the full day.

“We are looking at a daycare option for just those three grades,” Satterfield said. “It would mimic a lot of our afterschool program.”

Trousdale County Schools will be using its own reading screeners to evaluate students later this spring, with an eye toward identifying students who might best be helped by attending summer camp.

“We hope to have that done around Spring Break time,” Satterfield said. “We want to develop an informational letter to be sent to parents to let them know about the literacy law and the implications as they go forward.”

The elementary school has been offering extra emphasis on foundational reading skills in younger grades, but Satterfield said, “It doesn’t replace five days a week in-person instruction.”

Funding for the summer learning camp is expected to be provided by the state, but exact figures are not yet available.

“The state has said they’ll pay for it, but they’ll make a final decision during the general session (of the legislature),” Satterfield said.

In recent years, Trousdale County Schools have offered “Read to be Ready” voluntary summer camps that have hosted 30-40 students per day. Satterfield said that experience would be invaluable in setting up the state-required camps.

“We are looking at the summer bridge camp designed for K-8,” Satterfield said. “It’s to address ELA (English/Language Arts) and math learning loss… We feel our youngest learners are suffering the most from the pandemic closure.”

Satterfield reiterated that summer learning camps are optional for each of the next two years.

“Although this summer and next are optional, the summer of 2023 will not be. We would advise parents that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… If they can do that this summer or next and close those learning gaps, they may not have to when they have to.”

The changes are designed to increase the state’s literacy rates — only 36% of Tennessee’s third-graders scored proficient on grade level during the 2018-19 school year. In Trousdale County, 53.2% of third-graders scored as proficient in 2018-19.

The legislature also approved $43 million in pay raises for teachers, or 2% based on the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula. Gov. Bill Lee has pledged to include enough funding in the 2021-22 budget to make it a 4% raise. As the BEP does not fund all teacher positions, however, teachers might see less than a 4% salary bump. The BEP pays for 85.5 teachers in Trousdale County, but the school system has 97 teachers. So the increased funding would be spread across more positions.

Students will take the TCAP tests this spring and the testing window has been expanded to nine weeks. Teachers and schools will not be held accountable for students’ performance — something districts across the state were pushing for. Trousdale County’s School Board last fall approved a resolution asking the General Assemble for just such protection.

“With all the disruptions we’ve had, we just don’t think we can hold teachers and districts accountable,” Satterfield said. “But by testing, we can get a baseline and address the learning loss challenges we’ve had this year.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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