Gov. Lee announces legislation for special session on education

Tennessee

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions during a news conference Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee announced three pieces of legislation Thursday for state lawmakers to consider during an upcoming special session on education.

The goal of the legislation is to curb K–12 learning loss caused by time away from the classroom due to the pandemic, improve students’ reading skills, and prevent students, teachers, and schools from facing negative consequences associated with student assessments.

“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,” Lee said in a news release. “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.”

According to the governor’s office, Lee will also 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,” Lee said. “We believe they should be compensated for their efforts and look forward to working with the General Assembly to provide funding for our teachers.”

Here are the bills the governor announced:

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

All three bills were introduced Thursday by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin).

State lawmakers will convene next Tuesday for the special session, which will focus on education issues.

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