NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, 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%.
“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
NASHVILLE, TN— Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education released estimated data regarding learning loss for Tennessee students resulting from COVID-19 school closures through the summer months. Preliminary data projects an estimated 50% decrease in proficiency rates in 3rd grade reading and a projected 65% decrease in proficiency in math.
“This data highlights the immense challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our students and educators,” said Gov. Lee. “The vast majority of students learn best in-person with their teacher, and we’ll continue to help provide a safe environment for Tennessee students to get their educational journeys back on track.”
While many students traditionally experience learning loss over the summer, projections show that learning loss from March school closures through the summer is expected to be 2.5 times that of a normal summer rate. Projections were developed in partnership with national researchers using historical, Tennessee-specific data to provide additional learning loss estimates based on the extended school closures.
“We know that increased time away from school has negative implications for students, which is compounded during extended building closures,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. “The department is focused on ensuring we provide essential services and resources to mitigate the loss and keep students on a path to success this new school year.”
The learning loss impacts early grades greater than later grades, placing these students further behind in the learning trajectory as they progress through school. Students with lower proficiency rates are also disproportionately impacted by learning loss, further exacerbating existing achievement gaps.
Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on the economics of education shows that each additional year of schooling increases life income by an average of 7.5-10%. Further, a loss of one-third of a year in effective learning for just the students affected by the closures of early 2020 will, by historical data, lower a country’s GDP by an average of 1.5% over the remainder of the century.