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Legislative Update Nov 14, 2023

Posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 at 11:50 am

Senate    State of Tennessee

Legislative Update from Senator Joey Hensley, MD

2023 Session of the 113th General Assembly

A new report shows Tennessee students are making important progress in reading:

For years, Tennessee struggled to significantly improve rates of proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA), including in third grade. In 2021, we faced less-than-stellar literacy rates, along with significant learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So the General Assembly held a special session and decided to take a different approach to address reading. During the special session lawmakers, Governor Lee, the Department of Education, schools, teachers and parents coalesced around efforts to improve early literacy rates. We passed legislation to strengthen standards for 3rd grade literacy and invest in summer school and tutoring programs for students, at no cost to Tennessee families. After two years, we now know those efforts are working.  Tennessee Students are making record progress in literacy rates.

A new report released by the Tennessee Department of Education reveals that Tennessee saw improvements in 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency rates two years in a row, following our targeted efforts to improve literacy. In 2023, 40% of 3rd grade students demonstrated proficiency in ELA, representing the largest single year increase and the highest 3rd grade ELA proficiency rates since 2017. Also this year, 3rd grade literacy rates exceeded pre pandemic levels for the first time.

The report summarizes an overview of Tennessee’s early literacy strategy, including passage in 2021 of the Tennessee Literacy Success Act and the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act as well as the 2021 launch of the department’s Reading 360 initiative to support implementation in schools and districts. The report also provides key data on additional learning supports and interventions for students who are not proficient in ELA by their third-grade year.

Third grade marks a significant shift in students’ educational development, as they transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Students who cannot read on grade level before 4th grade will face a steep uphill battle in the grades to come.

While we still have more work to do to improve literacy rates in Tennessee, we are on the right track. We strive for excellence in Tennessee, and in order to continue to make gains towards our goals, we must continue to increase support for students and hold our students to high standards.

I truly believe Tennessee can be a leader in education. Some of the best and brightest students and teachers are right here in our great state. I am dedicated to working together with the Department of Education, our schools, teachers, students and parents to ensure all children in Tennessee have access to a quality education. I applaud our students’ and teachers’ efforts and encourage them to continue to strive for success.

You May Contact Senator Hensley at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, Tenn. 37243