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Tennessee sees improvements in k-12 education

Posted on Friday, January 5, 2024 at 1:30 pm

Senate State of Tennessee

Legislative Update from Senator Joey Hensley, MD

Tennessee sees improvements in k-12 education

K-12 education has been a top priority of the General Assembly in recent years and historic investments, innovative programs and effective legislation are generating impressive results. Tennessee is seeing dramatic improvements in student literacy as well as job readiness, school choice and school safety. Tennessee has championed early literacy of late by focusing on instruction that is rooted in the science of reading and ensuring both teachers and tutors have intensive training on foundational literacy skills. The numbers show this approach is working: In 2023, third grade ELA TCAP results were 40% proficiency, which is the largest single year increase and highest proficiency rates since 2017. There is much to be done to continue improving literacy, but this is a great start.

The program the General Assembly created during the pandemic to provide learning loss remediation and student acceleration has been effective by offering recurring summer programing that served a total of 100,000 students this past summer. Statewide, students improved in both English language arts and math after attending summer learning camps.

Tennessee is also making significant improvements on school choice by launching the state’s first Education Savings Account program that has increased access to charter schools. The number of students with approved ESAs rose from 707 in the 2022-2023 school year to 2,586 in the 2023-2024 school year. The General Assembly will continue to provide parents with more educational options in selecting the best educational learning environments for students.

Tennessee’s success with respect to k-12 education is reflected in graduation rates. In 2023, public school graduation reached a record high of 90.6% – the first time the state’s graduation rate exceeded 90% and the highest on record in over 10 years.

Five school districts hit a 100% graduation rate and 61 districts saw 95% or more eligible students graduate on time. A total of 65,476 students graduated statewide, marking an increase of 895 students compared to last year.

The General Assembly has also prioritized K-12 workforce alignment and launched the Innovative School Models program with a $500 million investment to support districts creating stronger connections to high-demand, high-wage careers. Over the first two years of implementation, 3,900 students enrolled in more than 150 courses for college credit through expanded postsecondary opportunities. A total of 6,300 industry credentials have been earned, and 6,600 students are in work-based learning opportunities at more than 150 organizations. Over 100 partnerships have been established with local industry. The skills these students have acquired in these programs will greatly benefit them throughout their lives and when they enter the workforce.

Finally, the General Assembly this year made historic investments in school safety and so far 233 public school grant applications totaling $39.5 million have been awarded. Zero applications have been denied. Top use of funds includes surveillance, access control, protective window film and communications equipment. A total of 306 non-public school security grants have been approved so far with more on the way. Furthermore, 233 Student Resource Officers have been added this year to schools with the expectation of reaching 300 by the end of the year.

The General Assembly will continue to prioritize education in the upcoming legislative session and I greatly value the input of my constituents as we continue this work. Please do not hesitate to reach out and as always, thank you for the opportunity to serve. You may contact Senator Hensley at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742 Nashville TN 37243   615-741-3100