NASHVILLE – The State Collaborative on Reforming Education today released this statement from President and CEO David Mansouri about Governor Lee’s package of legislative proposals for the special session on education that begins next week:

Tennessee’s K-12 education priorities this year are clear: early literacy, rapid educational recovery from the pandemic, and data to understand the impact of COVID-19 on student learning. Governor Lee has developed an important plan to swiftly deal with these big challenges before they derail the state’s decade of student achievement gains.

The governor’s Tennessee Literacy Success Act prioritizes what’s been proven will help more young students learn to read well. Intentional phonics-based instruction for every student in the early grades is essential to ending the state literacy crisis that has left most third-graders struggling to read well. Current teachers will be supported in navigating this big shift by state investments in professional development in this bill and the new Reading 360 initiative.  Adopting new standards for literacy instruction at the state’s educator prep programs will ensure future teachers are ready to teach reading. It’s also a smart move to ensure families know when their students are struggling with reading so there is a wider support network for these children.

COVID-19 has disrupted every child’s learning opportunities, and one of the best remedies is to extend learning time for students who need more support to catch up. It’s crucial to have the comparable data from a summative statewide assessment to help guide investments that will provide differentiated instruction and support in an equitable manner to the students who need it the most. And it’s fair to be flexible by extending the test window and adjusting how test results are used in teacher evaluations, school accountability, and student grades this year.

As with all policy change, the promise of that policy will only be realized for students through strong and effective implementation. We believe the proposals announced this week would lay a strong foundation for transformative improvements. Altogether, these proposals provide a strong response to addressing what Tennessee students need at this extraordinary time. SCORE hopes and expects the measures will receive serious consideration and will win wide support.