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Gov. Lee introduces legislation to address learning loss during COVID-19 pandemic

The legislation package includes three new bills to address learning loss and support struggling students.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee announced new legislation to stop learning loss in Tennessee schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are three bills in the legislation package meant to help boost learning. The first bill, "Intervening to Stop Learning Loss," will require educators to intervene with struggling students through after-school learning programs and summer learning camps, beginning in summer 2021.

It will also create the "Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps" to provide tutoring throughout the school year. Laws around the third-grade reading gate will also be strengthened, so students who are not prepared for later grades will not be advanced.

The second bill, "Building Better Readers with Phonics," will ensure that education agencies use a phonics-based approach for Kindergarten through third-grade reading lessons. It will also establish a way for parents and teachers to identify when students need reading help before third-grade.

The bill will provide educators with training so they can teach phonics-based reading.

The third bill, "Accountability to Inform," will extend regulations from the last school year so that students, teachers and schools do not face negative consequences due to student assessments. Early in the year, lawmakers said teachers should not be held to normal standards and assessments since it has been an abnormal year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also provides parents and educators with data so they can have an accurate picture of where Tennessee students and what supports they need to offset learning loss.

The National Assessment of Education Progress said that only 34% of Tennessee students are at least proficient readers by fourth grade. 

Gov. Lee will also propose adding funding for teacher salaries, he said.

“Educators across the state are working tirelessly to turn the tide for their students and help them regain critical math and reading skills,” he 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.”

The bills will be filed in the coming days, according to a release from officials.