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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                Contact:             Tommiea Jackson

January 21, 2021                                                                                                 tommiea [at] tnchartercenter [dot] org

                                                                                                                                                

The following statement is issued by Dr. Maya Bugg, CEO, Tennessee Charter School Center, in reference to the special legislative session focused on education that began on January 19, 2021 and closed on January 21,2021:

The special session on education opened and closed this week at the state’s Capitol with great success. We celebrate the General Assembly’s commitment to moving forward with much-needed education policies for Tennessee students in this new year.

It is undeniable that children throughout the state’s K-12 education system have suffered immeasurably due to the impacts of the sweeping coronavirus pandemic, and action was needed to ensure schools have the resources required to address the ongoing challenges that they face. This special session was dedicated to legislation regarding learning loss, literacy and accountability. It was an important first step to getting our students back on tracks.

We commend Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Penny Schwinn, and their teams for proposing new legislation that provides additional opportunities for learning, which are crucial for students to make up the loss suffered over the past year. We are grateful for the work of the Speaker Cameron Sexton, Lt. Governor Randy McNally, and the entire General Assembly to navigate these key challenges during the Special Session. We believe these efforts will lead to increased learning comprehension and understanding and have long been necessary for the success of students.

We fully stand behind the efforts to reinstate testing, though ensuring that schools and educators will not be penalized for learning loss is essential. State-wide assessments provide critical data to legislators, leaders and educators that inform policy and teaching practices. Without them, students and teachers are reduced to blindly setting goals and benchmarks without reasonable reference points. Refraining from testing this year would only set students back further and delay information gathering that would benefit their academic progress.

The Tennessee Literacy Success Act offers a giant step in the right direction to improve literacy for all students using a phonics-driven process. Literacy and reading comprehension lay at the foundation of learning for all students. We have seen the success of phonics-driven programs and believe this approach, combined with a renewed focus on literacy at an early age, will be instrumental in the education of young minds and set the groundwork for success as they grow older.

We are also glad to see the dedicated teacher pay increases for all public school teachers, who have worked so diligently on behalf of students during this challenging time.

The Tennessee Charter School Center knows that this special session was only the beginning of a long road of creating positive change for students in Tennessee. We will continue to work with Governor Lee, the legislature, and state policy makers to ensure every necessary step is taken to improve the education and learning opportunities for all students across the state, with an eye to innovation.