Governor Bill Lee has proposed a major initiative aimed at improving reading proficiency among Tennessee students, particularly in grades K-2, as they approach the critical fourth-grade reading benchmark. Here’s a summary of the Governor’s proposal, which the Roundtable has endorsed:
The Lee Administration’s 2020 Literacy Initiative (HB2229/SB2160): Executive Summary (inclusive of Amdt. 3)
I. Improving Literacy Instruction in Grades K-2: Requires TN’s public school districts (LEAs) to:
➢ Implement new methods for teaching K-2 students to read, based on English language arts (ELA) standards adopted by the St. Board of Education (SBE) that include foundational literacy skills;
➢ Provide K-2 students with SBE-approved foundational literacy textbooks and instructional materials, unless an LEA has delivered 4th – grade reading growth of “above expectations” for 2 years, and continues it for 3 years;
➢ Give a TN Dept. of Education (TDOE)-approved reading diagnostic to all K-2 students (and to 3rd -graders with a significant reading deficiency) that benchmarks literacy skills and growth, three times per year;
➢ Provide students who have significant reading deficiencies with additional instructional supports; and
➢ Not promote 3rd -graders who lack basic understanding of reading curriculum and required reading skills, unless they participate in a foundational literacy skills-based intervention program before the next year.
II. Improving Literacy Instruction for K-2 Teaching Students—and Their Instructors
➢ By March 2021, TDOE must provide to the St. Board of Education and to the General Assembly’s House and Senate Education Committee chairs, and post on its website, a report that includes:
▪ A landscape analysis of literacy in Tennessee K-12 schools and LEAs, randomly selected;
▪ A landscape analysis of literacy instruction by Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs); and
▪ A joint analysis (with the TN Higher Ed. Commission) regarding EPP affordability for aspiring teachers.
➢ By August 2021:
▪ EPPs must train aspiring K-2 teachers on: (1) foundational literacy skills, (2) instructing/slow readers, (3) identifying/teaching dyslexic students, (4) using high-quality instructional materials, (5) behavior management in reading classrooms, and (6) understanding and using student reading data.
▪ The SBE must update its EPP regulations, and TDOE may develop additional guidance for EPPs.
➢ By August 2022:
▪ To get a license/endorsement to teach in K-2, aspiring teachers must pass a “TN Reading Instruction Test”—specified by TDOE, approved by SBE—that tests their knowledge of foundational literacy skills.
▪ To teach reading instruction to aspiring K-2 teachers, EPP instructors must have an active Tennessee teacher license, pass the TN Reading Instruction Test, or complete state literacy training (see Sec. IV).
▪ EPP instructional leadership (principal/admin.) programs must teach foundational literacy skills.
▪ EPP post-Bachelor’s students must pass the TN Reading Instruction Test to renew/advance their initial teaching license, and those holding a teacher/instructional-leader license from a reciprocal state must pass that Test, or earn a literacy certificate, before renewing/advancing their license in TN.
III. Making Third-Grade Reading Proficiency a Part of School and LEA Accountability
➢ By June 30, 2021, TDOE must convene an advisory group on “meaningful integration” of third-grade reading proficiency (measured by student TCAP testing) into school and LEA performance goals and measures.
▪ TDOE and the stakeholders will consider how third-grade reading proficiency should be weighted in calculating school and LEA performance accountability. If changes are warranted, TDOE must submit proposed revisions to the St. Board of Education and, if necessary, to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
IV. New Training for Tennessee’s Pre-K-5 Public School Literacy Instructors
➢ By June 30, 2022, all public-school literacy instructors in grades pre-K to 5th must participate in two separate, mandatory literacy trainings, provided regionally or locally by TDOE: the first on foundational literacy skills instruction, and the second on implementing literacy programmatic and instructional materials.
➢ Literacy instructors earn a literacy certificate after completing the trainings and demonstrating proficiency.
➢ Schools or LEAs must assign mentor teachers to support teachers who don’t earn the literacy certificate.
➢ LEAs can apply for competitive grants to get literacy implementation and coaching support for up to three years from state-approved providers, after which all literacy training will be provided by EPPs.