Governor Lee Declares March 2023 Tennessee Literacy Month

Governor Lee proclaimed March 2023 as Tennessee Literacy Month. Throughout the month, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) will highlight how reading is an essential skill for all students.

Commissioner Schwinn and the TDOE  invite all Tennesseans to celebrate Tennessee Literacy Month by spotlighting the Reading 360 initiative and the focus Tennessee’s educators, families, elected officials, and community partners have placed on improving literacy rates for all learners in the state.

“Through our Reading 360 initiative, Tennessee’s district and school leaders, educators, elected officials, families, and partners are committed to ensuring all our students are reading on grade level by third grade, and we are already seeing great strides from this work around our state,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I invite all Tennesseans to join us in emphasizing the importance of early literacy and share your love for reading throughout the month of March.”

Over the last four years, Governor Lee and his Commissioner of Education have been focused on addressing Tennessee’s lagging literacy rates. In the 2022 legislative session, the 112th General Assembly built on the foundation of the 2021 Tennessee Literacy Success Act, by passing legislation aimed at further strengthening reading support for K-3 students. The Tennessee Literacy Success Act ensured that reading instruction across the state is rooted in foundational literacy skills, and also created stronger accountability for implementation. In 2022, lawmakers shifted their focus to better-preparing teachers to teach students to read, bridging the gap between educator preparation and educator practice.

Despite Lee’s focus, literacy rates in the state remain low. Results from the latest National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, released in October 2022 showed that in fourth-grade reading, Tennessee fell 5 points from 2019, compared with the national drop of 3 points.

In eighth-grade reading, Tennessee dropped 5 points, compared with a 3-point national decline. The slump marked a return to the lowest performance in that category since 2003 for Tennessee, one of 33 states nationally and 11 in the South that saw a decrease.

NAEP tests a nationally representative sample of students in all 50 states. The results, published as the nation’s report card, allow comparisons between states and serves as an important indicator of how students are doing over time. Tennessee’s standardized test, TNReady, is based on Tennessee State Standards, and therefore only comparable with other state districts. The national test offers further benefit because, unlike state tests that vary widely and change frequently, it remains essentially the same test every time it is administered and is thus able to provide long-term data.

This year, Tennessee will retain third-graders for an additional year if they fail to make adequate progress on the literacy portion of the state standardized test. The administration of this year’s TNready test will begin for individual districts over the next couple of weeks. Commissioner Schwinn has promised results will be delivered by May 15th.

During March, the department will continue to celebrate the 99 Reading 360 districts for their commitment to teacher training, leader support networks, and focused work on early literacy.

Additionally, the department will host five family literacy events to support K-2 families at home and deliver Decodables and other literacy resources. In addition to the family events, Riley the Reading Raccoon will visit over 30 districts across Tennessee to observe how districts continue to accelerate student learning in literacy.

Additional resources for families can be accessed on Best for All Central at Family Resources and Literacy Resources for Families. To access additional resources on Reading 360, click here.

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photo “Bill Lee” by Gov. Bill Lee. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.



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2 Thoughts to “Governor Lee Declares March 2023 Tennessee Literacy Month”

  1. Ms Independent

    Been to the grocery store lately Mr Lee?
    I didn’t think so!! Out of touch RHINO!!

  2. Joe Blow

    Blah Blah Blah.

    Lee and Schwinn have spent a lot of time and money talking about improving the education provided through the Tennessee public schools. All of that without anything significant to show for it except more costs.