Revisions to Tennessee’s Third-Grade Retention Law Pass Out of House K-12 Subcommittee

The Tennessee State House K-12 Education Subcommittee considered several proposals before agreeing to accept House Education Chairman Mark White’s (R-Memphis) proposed legislation that would expand opportunities for students to avoid retention while offering K-2 students more resources to stay on track.

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Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton Proposes Next Step for Tennessee in Possibly Rejecting Federal Education Funds

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has laid out the next step required for Tennessee to possibly reject federal education dollars in the future. On Monday, he filed legislation (add an attachment here) that would create an 11-member task force, helmed by  Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, to study the process required for the state to forego federal funding.

The proposed committee would begin meeting monthly in August and would be expected to deliver a strategic plan to Governor Lee and the General Assembly by December 1. The legislation further requires that Commissioner Schwinn, in her role as chair, notify the US Department of Education by August 31 and advise them on Tennessee’s intent to explore the possibility of Tennessee rejecting federal funding.

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Lawmakers Respond to Tennessee Star Report on ETSU’s Embracing of DEI Policies, In Spite of State Law

William Block, M.D., dean of medicine at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, recently sent out an email, in which he defined the words “equity” as “the quality of being fair and impartial,” and “woke” as “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” The email is one of several in which Dean appears to be placing the tenets of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) over those of achievement. It is a position that runs counter to recently passed Tennessee state law, raising questions and concerns with state lawmakers.

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Governor Lee Proposes Increasing Teacher Starting Salaries While Ending Payroll Deductions for Union Dues

New legislation backed by Governor Bill Lee is going through the Tennessee General Assembly that if passed, would raise teacher salaries and end to payroll dues deductions for labor organizations.

An amendment released Monday and attached to SB 0281 will be heard at this week’s Senate Education Committee meeting.

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Tennessee Testing Vendor Pearson Testifies in House Education Instruction Committee

Tennessee’s testing vendor, Pearson, testified on Tuesday to House Education Instruction Committee members. Pearson supplies Tennessee schools with both the state’s annual TNReady test and the recently adopted universal reading screener, AimsWeb Plus. The company took over the multi-million dollar state contract to create and administer the annual standardized test in 2020 after several years of missteps by then-vendor Queststar.

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Tennessee House Education Committee Holds Hearings on Third Grade Retention Law

Even as Tennessee’s third-grade retention law moves closer to implementation, talks on improving the law continue.

The State House Education Administration Committee held a hearing this week on the third-grade retention law. The committee provided a variety of literacy experts an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in teaching kids to read.

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Tennessee State University Leaders Push Back Against State Comptroller’s Report

On Thursday, Tennessee State Legislators heard directly from Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower on issues outlined in a newly released report on Tennessee State University’s housing crisis. The report, came after his office received 14 separate complaints involving TSU’s lack of student housing. While the housing issue was the focus of the report, the comptroller also found issues in other separate areas.

The report cites the university’s lack of a sound final policy, offering several examples of leaders giving conflicting statements and several instances of them not approving funding in a timely fashion. It was determined that TSU’s lack of planning and management, especially regarding scholarship practices, exacerbated the university’s housing problem. Furthermore, it is the belief of the comptroller’s office that TSU will continue to face a housing crisis for the foreseeable future.

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Tennessee Comptrollers Office Offers Report Addressing Tennessee State University Student Housing Shortage

The Tennessee Comptrollers Office has released a report questioning the effectiveness of the leadership at Tennessee State University (TSU). The primary focus of the report is on the University’s recent housing controversy, and its need to explore alternative options due to overcrowding. However, the report also covers TSU’s policies around the awarding of scholarships, the governing board’s competency, and the university’s financial management.

Like many universities across the country, TSU has seen a growth in enrollments during the post-pandemic years. Coupled with an increasing interest in traditional Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from students planning to enroll in college, TCU has seen its enrollment from Fall 2021 to Fall 2022 increase by 1,141 students. Simultaneously, the university’s scholarship budget grew from $6.4 million to $28.3.

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Rules Governing New School Funding Formula Pass Out of the Joint Government Operations Committee Meeting, Moves Toward Full Implementation

The rules governing Tennessee’s new K-12 education funding formula – Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) – took another step towards full adoption on Monday, passing out of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Joint Government Operations Committee with a positive review. On the State House side, the proposed rules passed by a majority, with only 5 “nay” votes. While on the State Senate side, things were much closer, with a 4-2 in favor.

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Tennessee Senate Education Chair Files Bill That Gives Local Districts Flexibility on Class Size

State Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), who serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee, filed legislation that would lift classroom size limits for k-12 schools.

SB0197, if made law, would repeal the existing maximum class sizes, maximum class size averages, student-teacher ratios, and the prohibition against split-grade classes established by law. It would authorize each local education agency (LEA) and public charter school with authority to establish the maximum class sizes for schools under its control and jurisdiction. Transferring power from the Tennessee Department of Education(TDOE) back to local school boards while still requiring the department to set recommendations.

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Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education Unanimously Passes Resolution in Opposition to State Third Grade Retention Law

The Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board of Education has joined the ranks of school districts that have passed referendums opposing Tennessee’s 3rd-grade retention law. The law, which goes into effect this year, mandates that all 3rd-graders who fail to achieve a score of “meets expectations” on the state’s annual  TCAP test repeat third grade unless they avail themselves of one of the state’s options.

Those options include achieving a required score after retaking the test, enrolling in Summer School, or enrolling in a tutoring program for the next year. Parents, if they choose to, have the opportunity to file an appeal. 

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Legislative Session Finds Tennessee Lawmakers Poised to Expand and Amend Existing Education Policies

The 113th Tennessee State General Assembly is set to convene at noon on Tuesday, January 10, and preliminary indications are that the state’s Department of Education (TDOE) will not be supporting any new initiatives this year. The official position of the TDOE is that the administration sets the legislative agenda for state agencies, but in the past, the department has led the charge on several occasions – including, but not limited to, literacy, high-quality materials, and school funding.

For their part, legislators appear to be looking to amend – and in some cases expand – past efforts to improve student educational opportunities. This year’s legislative agenda forsakes the bold initiatives of the recent past in order to tweak and expand existing laws. Education Savings Accounts (ESA), TISA, and the 3rd-grade retention policy are all on the table for modification this year.

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Under Proposed New Legislation, Tennessee Students Would Wait Until Age 7 to Start First Grade

Last week on 99.7 WTN, Tennessee House Representative Scott Cepicky R – Culleoka outlined to host Matt Murphy, legislation he intended to file to change the eligibility age for students entering first grade. Under Cepicky’s proposal, students would not be able to enter first grade until age 7, unless they could pass a local assessment showing that they could do grade-level work. The bill would allow younger students to take a “redshirt” year to adequately prepare for the increased academic demands of first grade. 

Cepicky’s legislation is derived from a legislative brief on Kindergarten Readiness and Academic Performance, written by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA). This brief shows that Tennessee students who were older at kindergarten enrollment performed better on 3rd-grade literacy tests than their peers. Forty-two percent of students aged 6 to 6.49 (older students) were on or above grade level in 3rd-grade literacy, compared to 33 percent of younger students aged 4.5 to 4.99 years old. The trend of older students outperforming their younger peers was also reflected on 6th-grade literacy tests. 

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Tennessee House Bill Criminalizing Online Posting of False Business Reviews Receives State Senate Sponsor

person using laptop

A bill filed in the Tennessee State House criminalizing the online posting of false business reviews has received a sponsor in the state Senate.

Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald-SD-28) filed the companion bill to HB1664, SB1832, on January 20, 2022.

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Tennessee Legislator Files Bill Criminalizing Online Posting of False Business Reviews

Person using a laptop, pointing to the screen

A Tennessee legislator filed a bill which would criminalize the posting of false reviews about businesses on the internet.

If passed, the House Bill 1664 would classify those actions as Class B misdemeanors under the Tennessee Code. The maximum penalties for a Class B misdemeanor conviction in Tennessee are fines of up to $500, as much as 6 months in jail, or both.

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