Following a call from Gov. Bill Lee, a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly will convene Jan. 19.
A Dec. 29 announcement from Lee said the session is expected to address issues facing students during the 2021-22 school year, including learning loss attributed to the pandemic.
According to the announcement, preliminary data shows students are slated to see a 50% decrease in third-grade reading rates and a 65% decrease in math proficiency.
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption for Tennessee’s students, educators, and districts, and the challenges they face must be addressed urgently,” Lee said in a statement. “Even before the virus hit, and despite years of improvement, too many of our state’s students were still unable to read on grade level. I’m calling on the legislature to join us in addressing these serious issues so we can equip our hardworking educators and districts with the resources and supports they need to set our students on the path to success.”
During the session, legislators are slated to address five education issues: learning loss, funding, accountability, literacy and teacher pay.
Additionally, the state will use one-time federal funding to implement a new phonics-based program, "Reading 360," in the near future.
“As we have heard from districts since March, students need their teachers and schools like never before,” said Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Department of Education commissioner, in a statement. “No child’s future should suffer academically because of COVID-19. Not only as commissioner, but as a mother of two school-aged children, I am grateful for the bold solutions that our governor and legislature will provide for our students and schools across the state and the department stands ready to work together to accomplish this mission-critical work.”