Legislative Support Signals Commitment to Improve Tennessee early education

Early education advocates across Tennessee are cheering results of the 2019 Tennessee legislative session that include a slate of approved policy proposals aimed at boosting learning prior to third grade as a strategy to improve Tennessee’s public education system.

Highlights include a new pilot to create a network of early grades literacy and math coaches to help teachers in the state’s lowest performing schools, an increase in funding for evidence-based home visiting (EBHV) programs, and ongoing funding and more robust training and improvements for Pre-K and kindergarten teachers who use the portfolio model to measure academic growth. And the Tennessee General Assembly formed a bipartisan House and Senate caucus to provide exclusive focus on early education policy.

Altogether, approval of these policies delivers a successful outcome to an agenda of the state’s leading early education advocates, said Mike Carpenter, executive director of Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE).

“This was a very successful legislative session for our youngest students and an indication that Tennessee is committed to building a stronger early education system,” Carpenter said. “All Tennesseans want better education outcomes. The policies supported by the General Assembly and Lee administration move Tennessee in the right direction of building a more robust system of quality education for children from birth to third grade and to accelerate progress that helps Tennessee kids get a smart start in life.  This legislative session was a necessary step to address the unacceptable condition of our student’s proficiency scores and begin to build a foundation that produces better outcomes.”

While in the past decade Tennessee made strides as one of the most improved states in education outcomes, it still ranks in the bottom half of all states. Most Tennessee students in grades 3-12 are not proficient in math or English; by the third grade, most Tennessee students are behind and remain there.

TQEE was formed to address poor proficiency and advocate for strong early education programs that can help students get a strong start that ensures they are proficient before they enter third grade. TQEE achieved success on its 2019 policy agenda, which included the coaching pilot program, maintaining the state’s commitment to voluntary Pre-K and EBHV programs.

Governor Bill Lee’s administration increased financial support to create a coaching pilot to support early grades teachers in low performing schools and the General Assembly provided additional funding to support EBHV programs that help connect parents with community resources to assist parenting, health, development and learning of their young children.

Creation of the coaching pilot is a strategic approach to provide early grades teachers with greater support as the state works toward a goal to increase the percentage of third graders who are reading, writing and doing math on grade level from about 37 percent today to 75 percent by 2025. Embedding instructional coaches in schools to support teachers is proven to be a successful tool to improve teaching and student outcomes.

EBHV is a nationally proven programming that is successfully applied in many Tennessee communities to assist young parents, improve their parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect, improve health of babies and ready children for learning. Studies demonstrate that EBHV has an impressive $5.70 return for every $1 of public investment through reduction of costs for remedial education, public financial support, criminal justice and other societal impacts. “TQEE thanks Governor Lee, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham, House Education Chairman White, Senator Steve Dickerson and Representative Bill Dunn, and the legislature for supporting strong early education,” Carpenter said.

Food for Thought

TQEE Policy Director, Lisa Wiltshire, is our expert on early education. She’s a former kindergarten teacher, previous director of the Office of Early Learning at the Tennessee Department of Education, and a graduate of the prestigious Bank Street College of Education. While expert, Lisa is always learning, and we along with her. Here are a few news pieces and a book that caught her attention last week. We hope you find them to be good “food for thought” and helpful in shaping your knowledge on early education policy.

Waging the Battle for Literacy and Math Proficieny

Early literacy and math are among the greatest predictors of future academic success. That fact can be troubling when one considers that only 34% of Tennessee 3rd graders are proficient in literacy and only 40% in math. But here are a few Tennessee-based examples of  people and communities making a difference in early learning. Enjoy and have your heart warmed!

Statewide Buzz about the Early Education Caucus

The founding of an Early Education Caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly has created a lot of “buzz” around the state. Both caucus founders and community leaders have expressed their support for the caucus and their hope that sound early education policies are the product of the members’ work. Here is just a sampling of the genuine interest in this initiative:

Congratulations Governor-elect Lee!

TQEE congratulates Bill Lee on his election victory and stands ready to work with the new governor and the Tennessee General Assembly to improve the state’s public education system.

“Throughout the campaign, Bill Lee expressed a commitment to prioritize education for the success of our citizens and communities, and we are excited to work with him to build a plan that starts with improved early learning outcomes,” said TQEE Executive Director Mike Carpenter. “With the majority of Tennessee’s students already behind in English and math by third grade, it’s clear we need to make some changes to what’s happening before then.”

“All Tennesseans want better education outcomes,” said Miles Burdine, president and chief executive officer of The Kingsport Chamber and TQEE board member. “They support a robust system of quality education for children from birth to third grade to build on reforms that are working, and to accelerate progress so that we can help all Tennessee kids get a smart start in life.”

Statewide support is mounting for stronger early education policy as a strategy for overall system improvement and student outcomes. Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) recently called for the formation of an early education caucus comprised of legislative house and senate members.  Last month, 27 West Tennessee county and municipal mayors announced formation of an early education coalition as a priority to improve education outcomes and workforce development.

TQEE, Tennessee’s leading early childhood education policy and advocacy organization, urges Gov.-elect Lee to adopt a more concentrated, comprehensive early education policy agenda that incorporates these priorities:

  • Engaged and empowered parents. We advocate for policies that engage and empower parents through evidence-based home visiting programs, parent-teacher partnerships in child care and elementary schools, and school-community partnerships that expand families’ access to local resources.
  • High-quality, affordable child care. High quality, affordable child care is critical to support the 300,000-plus Tennessee children under age 6 with working parents. Child care directly impacts current and future workforce development, as well as family economic stability. We back policies that set high standards for teaching, learning and outcomes, recruit and retain high-quality teachers, and anchor state reimbursement rates to actual cost of quality.
  • Excellent early grades teaching. To boost student outcomes in third grade and beyond, instruction from pre-K to third grade must be better aligned with best practices and how young children learn. We support improved instructional materials, investments in training for early grades teachers and principals, and expanded pre-k where quality is demonstrated in existing classrooms.
  • Stronger accountability and continuous improvement in early ed. Tennessee has limited statewide data on early learning from birth to second grade. To maximize investments in public education, Tennessee should commit to a birth-5 early learning data system, developmentally appropriate methods to measure and improve instructional effectiveness in pre-K to second grade, and better support for early grades teachers to use student data to improve learning outcomes.

Some of these policies are being applied in various Tennessee communities with increasingly positive results and should be expanded statewide in future years as part of a fundamental effort to improve overall student proficiency.

A recent statewide survey conducted by TQEE reveals that Tennesseans overwhelmingly support a new priority for early education. Key findings from the Sept. 12-16 survey include:

  • 92 percent of Tennesseans say that a quality educational experience from birth to third grade provides individuals with the necessary building blocks for all learning;
  • 94 percent want Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program expanded as an option for all 4-year-olds; and
  • 93 percent support increased state funding in programs that could ensure all Tennessee children are proficient in math and reading by third grade.
  • 90 percent believe child care has a major impact on children’s kindergarten readiness, and policies to improve child care in the state has wide, bi-partisan support.
  • Nearly 70 percent say they would have a more favorable opinion of policymakers who support programs and policies to improve early education.

In recent weeks, leading state legislators have begun advocating for the formation of an early childhood education caucus to spur urgent action and advance evidence-based, high quality policies to strengthen early education programming.

27 Tennessee Mayors…and Growing…Join Early Childhood Coalition

Expressing concern that a majority of Tennessee third-graders are not proficient in reading and math, mayors from across rural West Tennessee have formed a coalition to support the advancement of early education.

“It is a fact of life that to attract good paying jobs to our area, we must have a skilled workforce. What many people don’t think about is that building those workforce skills starts with development early in life — through learning to read, solving math problems and learning how to get along with others.” — Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris

The Jackson Sun last week featured a story on 27 rural West Tennessee mayors who have joined the Mayors’ Early Education Coalition supported by TQEE.   Here’s a link to the article.  https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/local/2018/10/30/west-tennessee-mayors-join-early-childhood-education-coalition

The coalition calls for state policies that support initiatives like the Read to be Ready early literacy programs, more training and coaching for early grades (pre-k through 3rd grade) teachers, and improving quality and expanding Tennessee’s pre-k program.

West Tennessee area mayors presently part of the organization include:

  • Barry Hutcherson, Chester County
  • Benny McGuire, Obion County
  • Bill Rawls, Brownsville
  • Brent Greer, Henry County
  • Brett Lashlee, Benton County
  • Chris Young, Dyer County
  • Dale Kelley, City of Huntingdon
  • David Livingston, Haywood County
  • Eddie Bray, Henderson County
  • Jake Bynum, Weakley County
  • Jeff Griggs, City of Lexington
  • Jill Holland, City of McKenzie
  • Jimmy Harris, Madison County
  • Jimmy Sain, Hardeman County
  • John Carroll, Perry County
  • Jon Pavletic, City of Ripley
  • Joseph Butler, Carroll County
  • Julian McTizic, City of Bolivar
  • Kevin Davis, Hardin County
  • Larry Smith, McNairy County
  • Mike Creasy, Decatur County
  • Robert King, City of Henderson
  • Roger Pafford, City of Camden
  • Skip Taylor, Fayette County
  • Tim David Boaz, City of Parsons
  • Tom Witherspoon, Gibson County
  • Wes Ward, City of Linden

Thanks to all of you for supporting Tennessee’s youngest learners!

With gratitute,

Mike, Lisa and the TQEE team

Nashville-Area Foundation Leader Joins the Call for New Focus on Early Education

Tara Scarlett, President and CEO of the Scarlett Family Foundation, this week joined a large and growing number of Tennessee leaders calling for greater focus on improving early education, birth through 3rd grade .  In a guest column in the Tennessean, as well as in the Williamson Herald, Scarlett noted, “Low proficiency in third grade is a clear indication that the quality of children’s learning prior to third grade requires significant improvements.”

“Learning begins at birth. The brain develops more in the first 5 years than at any other time during a person’s life,” she noted.

Scarlett joins other business, civic and elected leaders from across Tennessee who have recently called for making early education a priority for the state.  In the past 30 days or so we’ve seen calls to action from:

As a member of the TQEE board of directors, Scarlett called attention to our policy priorities:

  • Engaged and empowered parents. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers. We advocate for policies that engage and empower parents through evidence-based home visiting programs, parent-teacher partnerships in child care and elementary schools, and school-community partnerships that expand families’ access to local resources.
  • High quality, affordable child care. High quality, affordable child care is critical to support the 300,000-plus young children in Tennessee with working parents. Child care directly impacts current and future workforce development, as well as family economic stability. We back policies that set high standards for teaching, learning and outcomes, recruit and retain high-quality teachers, and anchor state reimbursement rates to actual cost of quality.
  • Excellent early grades teaching. To boost student outcomes in third grade and beyond, instruction from pre-K to third grade must be better aligned with best practices and how young children learn. We support improved instructional materials, investments in training for early grades teachers and principals, and accountability for results.
  • Stronger accountability and continuous improvement in early ed. Tennessee has limited statewide data on early learning from birth to second grade.  To maximize investments in public education, Tennessee should commit to a birth-5 early learning data system, developmentally appropriate methods to measure and improve instructional effectiveness in pre-K to second grade, and better support for early grades teachers to use student data to improve learning outcomes.

Thanks Tara!

By Mike, Lisa and the TQEE team

Pop Quiz for Gubernatorial Candidates

The candidates for governor debated this past Tuesday in Kingsport, and the Tri-Cities community sent a message they want Early Education at the top of the agenda.

The Kingsport Times News ran a front page article on the day of the debate citing local leaders urging the candidates to make early education a priority.

Beth Rhinehart, CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce said, “Recruiting new businesses to our region depends on a skilled workforce. Development of essential workforce skills begins in the earliest years of a child’s life when the brain is developing the most.”

Likewise, Dr. Amy Doran, Early Childhood Coordinator of Kingsport City Schools noted, “It was heartening to hear in the first debate that both Mr. Lee and Mr. Dean acknowledge early education as the foundation. My work with high-quality teachers and programs in Kingsport City Schools has shown we need more, not less early education.  I am looking forward to hearing more about their plans for our community’s young children.”

“Communities in the Tri-Cities area – like all Tennesseans – want better education outcomes,” said Miles Burdine, president and CEO of The Kingsport Chamber . “They support a robust system of quality education for children from birth to third grade to build on reforms that are working and to accelerate progress so that we can help all Tennessee kids get a smart start in life.”

Thanks you to Beth, Amy, Miles and the Kingsport Times News for helping amplify local perspectives on the importance of prioritizing high quality early education in Tennessee.

 

#supportearlyed

 

by Mike, Lisa and the TQEE team

 

 

Jackson Chamber CEO Joins Call for New Focus on Early Education

Kyle Spurgeon, CEO of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, this week joined a large and growing number of Tennessee leaders calling for greater focus on improving early education, birth through 3rd grade .  In a guest column in the Jackson Sun, Spurgeon noted, “Low proficiency in third grade is a clear indication that the quality of children’s learning prior to third grade requires significant improvements.”

“Learning begins at birth. The brain develops more in the first 5 years than at any other time during a person’s life,” he said.

Spurgeon joins other business, civic and elected leaders from across Tennessee who have recently called for making early education a priority for the state.  In the past 30 days or so we’ve seen calls to action from:

As a member of the TQEE policy council, Spurgeon called attention to our policy priorities:

  • Engaged and empowered parents. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers. We advocate for policies that engage and empower parents through evidence-based home visiting programs, parent-teacher partnerships in child care and elementary schools, and school-community partnerships that expand families’ access to local resources.
  • High quality, affordable child care. High quality, affordable child care is critical to support the 300,000-plus young children in Tennessee with working parents. Child care directly impacts current and future workforce development, as well as family economic stability. We back policies that set high standards for teaching, learning and outcomes, recruit and retain high-quality teachers, and anchor state reimbursement rates to actual cost of quality.
  • Excellent early grades teaching. To boost student outcomes in third grade and beyond, instruction from pre-K to third grade must be better aligned with best practices and how young children learn. We support improved instructional materials, investments in training for early grades teachers and principals, and accountability for results.
  • Stronger accountability and continuous improvement in early ed. Tennessee has limited statewide data on early learning from birth to second grade.  To maximize investments in public education, Tennessee should commit to a birth-5 early learning data system, developmentally appropriate methods to measure and improve instructional effectiveness in pre-K to second grade, and better support for early grades teachers to use student data to improve learning outcomes.

Thanks Kyle!

By Mike, Lisa and the TQEE team

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