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.