Now that the 112th Tennessee General Assembly has ended, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what we were able to accomplish in Tennessee’s educational system as we strive toward the goal of being the best in the United States.
I want to first thank all those legislators who supported our goal of being the best and having their votes reflect those ideals for our students in Tennessee.
We have many social and criminal issues affecting Tennessee and we believe we can fix them with an educational system that demands excellence from our students and staff.
A student who graduates, is on grade level, and is backed up by evaluations is a student who will have options in their career as they move forward in life.
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Here’s what we accomplished in the 2021 special session
A year ago, we passed the literacy bill that put an extreme focus on K through third grade education.
We brought back phonics as the primary means of teaching our students how to read. Phonics has been tested over time and it shows that it is the best way to teach a child to read.
We brought back summer school for those students who are struggling to be on grade level and lastly, we have provided tutors during the school year for students who have fallen behind with reading and math skills.
We brought discipline back to the classroom with the Teachers Discipline Act which allows a teacher to remove a repetitive disruptive student from the classroom.
This Act will allow the teacher to help the students who want to learn and give the disruptive student other support as they struggle with adapting to the classroom environment.
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These are the recent achievements
The 112th General Assembly kept working towards better ideas to give our students and local school systems improved options for students’ educational needs.
In the budget, there are $1 million for every high school and $500,000 for every middle school to ramp up the career technical opportunities for their students. We know that every child does not need to go to college to be successful. Our technical colleges are doing very well and turning out graduates that industries need right away.
We have expanded dual enrollment for high school students who want to accelerate their college education. In high school, we have passed legislation that allows a student to have course access to classes they want to take that are not available to them from their own school system.
We have changed the appointment of the State Board of Education to three members being chosen each by the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Lieutenant Governor. This will bring balance to the Board and represent the views in education spread over three parts of government.
Lastly, we have passed the new funding formula Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA). The Basic Education Program (BEP) was antiquated and needed to be revamped to provide better transparency on how we fund education.
We will be watching this as it unfolds over the next few months and anticipate hearing from our local school systems regarding any unintended consequences. We will be ready to react to necessary changes when the 113th General Assembly convenes in January.
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But we have a lot more left to do, especially, going back to basics
Where do we go from here? The TISA bill brought transparency to the funding of students, however, we have not run the key piece of legislation reforming our education system in Tennessee.
The TISA bill does not address the daily challenges in the classroom that teachers and students face. We test too much, evaluate too much, and collect too much data. This takes valuable time away from our teachers with their students.
We need a complete overhaul of our standards and policies in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. We need to reduce the number of standards so that our students can master the basics of education. By reducing the number of standards taught to students, our teachers will have more time to teach the subject matter with depth, knowledge, and understanding of those topics.
We need to evaluate the grade level appropriateness of our standards. Using topics that are normally reserved for high school in middle and elementary school often brings confusion and frustration to our students which ultimately leads to failure.
We need to look at the policy that yields good results and get rid of those that harm education. If we can get back to the basics in education in K-8th grades, we can turn education around in Tennessee.
We will have a system of education in which our teachers will flourish and our students will have success. Now and in the future, we need Tennessee to continue to be the best place to live, work and educate your children.
It is an honor and privilege to serve in the General Assembly and I look forward to a day when we are number one in education in the United States. It all starts with the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must focus on the basics to unlock the potential of our students and therefore the successful future of Tennessee.
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, represents District 64 in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He chairs the Educational Instruction Committee.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee enacted crucial education reform, but where do we go now?