January 19, 2021
NASHVILLE – Tennesseans for Student Success (TSS) recently launched Tennessee Literacy Now, an initiative to advocate for the passage of long-overdue strategies to improve the state’s literacy rate and pass the Tennessee Literacy Success Act.
Check out this op-ed featured in The Tennessean from TSS President and CEO Adam Lister, on the importance of charting a new path to success through improving literacy rates for Tennessee’s one million students.
COVID-19 exposed catastrophic weaknesses in Tennessee public education system | Opinion
By Adam Lister
January 18, 2021
“Heartbreaking, chaotic, lost, and stifling — these are all words frequently used by Tennesseans to describe 2020, which was arguably the most challenging year any group of people has collectively experienced.
“Behind the fog of a raging and restlessly cruel pandemic, thousands of Tennesseans continue to confront nearly as many personal or family-centric challenges that make their lives more complicated than they deserve.
“Sadly, in Tennessee, a second silent and more shameful epidemic have played havoc with our children’s future, most insidiously targeting students of color.
“Since March of 2020, more than one million public school students across Tennessee have had their classroom time interrupted and seen months of academic gains whittled away due to COVID-19.
“The secondary effects of COVID-19 and its long-term implications on learning are grim. Currently, more than 650,000 Tennessee students are not reading on grade level. Nearly 80% of students of color are below grade level. These facts are heartbreaking and stifling. We must act today to put our students on a better course for success.
“Well documented are the challenges, lost opportunities, and chaotic futures facing kids who are not reading on grade level by third grade. Furthermore, the life-long challenges created through reading gaps disproportionately impact Tennessee’s most marginalized students.
“Enter perhaps the most frequently used word in 2020: unprecedented. For thousands, COVID-19 is a brutal, indiscriminate thief, stealing weddings, birthdays, vacations, or most tragically, those we love.
“The coronavirus also robbed many of us of the naive belief there was any certainty in our lives. It exposed grave and catastrophic weaknesses in our public education system. If gaps in reading proficiency are left unchallenged, we will have been accomplices in facilitating the theft of hundreds of thousands of futures.
“On Tuesday, the Tennessee General Assembly has an unprecedented opportunity to take bold and urgent action to chart a new path to success for hundreds of thousands of students.
“As a parent, I agonize over the question: Am I doing enough? As the husband of a public school teacher, I am awestruck by Tennessee’s teachers’ commitment and effort during these difficult days.
“That’s why I support Governor Bill Lee’s call for a special legislative session of the Tennessee General Assembly to address the state’s literacy crisis, mitigate COVID learning loss, and ensure school districts and teachers are equipped to serve our students, making them ready for their futures.
“Bold, urgent responses are necessary if we are to chart a brighter path to success for Tennessee’s kids. We must seize every opportunity to build a better future for all students across the state.
“The Governor has worked with education leaders, lawmakers, teachers, and parents to develop a response to our state’s literacy crisis, attacking head-on the challenges with proven strategies that will provide better instructional materials for students, resources for teachers and, lead to a brighter future for thousands of young minds.
“It is critical that during this extraordinary session, those elected to represent us in Nashville make a substantial investment in the future of our state and all Tennesseans. Ensuring Tennessee kids are on the forward trajectory towards economic freedom and independence must be our aim.
“With the lives of one million students hanging in the balance, communities and voters across the state must call on lawmakers to deliver dramatic improvements to Tennessee’s literacy rates now. Failure to dramatically and urgently address the state’s literacy crisis would be an abdication of responsibility.
“Tennessee is fortunate to have thoughtful, principled leaders who, for years, have worked put kids at the fore of important policy decisions.
“I appreciate leaders like Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Representatives William Lamberth and Karen Camper, and Senators Sen. Jack Johnson and Jeff Yarbro.
“I call on their colleagues in the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, to show the country that Tennesseans can unite to serve a shared goal.
“Tennesseans for Student Success will be working with the General Assembly to advocate for the passage of long-overdue strategies to improve the state’s literacy rates.
“On the ground, we worked to deliver thousands of books to schools and libraries across Tennessee, with a particular focus on communities with high populations of low-income families. Please join us in our efforts at tnlitnow.com and echo our call to lawmakers demanding they improve literacy now!”
Read the op-ed in the Tennessean here.