Advocacy & Policy

TSS Policy Review: Higher Standards & Aligned Assessment

Tennesseans for Student Success TNSuccessCard Policy Priorities

Tennesseans for Student Success is a non-profit, statewide organization committed to improving student achievement in Tennessee. In 2016, we launched an aggressive air, ground, and data strategy to champion the people and policies that support student success. Since then, we have partnered with the Tennessee General Assembly as they made student success a priority.

Through traditional outreach, digital engagement, grassroots advocacy, and access to information like the Tennessee SuccessCard, we look forward to continuing the work to make certain every student – whether in our classrooms today or in the workforce tomorrow – has an opportunity to succeed.

Preceding the release of our TNSuccessCard this summer, we will be featuring our policy pillars and the corresponding bills that are associated with those priorities to help inform the grades each legislator has earned. This week we are highlighting higher standards and aligned assessments to those standards.

Championing Higher Standards

Tennesseans rise to any occasion, embodying the volunteer spirit. We know our students can and will rise to the expectations we have of them. It’s also about more than our standards. It’s about making sure our kids are ready for the challenges, opportunities, and possibilities that will come their way when they leave our classrooms, graduate, and head out into the world.

From kindergarten to graduation, today’s students will need a strong foundation and a variety of skills and abilities to succeed in their chosen next steps. Upon graduation, they will enter the workforce, complete a professional certification at a technical school, serve in America’s Armed Forces, or earn a degree from a four-year college or university. Whatever the path, students must be ready – on day one –to achieve, learn, and grow. High academic standards in today’s classrooms help make sure our students will be ready for tomorrow’s opportunities for success.

2020 BILLS


SB 1816/HB 1679 – Led by Hensley/Haston. The Tennessee Department of Education allows high school students to take a wide variety of rigorous courses aligned with their postsecondary plans. This bill creates a mechanism and timeline for notification of these course offerings to school counselors and admissions officers. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

SB 2160/HB 2229 – Led by Johnson/Lamberth. This bill strengthens K-2 literacy in Tennessee by requiring districts to provide students with the necessary instruction to develop reading skills that meet Tennessee’s academic standards and developmental expectations, including high-quality instructional materials and phonics-based instruction. This legislation would help meet an urgent need to tackle the literacy crisis in Tennessee through a comprehensive approach. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

SB 2578/HB 1822 – Led by Yarbo/Dixie. This bill strengthens student outcomes by ensuring students who are ready for Algebra I in the 7th grade, based on a prerequisite benchmark score in mathematics on the 7th grade TCAP, are enrolled in an advanced mathematics course subject to availability. It also ensures that their parents are notified of this opportunity for their students. TSS supports equitable opportunities for students who are ready for advanced educational opportunities, helping them prepare for college and career. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.


SB 1735/HB 1687 – Led by Hensley/Cepicky. As introduced, this bill required the State Board of Education to eliminate academic standards for science and social studies for students in kindergarten through grade two. Academic standards at each grade level build on the foundation of the earlier grades. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill as introduced.    

SB 2782/HB 2059. – Led by Bell/Cochran. This bill allows school districts to apply built-in instructional days not used for inclement weather to meet the required 180 days of instruction, which could result in concluding the spring semester ahead of schedule. Having schools conclude earlier than the prescribed academic calendar reduces the time students are actively learning and creates a burden for teachers planning their instruction. In addition to academic concerns about increased summer slide, this would extend the time that many students would not receive critical social services at school. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill.

2019 BILLS


SB 1518/HB 1508 – Led by Johnson/Lamberth. Last year’s state budget highlights and supports education efforts in Tennessee. It establishes the Future Workforce Initiative with a $4 million investment for STEM training in K-12 schools, adds 100 new CTE programs, and expands access to AP courses and early postsecondary options for high schoolers. The budget also invests $34 million in new dollars to fully fund higher education institutions, an additional $71 million in teacher salary increases, $5 million to improving student and teacher supports at the state’s priority schools, and $12 million for charter school facility funding. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.  

Supporting an Aligned Assessment

A good test serves as an academic check-in, confirming our students are on track for success and that our teachers, schools, and districts are supporting their growth. Annual assessments, aligned to Tennessee’s rigorous academic standards, provide critical information to teachers, parents, schools and districts so that instruction can be adjusted to match student needs. 

Good tests that accurately and fairly measure what our students know, where they are growing and achieving, and where they need more support, are critical in student success. Good tests are also essential to quality classroom instruction. A test aligned with high academic standards also aligns professional development opportunities for our teachers, helping them focus their improvement in ways that further supports students.

Fewer, but better tests are a critical tool ensuring Tennessee’s classrooms are on the right path to success.

2020 BILLS


SB 1565/HB 1554 – Led by Hensley/Cepicky. As introduced, this bill unnecessarily expands the complexity and cost of the state’s annual assessment by endorsing alternative methods for school districts to administer the TCAP for the 2020-2021 school year. Establishing a patchwork approach to delivering the state assessment will complicate delivery and undermine the state’s commitment to improving the test experience for students, parents, and teachers. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill as filed.

SB 1815/HB 1833 – Led by Hensley/Cepicky. This bill weakens the annual measurement of student growth by setting limits to the number of TCAP tests administered to students in grades 3-12. Measuring student growth in all core subjects once annually helps to ensure students are building on critical skills year-to-year, identifies needs for intervention, and keeps students on track for college and career success. Tennesseans for Student Success opposed this bill. 


SB 1946/HB 1826 – Led by Hensley/Haston. This bill requires the TN Education Commissioner to develop formative assessment question banks aligned to TNReady assessments measuring students’ academic progress. It also requires the TN Department of Education to make the formative assessment question banks available for use by districts. TSS supports transparency in testing to promote student achievement and growth. Tennesseans for Student Success supported this bill.

To gain a better understanding of how these policy priorities affect educators on a ground level, watch this video of Dr. Rachel Cornett as she explains how higher standards impact her teaching.

Be the First to Know How Your Legislators Voted

The SuccessCard offers clear and concise information on how members of the Tennessee General Assembly voted to support the policies that have led to Tennessee twice becoming the fastest improving state in the nation.

Sign-up to be the first to get our release of the 2020 SuccessCard on July 20. 

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