Nashville, TN- Today, the Tennessee Department of Education celebrated the conclusion of the Accelerating TN 2021 Bus Tour with a recap of numbers, highlights and best practices from across the state. The department traveled over 2,600 miles, visited 50 districts and 43 schools, hosted 15 district and community roundtables, and observed two Reading 360 Early Reading Trainings.
Across all three grand divisions of Tennessee, department staff, elected officials, and community education partners joined the tour to learn more about how schools are leveraging a historic moment in time and unprecedented amounts of federal funding to accelerate student achievement.
“The statewide bus tour has proven that Tennessee districts, schools, educators, elected officials, and communities have a students-first mindset and are deeply committed to improving outcomes for our kids,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We witnessed innovative lessons, targeted instruction, and thoughtful practices that we know are not limited to the schools and districts we visited on the tour. This good work is happening across the state, and we must continue the momentum after summer programming to ensure Tennessee will lead the way by focusing on the needs of our students."
Find recap videos, including powerful commentary from district leadership, elected officials, and community partners, from each week of the tour can be found on the department’s YouTube channel. Find photos from each stop of the tour here.
During the Tennessee General Assembly's extraordinary legislative session in January, legislators passed the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act which set forward a path for all districts’ current and future summer programming opportunities to benefit students. In addition, this summer, districts and schools are planning how to spend their portions of historic federal COVID-19 relief and recovery funding flowing-- about $4.2 million for K-12 education in Tennessee-- to accelerate student achievement.
To highlight this important work during the bus tour, Commissioner Penny Schwinn, department staff, state and local elected officials, and community partners visited Summer Learning Camps and After-School STREAM Mini-Camps, as well as Reading 360 Early Reading Trainings. Additionally, on numerous visits, the Commissioner and guests joined district leadership roundtables to discuss federal stimulus investments and highlight state, regional and district work.
Specifically, in middle Tennessee, the tour witnessed meaningful teaching and learning, collaborative community partnerships to bolster opportunities and offerings for STREAM and physical activities, thoughtful planning to invest in student-first and evidence-based components, and department-offered resources and trainings to accelerate professional development and student growth. Further, districts offered responsive programs, utilizing flexibility to best address local needs, bolstered by creative incentives to build interest and engagement throughout programming.
Previously, the department shared a milestone update and best practices seen in east and west Tennessee at the midway point of the tour, with over 1,700 miles traveled, 30 districts and 21 schools visited, eight district and community roundtables hosted, and two Reading 360 Early Reading Trainings observed.
District leadership, elected officials, and community partners commented on the impactful work taking place this summer and best practices witnessed statewide.
"We were excited to welcome Commissioner Schwinn and the TN Department of Education staff to Dickson and Cheatham Counties,” said State Rep. Mary Littleton. “I am grateful for the hard work the Department, General Assembly, and Governor Lee have put into helping out children, teachers, and staff recover from the challenges of the pandemic. We are excited for the 2021-2022 school year and to get our children back on track."
“This summer, we have been energized by the success we have seen in our summer learning camps,” said Dr. Trey Duke, Director of Schools, Murfreesboro City Schools. “Over 400 Murfreesboro City teachers and staff members stepped up to provide amazing learning opportunities to over 1,600 students. We are confident that our 6-week program will help ensure our students are better prepared for next school year.”
"I was pleased to join the Tennessee Department of Education on this statewide tour to see firsthand how these summer camps have been helping students accelerate learning," said Lillian Hartgrove, Chairman of the State Board of Education. "It was a joy to observe students excited and having fun while learning from teachers who dedicated their summer to working with these students. Speaking with school directors, principals, educators, families, and students provided an opportunity to witness the incredibly hard work and commitment it took to make the camps successful, and I was honored to be there to celebrate their accomplishments."
“During our summer learning camps in Cheatham County, we have seen tremendous student and educator engagement and excitement to be back in classrooms,” said Dr. Cathy Beck, Director of Schools, Cheatham County Schools. “Through thoughtful programming and extremely hard work of our educators, staff, and community, our students are learning through innovative strategies and instruction. It was a delight to host the department along their summer bus tour and we are thrilled for what the upcoming school year will bring.”
“Creating ongoing learning continues to be paramount this summer and beyond for both early, traditional, and adult populations. Witnessing the enhanced applied practices cemented what I knew, that Tennessee teachers, staff, and administrators are invested and innovative,” said Dr. Michael Torrence, President, Motlow State Community College. “The skills we witnessed were active, applied, and precursors to expectations that current and future industry will key in on. What we saw over the last week will not only further attract industry but provide our youth a leap forward that dampens learning loss. We saw acceleration and use cases of skills today that will build a bright tomorrow. We are thankful that Commissioner Schwinn created time to not only connect with our amazing K-12 partners, but to also engage with Motlow State Community College. We recognize that we are a part of the learning continuum of student success and workforce development. We now have an even clearer vantage point. We know we are and always will be better together.”
“I appreciate Commissioner Schwinn coming to Trousdale County to see firsthand the work being done to benefit students here,” said Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile. “I was very pleased that this tour spotlighted the success taking place in our summer programs under the leadership of Superintendent Clint Satterfield.”
“The Promising Scholars program has been a success for the students who have participated, and we look forward to taking the lessons learned this year to have an even greater program in 2022,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools. “We have heard from many teachers who appreciated the smaller classroom sizes to be able to get to know their students, and their needs, while engaging in fun, but rigorous learning activities. None of this would’ve been possible without our teachers and team members throughout the district who signed up to dedicate this month to accelerating the academic growth of the students we serve.”
"The TSB students and staff were so excited that Commissioner Schwinn and the summer bus tour made a stop at our school,” said Dr. David Martin, Director of Schools, Tennessee School for the Blind. “Throughout the pandemic and now during the summer programming, our students have worked hard and shown amazing resilience. Our teachers and staff never stopped working to ensure our students and families had the resources they needed to ensure learning continued whether on campus or remote. I have been so impressed by the engagement and excitement our students have shown this summer and am confident this will serve as a springboard for success into the coming school year."
In the coming months, the department will release a report of the bright spots and leading practices gleaned from the tour. With meaningful feedback, robust conversations, and community discussion, the department will continue to support districts' planning and implementation for future summers.
For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact Edu.MediaInquiries@tn.gov.