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Tennessee Students Make Important Progress in Reading

Updated: Nov 15

This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Marshall, Maury and part of Williamson counties in the State Legislature.

Report Shows Tennessee Students Make Important Progress in Reading

For years, the state of Tennessee struggled to significantly improve rates of proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA), including in third grade.

In 2021, we faced less-than-stellar literacy rates, along with significant learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So the General Assembly took a different approach to address reading.

During the special session lawmakers, Gov. Bill Lee, the Department of Education, schools, teachers and parents coalesced around efforts to improve early literacy rates.

We passed legislation to strengthen standards for 3rd grade literacy and invest in summer school and tutoring programs for students, at no cost to Tennessee families.

After two years, those efforts are working. Tennessee students are making record progress in literacy rates.

A report released by the Tennessee Department of Education reveals that Tennessee saw improvements in 3rd grade English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency rates two straight years. In 2023, 40% of 3rd grade students demonstrated proficiency in ELA, representing the largest single year increase and the highest 3rd grade ELA proficiency rates since 2017.

Also this year, 3rd grade literacy rates exceeded pre pandemic levels for the first time.

The report summarizes an overview of Tennessee’s early literacy strategy, including passage in 2021 of the Tennessee Literacy Success Act, the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act and the 2021 launch of the department’s Reading 360 initiative to support implementation in schools and districts.

The report also provides key data on additional learning supports and interventions for students who are not proficient in ELA by their third-grade year.

Third grade marks a significant shift in students’ educational development, as they transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Students who cannot read on grade level before 4th grade will face a steep uphill battle in later grades.

While we still have more work to do to improve literacy rates in Tennessee, we are on the right track.

We strive for excellence in Tennessee, and to continue to make gains towards our goals, we must continue to increase support for students and hold our students to high standards.

"I truly believe Tennessee can be a leader in education," according to Hensley.

"Some of the best and brightest students and teachers are in our great state.

"I am dedicated to working together with the Department of Education, our schools, teachers, students and parents to ensure all children in Tennessee have access to a quality education.

"I applaud our students' and teachers’ efforts and encourage them to continue to strive for success."

Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN, 37243, at 615-741-3100, or toll free at 1-800-449-8366, extension. 13100; or by faxing 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462, telephone 931-796-2018. or call his cell phone at 931-212-8823 or e-mail


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