The Tennessee General Assembly voted on Thursday to waive the required 180-days of instruction, as well as assessment testing, for the current school year.
The House voted 92-0 to approve the measure. The Senate was also unanimous with a vote of 29-0.
The reason for the bills was due to the current coronavirus pandemic which has shuttered schools across the state, as well as the March 3 tornadoes which tore through Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam counties.
“Students are missing school at the direction of the governor and president,” said Senate Bill Sponsor Jack Johnson (R-Williamson County). “This puts us in a precedent that in all likelihood, students, schools and teachers will not meet the state requirements to move to the next grade, to take assessment tests and the necessary things to evaluate teachers and districts.”
Johnson said that the bills “more or less wipe the slate clean for teachers, students and schools for remain of school year. We hope the virus will subside and students will go back to school. But it could be the fall before they get back to school.”
As approved, the students will not be required to go to schools for the full 180 days, as mandated by the General Assembly. The annual TNReady testing, which was to take place next month, has also been waived.
Johnson said that school districts can still test the students if the district wishes. However, he stressed that they will not be required to.
“Student growth scores can be used to help the teachers,” Johnson said. “But if it will hurt the teacher, they do not have to be used.”
The same goes for the final grade, he said. Unless the grades would help the student’s overall grade, the grades do not have to be reflected.
Individual school and school district assessments have also been waived for the current school year, according to the bill.
With these changes to the law for this school year, the school districts will continue to receive full state funding, Johnson said.
The state will now seek waivers for the state’s schools from the United States Department of Education.
“This bill will ensure that no senior affected will fail to receive a diploma if they were on track and ready to receive it,” he continued.
For student teachers, the requirements for number of days teaching to receive a teaching license is also waived, Johnson said.
“The state board has the flexibility to give licenses to teachers who have not met the requirements for the time needed for student teaching,” he continued.
The bill numbers were HB2818 and SB2672. The full bills can be found on the individual chamber’s web pages, located at capitol.tn.gov.