TDOE Travels 1,700+ Miles; Visits 30 Districts During First Half of Accelerating TN 2021 Bus Tour

Thursday, June 24, 2021 | 12:03pm


Statewide Tour Highlights Districts, Schools & Educators Accelerating Student Achievement Across TN


Nashville, TN- Today, the Tennessee Department of Education shared a milestone update and best practices seen across the state from the Accelerating TN 2021 Bus Tour, totaling 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.

Department staff, elected officials, and community education partners have joined various engagements to learn more about how schools are leveraging a historic moment in time and unprecedented amounts of federal funding to accelerate student achievement. The third and final leg of the Accelerating TN 2021 Bus Tour launches Monday, June 28 across middle Tennessee. 

“Throughout the bus tour, we are seeing that Tennessee is leading the nation by prioritizing fundamental academic programming for students over the summer to ensure our students are set up for success,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I am thrilled by the innovative strategies and techniques we’ve seen in east and west Tennessee the past two weeks, focused on intentional literacy and STRE(A)M instruction. Districts and schools are rethinking what a school day looks like in order to respond to the needs of students and help them continue learning in an engaging and fun way. The joy and excitement can be felt in each and every classroom and we are excited to be in middle Tennessee next week to see even more best practices showcased.”

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 have 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 have joined district leadership roundtables to discuss federal stimulus investments and highlight state, regional and district work.

Specifically, in east Tennessee, best practices have been seen related to outstanding phonics and math instruction, intentional summer school special education services, engaged groups of educators learning in Reading 360 early literacy trainings, hands-on STRE(A)M programming, small class sizes for focused teacher-student work, strong community partnerships, and important discussions on aligning decisions and funding to student outcomes.

In west Tennessee, best practices included flexible supports to accommodate student needs, exceptional ELA instruction, including sounds practice and phonics, creative math lessons, small group work with engaging activities, alignment of funding to drive student success, exciting STRE(A)M projects, and promising opportunities for student growth as a result of summer programming. 

District leadership, elected officials, and community partners commented on the impactful work taking place and best practices witnessed statewide this summer.

“What an exciting and informative 3 days we had as part of the Accelerating TN Tour,” said Bob Eby, District 3, Vice Chair of Tennessee State Board of Education. “In Scott County, more than 100 enthusiastic teachers were being trained to effectively teach foundational skills through the Reading 360 training series.  Oneida Special School District, Clinton City, Etowah City and Polk County classrooms were filled with students engaged in reading, science, math, and enrichment activities within a summer school program that both teachers and students hope will become a staple for the future. Tennessee clearly is a leader in overcoming the effects of COVID on student learning!” 

"Throughout our summer learning camps, we have seen outstanding phonics instruction to further boost literacy comprehension and reading skills among our young learners, while also seeing our teachers implement innovative strategies to keep our students engaged,” said Dr. Annette Tudor, Director of Schools, Bristol City Schools. “We have welcomed students in all grades with varying levels of achievement, and teachers have tailored instruction to help each of them achieve personal goals. The progress our students are experiencing this summer will further accelerate their learning this fall. We are thrilled the department made a visit to Bristol City Schools along their summer bus tour and thankful for the state’s dedication to supporting the needs of all our educators and students.”

“Our summer learning camps across the district have been focused on an opportunity to learn and we are seeing a positive impact on our students based off performance and teacher feedback,” said Joey Hassell, Director of Schools, Haywood County Schools. “Additionally, the feedback from our first group of the Reading 360 Early Reading Training was very positive, and our teachers appreciate the alignment to our investment in foundational skills as well as the quality of the professional learning experience.”

“It is evident that the Accelerating TN Tour’s commitment to improving literacy and learning loss is already making strides in Hamilton County,” said Senate Finance Chairman Bo Watson. “I believe there is nothing more important, especially in early education, and appreciate the Commissioner’s ongoing attention to this critical issue.”

“This tour is terrific to travel across the state and hear what is working and also to understand what the challenges our districts, schools, and students are facing," said Dr. Dan Challener, President, Public Education Foundation Chattanooga. "It is imperative that we as a state consider what supports students need after high school and as they enter college. To listen and also celebrate the hard work of our districts, schools, educators, students and communities is extraordinary and I commend the department for putting an emphasis on this over the summer."

"Clinton City Schools is experiencing an extremely positive summer learning experience,” said Kelly Johnson, Director of Schools, Clinton City Schools. “This opportunity for funding allowed us to target a subgroup of students to participate in an additional four weeks of high-quality learning. We have been able to use our end of the year benchmark data to strategically plan an intense summer program to maximize learning specific to the needs of our students while our teachers have been intentional about creating highly engaging lessons to keep students excited about coming each day. The highlight of the week is always the Kona Ice Truck that comes on Fridays to reward students for their efforts! Clinton City Schools is confident that this opportunity is closing academic gaps as well as addressing the social/emotional needs of our students during the summer months."

“As a new representative, it is so encouraging to see how much the Education Department, and the Education Committee Members care about our students,” said State Rep. Tim Hicks. “It’s apparent that Tennessee is willing to make the proper adjustments to our system for the sake of our student’s futures. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to serve with colleagues that are forward thinkers, and who are not afraid to make important decisions.”

“Our focus is to ensure students explore the creative elements of science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and mathematics in an integrated and engaging way,” said Dr. Linda Cash, Director of Schools, Bradley County Schools. “They are creating memorable experiences that will foster their love of learning for a lifetime. Our teachers are motivated to continue to connect learning opportunities across all disciplines. Bradley County will transform the Best Summer Camp Ever into the Best School Year Ever!”

“Hamilton County is very fortunate to have excellent schools and dedicated teachers who are hard at work providing meaningful learning experiences, but also ensuring our students reach their full potential,” said House Finance Chairman Patsy Hazlewood. “We were proud to welcome Commissioner Schwinn and we thank her and the Department of Education for their continued partnership.”

“When faced with the pandemic, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tennessee remained open to serve as virtual learning hubs, as well as partnered to provide much needed small group mentoring to students across Tennessee,” said T. Ryan Hughes, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee. “It is critical that our Clubs are at the table at the local and statewide level to ensure our academic support aligns with and helps to reinforce what children are learning in school. Thank you to the Tennessee Department of Education for bringing community partners together to discuss ways in which we can all work together during their summer bus tour to put Tennessee’s youth in a better position to succeed. Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee is thankful for our partnership with the department in continuing to support our families and we look forward to finding new ways to continue to build on this partnership.” 

“I appreciate being able to visit the summer learning camps across our district,” said Nick Darnell, 1st District, Tennessee State Board of Education. “What I saw was excitement and fun from all who were involved. Great things are happening to help our students recover from an extremely challenging year.”

“Milan Special School district is honored to host Commissioner Penny Schwinn, along with her team, as she visits our early literacy training sessions,” said Jonathan Criswell, Director of Schools, Milan Special School District. “We are so pleased to offer the two weeks of foundational skills literacy training to all the preschool through fifth-grade teachers in our district. We give thanks to Governor Lee, the Tennessee General Assembly, and the Tennessee Department of Education for funding this investment in our teachers. We believe this investment will be pivotal in providing the best education possible for all students as we emerge from the pandemic and charge into the next school year.”

“Through innovative STEM and literacy instruction and engaging afterschool activities, our district has already felt the positive impacts of summer programming and we are excited to see our students happy and learning in classrooms,” said Dr. Jeanny Phillips, Director of Schools, Oneida Special School District. “We were thrilled to host the department along their summer bus tour and are looking forward to the upcoming school year to continue to help our students thrive.”

Upon conclusion of the summer bus tour, the department will release a report of the bright spots and best practices seen across Tennessee in district and school’s summer learning programming and Reading 360 Early Reading Trainings.

Follow the stops along the bus tour on social media at #AcceleratingTN2021. If you see the bus, take a  photo or video, post to social media and tag the department, and include #AcceleratingTN2021. 

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact