Burks Gets ‘School Accountability’ Bill Passed

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, May 19, 2011:

Burks Bill To Strengthen Education Accountability Passes Senate

NASHVILLE – A bill by State Senator Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) to require results-based promotion for third graders across the state passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday.

“We set our children up for failure when we allow them to move through our schools without being proficient in reading,” Burks said. “This legislation will make sure that students have the foundation for greater success in the classroom.”

Senate Bill 1776 requires a third grade student to show a basic understanding of the curriculum through standardized test scores or daily grades before being promoted to the fourth grade. The requirement would not apply to special education students.

The bill effectively ends “social promotion” in elementary schools – that is, passing students despite lacking the necessary skills to advance to the next grade. About 45,000 students in Tennessee are considered to be socially promoted without regard to their achievement.

After receiving notice that the bill would cost the state $175 million if it were implemented in every grade, Burks focused on the third grade because of its importance in teaching literacy. Senators on both sides of the aisle praised her work in eliminating the cost to Tennessee taxpayers while strengthening educational accountability.

“We can spend millions of dollars and implement all kinds of new programs, but real education improvement will only happen when we set goals for our children and help them reach those goals,” Burks said.

The bill is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Thursday.