NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the 2020-2021 school year begins, Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn announced today a number of efforts designed to help families, teachers and school districts.
“The top priority at the department for the new school year is ensuring health and safety in our school communities, and high-quality instruction is delivered for every student,” said Schwinn.
The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) is providing $15 million in grant funding for school districts to purchase Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot devices for students.
The grant application will request districts to identify the following:
- The number of households without internet access and the method of determining that information (e.g. family surveys, etc.)
- A viable, local solution to meet connectivity needs, such as MiFi devices (mobile hotspots), and expected cost for devices and services
The grant will fund districts at $150 per identified household need, up to $15 million statewide. About 100,000 households can benefit from this support. That amount is based on state-contracted rates for hotspot devices and data coverage for the first semester, after which the funds expire. Districts will plan to pick up data charges for a second semester or develop a plan to address them for sustainability.
TDOE is also working with Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to develop a public dashboard that will provide information on shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE). The hope is for information on that to be available in the next week.
In addition to the grant funding for Wi-Fi devices and the PPE dashboard, several websites are available with various resources.
Best for All Central is a teaching and learning hub. It's designed to provide a collection of optional resources to educators and families. The resources are meant to be easily accessible and searchable.
These free resources include:
- School leader and educator professional development, including professional development for digital teaching
- An academic standards navigator - linking academic standards information and example assessment items for each grade
- Instructional videos to provide weekly content in core areas of instruction, with brand new videos available in addition to PBS Teaching Tennessee lessons and companion guides
- Additional resources released earlier this year including the STEAM Resources Hub, SchoolMealFinder.com, and more
New resources are intended to be added to Best for All Central on a regular basis.
TDOE has also created a free family remote learning website in partnership with Trevecca Nazarene University. It's designed to help families navigate remote learning and better understand some of the common tools and programs used by educators.
Resources available on the family remote learning website include 'Remote Learning 101' training to parents, supports for parents with students who have special needs and videos from parents and teachers around best practices for supporting students.
Finally, TDOE has released a free, optional curriculum supplement to support early literacy. The TN Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement is to help build a foundation for literacy in pre-kindergarten through the second grade. It uses a sounds-first instruction to help students gain the skills necessary to become proficient readers.
Teachers, districts and parents can download the materials in the supplement at any time.