Tennessee and ESSA

 Education is seeing a much needed change in Tennessee. After the 2015-2016 school year ended without a statewide assessment for school accountability for grades 3 - 8, the roll-out of Tennessee’s ESSA plan is both welcoming and necessary.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed in 1965, established the role of the federal government in public education.  The No Child Left Behind Act, authorized in 2002, gave specific guidelines around testing with state and local accountability.  Now, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the new law of the land and provides guidelines for accountability with provisions for minority students and English language learners.

What does this mean for Tennessee families and educators?

1. Student performance and student progress are separate percentage sections within the overall school score card; this provides insight on a school’s proficiency and growth.

2. Intentional focus on funding the state’s high-poverty schools with additional support and resources

3. Clear accountability systems and requirements with state standards that align with the state assessments

4. Only 10% of a school’s grade in TN will be based on the number of students who are chronically absent (more than 10% of the school academic year)

  Nearly 150,000 students are not in school each day in TN

5. ESSA includes opportunities for equity for English language learners, who also experience achievement gaps. Under the TN ESSA Plan:

When a school has more than 10 English Language Learners, 10% of the school’s overall letter grade will be dedicated to their academic proficiency

An estimated 40% of schools will now be held accountable for the performance of EL students.

The ELPA (English Language Proficiency Assessment) can be based on achievement or growth

6. There is a distinction between recently arrived English learners and long-term English learners (6 years in program).  Recently arrived English learners will have their TN Ready state assessment scores gradually added into the school’s accountability over three years


The TN ESSA Plan is extensive and can be found by clicking here in addition to supporting resources.  Thankfully, organizations such as the TN Educational Equity Coalition have events scheduled throughout the rest of the year to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about Tennessee’s ESSA plan, its accountability measures, and what that means for families and educators.

Marlena Little

Educator, visionary and leader.

Marlena Little grew up in the inner-city of Chicago in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city. Yet the contrast of her home and school life provided evidence to the statement, “it’s not where you’ve been but where you are going”. Having attended one of the best elementary and high-schools in the country, she was determined to live beyond the poverty and violence of her neighborhood, knowing education was the escape.

Marlena Little, a Memphian by choice, relocated to Memphis to fight for educational equity. As a teacher, it was important for Marlena’s students to see her as an example of that escape. As an administrator, Marlena challenged teachers and staff to illuminate education as the way out, yet as a visionary, Marlena has created paths of escape.

As Founder of Life Prep Academy Schools, Marlena Little has seamlessly merged her childhood with the standard of excellence imbedded in her educational experiences to provide students, regardless of any “label”, the limitless opportunities a high-quality education affords.  Her philosophical beliefs about education are the guiding principles of Life Prep.

In addition to her many roles, Marlena Little is also a mother and forever learner.  She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and has the pleasure of raising a nine-year-old daughter.