K-12

Lee revives $250M mental health trust fund proposal for K-12 students

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is reviving a proposal to create $250 million trust fund to tackle mental health issues for K-12 students. Lee made a similar proposal last year, but it was abandoned amid uncertainty about the state’s budget picture amid the pandemic.

Here is the full release from the Lee adminstration:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee re-introduced the Mental Health Trust Fund in a renewed proposal to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” said Gov. Lee. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.”

“We know the earlier we can intervene, the better outcomes are for children and families,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room.”

Services supported by the Mental Health Trust Fund would include: 

– Direct clinical services in schools

– Mental health awareness and promotion

– Suicide prevention and postvention strategies

– Trauma-informed programs and practices

– Violence and bullying prevention

– Project Basic, which includes mental health supports

There is a significant need for strong K-12 mental health supports:

– Nationally, one in five children has a mental health diagnosis in any given year

– Over 60% of children who receive mental health services do so through their school

– Youth mental health has worsened in the last decade: From 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of Major Depressive Episode (MDE) in Tennessee youth ages 12-17 increased from 9.1%

– The approximate prevalence of any mental illness in the past year among Tennessee youth is about 300,000

– In January 2021, Tennessee ranked 28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health 

– School closures during COVID-19 limited students’ access to mental health services and caused a pause in critical mental health reporting

The Lee administration has taken strong action to address mental health:

– Behavioral Health Safety Net for Children: Essential mental health supports for uninsured children age 3-17 beginning September 2020

School Based Behavioral Health Liaison (SBBHL) Expansion:Expanded proven program to all 95 counties

TN Suicide Prevention Network: Expanded regional directors to increase coverage and boosted training in suicide prevention

– Youth and Young adult Mental Health Awareness and Promotion:Funding granted to three separate programs that reached more than 11,000 individuals

Tennessee student testing data shows math improvement

Standardized assessments showed more than half of public school students showed improvement in their math scores compared with last year and that 41% of schools scored in the top two ratings of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, or TVAAS, the state Education Department announced Thursday morning.

Here’s a release from the Education Department:

NASHVILLE— TNReady assessment results released today by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn indicate that students across the state are performing better in almost all math subjects.  The TNReady scores also show that more than half the schools in Tennessee – 56 percent – improved their growth scores (TVAAS scores) from the previous year, with 41 percent of all schools earning a level 4 or 5 TVAAS rating which measures year-to-year growth.

“I’m impressed with the improvement we’ve seen in mathematics,” Commissioner Schwinn said, while adding, “the dedication of our educators, commitment to implementing high-quality materials, and unwavering student focus is what sets Tennessee apart and will continue to be the catalyst for moving our state forward.”

Mathematics

5th grade students claimed the largest grade-level improvement over 2018 (5.6 percent increase over 2018)

High school geometry students achieved the largest increase of all TNReady math scores  (5.9 percent increase over 2018)

Algebra I scores showed a 3 percent increase, which is significant since Algebra I success serves as an early predictor for college readiness

English Language Arts (ELA)

9th grade students across the state improved scores by 7.4 percent, while 10th grade students did slightly better with a 7.5 percent improvement over 2018

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