About Me

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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and on the Finance Ways and Means Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Report on the Local Burden of Housing State Prisoners in County Jails

TACIR has completed its report on the financial burden and other effects on county governments from housing state prisoners in county jails, prepared at the request of commission members at the May 2016 meeting.

This report revisits the 2007 report Beyond Capacity: Issues and Challenges Facing County Jails.  TACIR staff conducted a examining the number of state prisoners being held in county jails and whether the number is increasing, capacities and overcrowded conditions in county jails, the cost borne by counties for medical care (including addiction treatment) of state prisoners held in county jails, whether the current amount the state reimburses a county for housing a state prisoner is reasonable, how the state chooses which prisoners are left in county jails, how state prisoners are assigned jobs like cooking or laundry service, and contractual obligations and limitations to housing state prisoners in prisons operated for counties by private contractors.

The final report suggests three recommendations:

First, Tennessee could improve access to the behavioral health services provided by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ criminal justice liaison program by expanding the program statewide.

Second, Tennessee could target funding to improve outcomes by providing financial assistance to counties to help implement programs proven to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for prisoners and communities, rather than only increasing per diem reimbursements to cover basic costs.

Finally, because adequate oversight and regulation of local jails is necessary for the state to balance its need for fiscally responsible management of the felon population with the responsibility to achieve the best prisoner and public safety outcomes, state law should be amended to give the Tennessee Corrections Institute clear legal authority to require local correctional facilities to comply with set standards, including authority for its Board Control to recommend that the Tennessee Department of Correction remove state prisoners from noncertified jails when conditions warrant.

This report is available on the Internet at http://www.tn.gov/tacir/topic/tacirpublications-by-date.

Friday, September 08, 2017

TNECD NOW ACCEPTING BROADBAND ACCESSIBILITY GRANT APPLICATIONS

Program to award $10 million to projects that expand broadband to unserved areas

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced that it is now accepting Broadband Accessibility Grant applications until November 17, 2017.

Established by the recently enacted Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA), this program aims to spread broadband access to more Tennesseans while promoting practices that increase deployment and encourage adoption. In total, $10 million is available in the first round of grants.

“Rural economic development is a top priority for TNECD and reliable broadband is a lynchpin of our efforts to encourage job growth in Tennessee’s rural communities,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “About one-in-three residents in rural Tennessee do not have broadband access at recognized minimum standards. It is critical that we address this gap and ensure all Tennesseans have reliable internet access. Thanks to Governor Haslam’s leadership and the overwhelming support of the Tennessee General Assembly, TNECD will now be able to provide grants to help make broadband available to residents and businesses that currently go without it.”

The Broadband Accessibility Grants are meant to help offset the capital expenses of deploying broadband in currently unserved areas. Projects must serve locations without access to download speeds of at least ten megabits per second (10 Mbps) and upload speeds of at least one megabit per second (1 Mbps). Preference will be given to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding. Applicants must be authorized to provide retail broadband in the proposed service area.

Following the close of the application period, TNECD will hold a three-week online public comment period to receive additional input and information regarding submitted applications.

TNECD anticipates announcing grantees in January 2018 with projects underway in early in 2018.
More information on Broadband Accessibility Grants and TNECD’s broadband initiatives can be found here.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Team Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Find us on the web: tnecd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @tnecd. Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/tnecd.

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School Bus Driver Shortage Solution?

News accounts of Wilson County Schools bus driver shortage are not unique; a similar situation can be found all over the state. No wonder too; driving a school bus is a great responsibility, that is filled with stress, distractions and is prone to criticism.
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The Lap and Shoulder Belt Bill may provide a solution to aid this stubborn problem. The school bus is the only vehicle on the road today for which a lap-shoulder belt is not federally mandated. The argument against school bus lap-shoulder belts wears thin as one considers that across the country there are about 20,000 injuries on school buses each year...a school bus accident locally last week certainly unnerved many. Parents wonder, "Why does my child leave the safety of my car where their car seat or lap-shoulder belt ensures the highest degree of safety, to get onto a school bus without any restraint system at all?
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Two weeks ago I observed a simulated but very real school bus accident in Indiana. A big rig was driven into the side of a school bus at 35 mph. The bus was fitted with cameras and other data collection equipment. In the bus, crash dummies were both belted and unbelted. The horrific crash proved "fatal" for some unbelted dummies while the belted remained safely restrained.
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A safety supervisor who began phasing in safety belts on all buses in his school district 5 years ago, told me of the benefits of the restraints beyond obvious improved safety. Because the students are buckled, discipline issues have reduced by 90%, and better behavior has considerably reduced driver distraction. Initially, only a few drivers wanted to drive the buses with restraints but as the other drivers saw how much improved the students' behavior was, they began to request buses with lap-shoulder belts. Before long all the drivers wanted safety belts on their buses.
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Bullying is now minimal on district school buses. The penalty for bullying is suspension from school, and suspension is often a catalyst for dropping out. In his district, the safety belts have positively affected student retention. Today, not buckling up is now the most common offense. Because the rule is that if they don't buckle they don't ride; parents quickly fix that problem because not riding inconveniences them.
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I asked if it was difficult to get the students to buckle up. He said that today, kids expect to wear a lap-shoulder belt so it wasn't hard at all. He added that even parents of kindergartners like the system as the first row or two are reserved for their little ones. A seat quickly converts from a lap-shoulder belt to a 5 point system. Parents get on the bus and buckle their wee one; upon arrival at school, the buckle is quickly released by the child with only 2 lbs of pressure.
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Besides overall safety, two of the most important daily effects are that driver satisfaction and retention has greatly improved - which helps avoid shortages - and many parents who had previously driven their children to school, now send their kids
 on the bus because the bus now has a safer and calmer atmosphere.
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Every day we entrust the safety of our community's children to our bus drivers. We count on them to ensure our children get to school and return home to us, each day, safely.
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We also know that we need to attract the best, and ensure our best want to stay, by making their jobs less stressful and more rewarding.
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The solution to both problems, it turns out, may be the same: let's pass House Bill 395 so that every student has a safe ride, and every driver has a safe bus.


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

GRANT AWARDED TO MT JULIET

Representative Susan Lynn today announced that the city of Mt. Juliet has received a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to complete the second phase of the Woodridge Place Sidewalks Project.  The grant was submitted by the Mt. Juliet BPAC.  In recent months BPAC has also received the Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) grant, twi the grants for the Cedar Creek Greenway projects and a grant to build a guard rail for the Eagle Park bicycle park for children.

State Representative Susan Lynn further commented “When the state legislature funds TDOT’s budget it makes grants like this possible.  I am very proud to be supportive of transportation and to be an advocate for these grants because I know how important these projects are to my constituents’ safety and quality of Life.” 

The project will be administered by the city of Mt. Juliet; the grant funds will enable Mt. Juliet to move ahead with engineering preparations and construction.


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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The State of Education in Tennessee


  • The state has the highest graduation rate in Tennessee history.
  • The state has the highest average ACT composite in Tennessee history.
  • More students than ever before are earning postsecondary credits while in high school.
  • The state has continued to invest more in education, including a $100 million increase for teachers’ salaries and $22 million for English learners.
  • The department’s Read to be Ready coaching network, which is helping educators to improve how they teach elementary-aged students reading and literacy skills, has expanded to include 200 coaches that serve 83 school districts, ultimately reaching more than 2,500 teachers who teach 44,000 students.
  • This summer, over 9,000 elementary students who are not on track in reading are being served in statewide Read to be Ready camps across 107 school districts.
  • The department, along with thousands of education community members across the state, developed a robust plan to transition to the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and aligned that plan to Tennessee Succeeds. It refines and deepens our work in areas like school improvement, how we support historically underserved student groups like English learners, and well-rounded school accountability.
  • Through a new Ready Graduate indicator, we have a renewed focus on ensuring all students are truly ready for their next step when they graduate high school, whether that’s through taking early college courses, earning industry credentials, or meeting scoring benchmarks on the ACT or military entrance exam.
  • Commissioner McQueen has now met with more than 13,000 teachers and visited 770 classrooms in 118 school districts through her Classroom Chronicles tour.
  • And with the release of new scores from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) science tests, Tennessee now ranks in the top half of all states on three key national assessments – a tremendous improvement from just a decade ago, when the state began to think differently about how it approaches education after receiving two “Fs” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for how students were being prepared.

You can read more about the state of education in Tennessee on the department’s blog and in a letter she is sending to stakeholders this week. The strategic plan update is available on the department’s website.

Monday, July 31, 2017

TNReady high school scores improve across all subjects in second year of new assessment

Thousands of additional students now meeting or exceeding course expectations

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that Tennessee high school students improved across all subject areas – English, math, science, and U.S. history – on the 2016-17 TNReady end-of-course exams. Thousands of additional students are meeting course expectations compared to last year, and the state reduced the percentage of students scoring at the lowest achievement level across all subject areas.

TNReady is the statewide assessment administered to all students in grades 3-11. It is a more rigorous assessment, compared to past state tests, that is fully aligned to Tennessee’s academic standards, which are based on what students need to know and be able to do each year to ultimately be prepared for college and their careers. In 2015-16, high school students set a new baseline in the first year of TNReady, and as expected, their scores are beginning to increase as teachers and students adjust to higher standards that ensure students are ready for the next step in their academic journey.

“This growth is encouraging, and it shows our students are capable of reaching the high bar we’ve set with our expectations in Tennessee,” McQueen said. “It’s also promising to see not only overall improvement, but some bright spots in the performance of historically underserved student groups. The results from TNReady shine a light on what’s working and help us to identify where we need to better support students and teachers – so every student in Tennessee reaches his or her fullest potential.”

Students show growth in all end-of-course subject areas
Overall, scores improved in all subject areas and on nearly every end-of-course exam. Students’ scores on TNReady fall into one of four performance categories: belowapproachingon track, or mastered. Those students who score on track or mastered met or exceeded course expectations.

  • In English, students take three end-of-course exams in high school: English I, II, and III. Results on each exam improved this year, and across all three tests, 34.3% of students performed on track or mastered, a jump from 30.4% in 2015-16. Students had the biggest gains in high school English, with more than 11,000 additional students scoring on track or mastered compared to last year.

  • Across all high school math courses, 21.5% of students performed on track or mastered, up slightly from 20.8% last year. Altogether, over 4,000 additional students scored on track or mastered on high school math in 2017 compared to 2016.
    • In high school math, districts choose one of two tracks: algebra I, geometry, and algebra II or integrated math I, II, and III. Integrated math combines algebra and geometry throughout the three courses.
    • On four of the six math exams, the percentage of students who scored on track or mastered improved, and there were slight dips on two tests: algebra II and integrated math II. Notably, the districts participating in these two tests shifted as some districts continue transitioning to integrated math track.

  • There are two end-of-course exams offered in science: biology and chemistry. Results on both improved. This year, 51.0% of students scored proficient oradvanced on the high school science exams – up from 48.9% last year. That means about 4,600 more students were at or above course expectations.
    • The science exam has yet to transition to TNReady and includes the performance levels from the old TCAP: below basic, basic, proficient, andadvanced. In 2018-19, Tennessee schools will transition to new, more rigorous Tennessee academic standards in science, and that year, students will take a TNReady exam aligned to those higher standards.
  • In U.S. history, there was also an uptick in the percentage of students who performed on track or mastered – 30.8% in 2017 compared to 29.9% in 2016. That means about 2,800 additional students are now meeting course expectations in U.S. history.

Student groups show encouraging growth and highlight areas to improve
This year’s results also show some encouraging performance from Tennessee’s historically underserved student groups. In particular, for end-of-course exams in English, all student groups – students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and Black/Hispanic/Native American students – improved on TNReady.

In many cases, student groups had fewer students who scored in the lowest performance level, either below or below basic, compared to last year. For example, last year on English I, 33.7% of economically disadvantaged students scored as below, but this year that percentage dropped to 20.7%. Notably, the percent of student with disabilities scoring at the lowest level of achievement decreased in every individual content area and fell by over 19 percentage points in English I. 

And, in a couple of cases, performance gaps narrowed between student groups and all students. On high school science, Black/Hispanic/Native American students outpaced the larger student population, and on high school math, the gap between students with disabilities and all students also narrowed. The progress shown by students with disabilities is particularly encouraging given that there has been an increase in the number of students with disabilities who participate in TNReady over the past two years, since the elimination of the modified TCAP.

Transition to online assessments continues
For the first time this year, high school students in 24 districts took TNReady online. This was the first year of a three-year transition to online assessments, and in 2017-18, all high school students will take TNReady end-of-course exams online. Additionally, districts will have the option for students in grades 5-8 to take TNReady online in 2017-18 before fully transitioning those students to online assessments in 2018-19.

In consultation with national experts, psychometricians with Questar and the department analyzed the results this year to ensure that scores are comparable regardless of whether the student took TNReady online or on paper.

Additional information coming soon
The release of the statewide end-of-course results starts the cascade of additional TNReady information that will follow over the next few months. Within the coming weeks, school districts will receive their embargoed district-level end-of-course results, as well as TVAAS growth data and their parent and teacher score reports.District-level high school end-of-course results will be released publicly after districts have had a chance to review their data. This fall, the department will finalize the scores and release the results for grades 3-8 at both the state and district level.

For more information on TNReady and the results, including specific details and additional data about today’s announcement as well as more information on the 2017-18 assessment, please visit the department’s website at TNReady.gov. For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast at 615-532-6260 or sara.gast@tn.gov.