Celebrate Freedom Week / History - The General Assembly approved legislation that I was proud to sponsor designating the week of September 17th as “Celebrate Freedom Week” in Tennessee public schools.   The timing coincides with Constitution Day, which is also known as Citizenship Day, commemorating the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787.   The purpose is to educate students in grade K-12 about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values upon which it was founded.  This initiative emphasizes the teaching of the country’s origins with an emphasis on the founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence.    

The Tennessee Department of Education will provide LEAs with online resources and materials for instructional use during Celebrate Freedom Week.  The local schools then have latitude in how they want to teach it. 

Middle College Scholarship Program - A new law was approved this year creating a Middle College Scholarship Program to help students who are earning a MiddleCollege degree.   MiddleCollege is a public community college program that, in partnership with the LEA, permits high school students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree during their junior and senior years.  Although the program facilitates a seamless transition to post-secondary education, due to the requirement that recipients have a high school degree, the students are not eligible for the Tennessee Promise Scholarship. 

The legislation calls for a grant of $600 per semester, or $1,200 per year, to offset the cost of tuition and books during the two-year program.  It also expands eligibility for the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship to students who complete MiddleCollege. 

MiddleCollege students are among the most sought-after students in the nation by four-year colleges and universities and typically achieve 100 percent proficiency on high school benchmark exams.  

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) - Legislation was passed requiring LEAs to offer at least four early post-secondary credit courses to students with the goal of encouraging them to partner with others or institutions of higher learning. This provides students a chance to take more advanced classes and prepare for their future. These courses can be provided through traditional classroom setting, online, blended learning, or other appropriate methods. 

Tri-Star Scholar - Students who earn a 19 or above on the ACT (or equivalent SAT score) and a capstone industry certification will be recognized as a Tennessee Tri-Star Scholar upon graduation under a new law enacted this year.  It encourages more students to take the ACT or SAT tests, hopefully leading to a greater number of students pursuing higher education degrees or post-secondary certifications.  

General Assembly Pages - A bill passed this year requiring a school to count a child who serves as a page in the General Assembly as present for attendance, in the same manner as an educational field trip, due to the educational experience.  Pages, whose duties consist of anything from making copies, running errands within the Capitol building, to distributing legislative information to members of the General Assembly, get a unique front-row view of the lawmaking process.   

American Sign Language (ASL) - Legislation received final approval during the first half of the 110th General Assembly that requires the State Board of Education to adopt a policy allowing ASL courses to satisfy the foreign language credits.  State law is already supposed to encourage Tennessee schools to offer courses in ASL and to accept them as satisfying a foreign language requirement.  However, there has not been any movement to comply with the 1990 law.  This new statute seeks to help the more than 500,000 Tennesseans who are deaf or hard of hearing and who use ASL as their primary form of communication.

Physical Activity / Recess - Legislation was enacted in 2017 that clarifies Tennessee’s law regarding school recess requirements, requiring a minimum of 130 minutes of physical activity each school week for elementary school students and 90 minutes for middle and high school students.  The new statute provides that physical activity must be at least 15 minutes to qualify as recess to ensure a benefit to the student.   It also ensures that recess does not replace current PE programs.   

  You May Contact Senator Hensley at 309 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243, 615-741-3100, Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, Fax 615-253-0231, 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN38462, Phone 931-796-2018, Cell Phone 931-212-8823. E-mail: