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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 made a devastating impact on academic achievement not only nationwide, but also among Memphis Shelby County Schools students.

That’s according to the findings released in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card. NAEP tracks the nation’s progress, mostly in fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and math.

Memphis Shelby County students performed lower in the test in 2022 compared to 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are not shying away and are fully transparent with the facts that the pandemic hit students hard nationally, especially locally,” Interim Superintendent Toni Williams said Monday.

Williams said the scores are a “snapshot of one point in time,” and said the school district has interventions and an action plan in place to “reclaim what the pandemic robbed.”

The district says the test came at the peak of the Omicron variant wave, testing students’ reading and math after at-home learning during the pandemic. 

School leaders said many students in the district suffered not only academically due to the pandemic but emotionally.

Approximately 46% of students at Memphis Shelby County Schools are both African American and economically disadvantaged. 

“Our scores reflect a triple burden of poverty, racial disparities and COVID-19,” Williams said.

The district said interventions for improvements are in place thanks to multi-million dollar investments to help expand a traditional school day.

“We are working really, really hard with community partners on this,” Williams said. “This is not a Memphis Shelby County Schools thing. We’re working with our community on our literacy and expanding pre-k and this is essential for literacy skills to flourish.”

She highlighted tutoring that is happening before school, after school and during as well as on Saturdays. The number of students participating in tutoring expanded from 10,000 students last year to 15,000 signed up so far this year.

The district is also asking for the community’s help. It’s always looking for more people to get involved and more paid tutors.

The district is also promoting its new lunch and learn series for parents, where leaders will provide lunch to parents and show them what’s going on in their child’s academics and how they can get extra help.

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