Tennessee Dept. of Education report finds schools and students across the state are struggling

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A recent completed report by the Tennessee Department of Education has revealed some disturbing trends are getting worse, and “at-risk students” may be in danger of falling through the cracks and missing an education.

Schools and students are struggling to adapt to COVID-19 across the state, but new stats show that Shelby County Schools might be even more at risk to COVID-related challenges, creating issues that could affect some students for the rest of their lives.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said the report is very alarming.

“We are seeing through this report, an alarm that’s been sounded,” Lee said. “Especially with regard to not only the short-term impacts on kids but the long-term impact on our state.”

Due to COVID-19, most Tennessee educational systems were remote or shut down entirely for more than six months before the start of the most recent semester. The time out of buildings and away from teachers has set back the state, which was already below the national average, leading to some disturbing numbers.

Dr. Penny Schwinn, the Commissioner Tennessee Department of Education, said the numbers are startling

“We are estimating a 50 percent decrease in proficiency in third-grade reading, and we are projecting a 65 percent decrease in proficiency in third-grade mathematics,” Schwinn said.

Gov. Lee said he is particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact on minorities and low-income students. He continues to promote in-person learning when possible, and the vast majority of districts across the state are doing that.

However, two of Tennessee’s largest districts, including Shelby County, continue to press on with a full-digital approach. At the same time, this has been a disadvantage to many families across the county.

Schwinn said parents can continue to support learning at home by reading to their children. She said they have resources available for families on their website that allow them to do some of that at-home work.

But that does not solve the problem for the thousands of SCS’ students who have yet to log into their digital learning curriculum, or families that simply don’t have the time and resources to monitor their child’s online learning daily and the consequences of falling behind now could dramatically impact the future.

“We know there is an extraordinary cost in things that we don’t measure through standardized tests. The way in which students interact with one another. The way in which they are able to solve problems,” Schwinn said.

WREG-TV reached out to SCS to get a response about this new report by the Tennessee Dept. of Education, but they have not responded by the time this article was written.

The state recently received $40 million in competitive grants and $20 million of which is specifically designated for at-risk students.

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