MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With millions of kids in Tennessee still learning remotely, the learning losses are piling up.
The Tennessee Department of Education recently released data showing only about one-third of Tennessee third graders can read at grade level.
The data shows a 50 percent decrease in proficiency rates in 3rd-grade reading and a 65 percent decrease in math.
State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said we have to acknowledge in-person learning is stronger, but the time-frame on when kids can return to the classrooms will be different in every part of the state.
“It is such a hard balance when folks want what’s best for their children and want to make sure their children have an excellent education, but also have some very real concerns about health and safety,” Schwinn said.
Students in Shelby County have been learning virtually since last spring. None of them will return to school until at least February.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is now calling for a special session on Jan. 19 to address what he says are ‘urgent education issues.’
“The special session can really help address that,” Schwinn said. “I think it can happen through funding and how we think about ensuring our schools have the resources they need,” Schwinn said.
Schwinn said Shelby County is slated to get more than $200 million from the government and the U.S. Department of Education. The money will go toward providing students with more summer learning and tutoring opportunities.
Additionally, Tennessee is launching a new literacy program called ‘Reading 360’ to help students read proficiency by the 3rd grade.
“It’s going to be a couple of years of recovery,” Schwinn said. “It is not going to be something that when the pandemic is over, so is the impact of the pandemic.”
But Schwinn said there is hope when it comes to the state of education in Tennessee.
“I do believe we will come out stronger on the other side,” she said. “And I believe we will have more opportunities for more children because of the lessons we’ve learned and because Tennesseans are strong.”
Schwinn said Tennessee teachers are next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, which will play a huge part in how soon students can return to the classrooms.
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