New SCS data show students are falling behind during virtual learning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Shelby County Schools work to ensure a safe re-opening, new data show students may not be doing well with virtual learning.

Diagnostic numbers for August to November were presented at the school board academic review meeting this week. The chief academic officer for Shelby County Schools says the numbers are troubling. He says the testing data shows many students are not meeting state standards.

“Our kids in certain areas are struggling in this pandemic. The benchmark goal for grades 3-5 is 40%, in middle grades, it’s 35%, and in high school, it’s 30%,” said Antonio Burt.

Since the introduction of virtual learning districtwide, only about 28% of students scored at or above grade level in English, language arts, and math. Middle School students have shown the most struggles with only about 8% of middle schoolers proficient in English and 10% in Math.

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“Not only are they having to complete their assignments, they’re trying to help their brothers and sisters,” said Burt. “And some have to take on additional responsibilities as far as financial support.”

Things are different for younger students. They’re scoring much higher than other levels, but some officials suggest that adults at home may be helping them with online tests.

Board member Stephanie Love questioned if there’s data to show technology issues by students.

“Because what I don’t want to do is have students in a position where you’re offering them a support they do not need. I’m pretty sure all students will need some kind of support,” said Love.

Shelby County Schools made sure to emphasize that the data is from diagnostics and not grades.

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SCS says it uses periodic tests to predict how students would perform on the state’s annual standardized test known as TNReady. Before the pandemic, in 2019, about 21% of students met state requirements for English, and 27% met standards for math.

“We’re checking in with the students and following up with them to see what those barriers may be, and we’re looking at providing additional resources for incentives and celebrations to find out what’s the best way to do it since technically we’re in this virtual space,” said Burt.

While some may point to the data to argue for in-person learning, the district says in December, only 32% of families chose to send their kids back to schools.

There is a school board committee meeting Thursday afternoon. The district plans to release an update to its SAFE Re-Entry Plan.