Senator Lamar Alexander said “the message is clear – children need to be in school” after Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Education released new data today that projects significant learning loss among third grade students as a result of COVID-19 school closures in March through this summer.
“In Tennessee, Governor Lee and some national researchers have completed a study of the learning loss in the third grade for reading and math proficiency from children who were not in school from March through the summer.
Now, you always have a learning loss in the summer, but in March through summer, this is what they found: preliminary data projects an estimated 50 percent decrease in proficiency rates in third grade reading and a projected 65 percent decrease in proficiency in math.
“That, in the governor's words, is a dramatic decrease and shows that the vast majority of students learn in person with their teacher. The governor said he is working to create a safe environment so that they can get back to school.”
Senator Alexander said, “The good news is that, according to the governor, 1,800 schools in Tennessee are open, in person, and only seven of those schools have any sort of closure incident today. So this problem hopefully won't be as pronounced this semester in Tennessee, because except in Memphis and Nashville, almost all of our schools are open in-person to some degree.
“The governor went on to say that the March through summer school closings produced a learning deficiency that's expected to be 2.5 times that of a normal summer rate. He also said the learning loss impacts early grades greater than later grades, placing those students further behind in the learning trajectory. Students with lower proficiency rates are also disproportionately impacted by learning loss. In other words, students who are already behind fell behind even further as a result of leaving school in March.
“The message is clear: that children, especially young children who are further behind already, need to be in school so they can be taught in-person so their learning loss is less dramatic.”
Senator Alexander is chairman of the Senate health and education committee. For video of his remarks, click here.
Governor Lee and the Tennessee Department of Education released more information about this data here.