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Analysis Shows Some Tennessee Students Lost Months of Learning Between 2019 and 2022

by Jon Styf


A new analysis of data from the Nation’s Report Card shows that Tennessee students lost, on average, what equals five months of math learning between 2019 and 2022 while the state’s students lost four months of reading learning.

The Education Recovery Scorecard, from researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University and Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Project, includes interactive district-level learning loss information from across the state of Tennessee and the country.

“The pandemic was like a band of tornadoes that swept across the country,” said CEPR Faculty Director Thomas J. Kane. “Some communities were left relatively untouched, while neighboring schools were devastated. The Education Recovery Scorecard is the first high-resolution map of the tornadoes’ path to help local leaders see the magnitude of the damage and guide local recovery efforts.”

The report shows that the largest learning losses came in the Shelby County (full year lost), Davidson County (seven months lost) and Montgomery County (six months lost) public schools.

Haywood County (1.28 grade levels), Union County (1.18) and Humphreys County (1.12) had some of the largest rates of learning loss while students in Obion County (gained 0.21 years), Lewis County (0.09) and Maryville County (gained 0.06) were some of the few with scores that rose over the timeframe.

“We now see how much ground districts have to make up to get their students back on track. More than ever, we need district leaders to communicate with their communities on how they are using recovery funds to address those gaps,” said Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

Haywood County (lost 0.8 years), Humphreys (0.76) and Wayne (0.7) were also among the counties with the highest learning loss in reading. Humphreys County students endured deadly flooding two weeks into the 2021 school year that left 20 residents dead and heavily damaged both elementary and junior high schools in Waverly.

Across the country, the report found that the average student between third and eighth grade across the country lost the equivalent of half of a year of learning in math and a quarter of a year in reading.

“The pandemic widened disparities in achievement between high and low poverty schools,” the report showed. “The quarter of schools with highest shares of students receiving federal lunch subsides missed two-thirds of a year of math learning, while the quarter of schools with the fewest low-income students lost two-fifths of a year.”

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter for The Center Square who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Shelby County Public Schools” by Shelby County Public Schools.


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