Franklin - Brentwood Edition - January 2021

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Students at Williamson County Schools who enrolled in the district’s online learning program saw slightly lower passing rates than in-person students at the same time in 2019-20. For the spring semester of the 2020-21 school year, about 25% of previously online students have opted to return to in-person learning. Online learning

third grade—have lower prociency rates than what the district has typ- ically seen in the past. Only 67% of rst-graders, who would have been kindergarten students in the 2019-20 school year, showed prociency in reading, and only 66% showed pro- ciency in math. “One of the biggest challenges is that K-[second grade] is dedicated to learn- ing to read, so when kids are learning to read, any hiccup along that process is going to have dramatic impacts, whereas when kids are older, they’re using their reading skills to learn more information,” said David Allen, assis- tant superintendent of teaching, learn- ing and assessment for WCS. At district middle schools, average scores for reading and math among students in grades 6-8 decreased by 2%-9% as compared to scores from last year, a net 4% decrease in reading and a net 7% decrease in math. Statewide, concerns about reading skills are much the same. Even prior to the pandemic, early literacy was a concern for students statewide. According to SCORE, only one in three third-graders in Tennessee is reading at an appropriate grade level. “Literacy rates are not great for any students in the state, and we, in par- ticular, focus on literacy prociency at the end of third grade because if you haven’t learned to read well by the end of third grade, the data shows that students don’t catch up in the later years,” Wasson said. Online learning, inequity gaps WCS assessments also show that online learners have a slightly lower passing rate than in-person students as compared to data from the 2019- 20 school year, according to the dis- trict. In the rst quarter of the 2020-21

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Statewide, education experts esti- mate learning loss could range from a few months to up to a year of lost time, which school districts are work- ing hard to recover. Teresa Wasson, director of strategic communications for the State Collab- orative on Reforming Education, or SCORE—a nonpartisan, nonprot edu- cation advocacy group—said Tennes- see is suering from the short-term eects of learning loss and long-term evidence is also becoming apparent. “Everybody knows this has been an extraordinary year, and there’s a lot of concern about learning loss, under- standably, and student experience has been very, very dierent during this pandemic, even within the same district,” Wasson said. Learning loss While the district did not conduct TNReady or TCAP assessments during the 2019-20 school year, WCS fall data indicates some scores decreased as compared to those of years past. In a special meeting Dec. 17, Golden presented the results of those assess- ments to theWCS Board of Education. He said the district issued additional screening assessments in early Jan- uary, the results of which will be reviewed at the end of the year to see how students progressed. “We don’t have anything to com- pare it to for the years past, but it does give us a driver so we can compare what’s happening in the fall to what’s happened in the winter and what’s happening in the spring as we nish the year,” Golden said. Golden said data at the elemen- tary level shows students in younger grades—particularly those lower than

Elementary school

Middle school

High school

Fall 202021

Total: 6,751 online students

3,300

1,613

1,838

Spring 202021 2,271

Total: 5,066 online students

1,055

1,740

SOURCE: WILLIAMSON COUNTY SCHOOLS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

school year, high school passing rates were 1.6% lower than they were at the same time the previous year for in-person students. Among online learners, passing rates were 3.8% lower than the previous year. “We were concerned that this was a risk—that the online students would have a higher failure rate, and they do,” Golden said. “So what that means is more intervention, more intervention.” That rate could change again in spring semester assessments, as 25% of online learners opted to return to campus at the start of 2021. Middle and elementary school students saw the highest rates of returning to cam- pus, as a combined 1,587 students opted not to continue online learning. While there has been a loss in learn- ing prociency overall, Wasson said, such losses are often more signicant for students of color and those who are economically disadvantaged. Additionally, the eects of the pan- demic on learning do not end after graduation, according to SCORE. The organization estimates an average

19% of students statewide did not enroll in community college programs in 2020. Racial gaps are evident there as well: White student enrollment was down by 17%, and Black student enrollment was down by 31%. “That’s very troubling given the fact that most jobs in Tennessee now and in the future are going to require employees to have that kind of educa- tion after high school,” Wasson said. Student intervention By pursuing early intervention, school ocials said they hope to close

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