2 0 2 1 S P E C I A L E D I T I O N
A statewide survey released in June 2020 by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance found that teachers had concerns about how students would be aected by the pandemic. Since that time, Williamson County Schools has taken steps to address those concerns. Taking action DESIGNED BY LINDSAY SCOTT
high-quality reading materials and supporting current and future teachers to implement these practices.” State action Beyond the moves made by WCS, educators are watching the state cap- itol for future legislation related to funding and accountability. On Dec. 29, Lee called on the Ten- nessee General Assembly to convene for a special session beginning Jan. 12. Lawmakers will focus on ve key issues related to education: learning loss, funding, accountability, literacy and teacher pay. “We know that the COVID-19 pan- demic has caused immense disruption for Tennessee’s students, educators, and districts, and the challenges they face must be addressed urgently,” Lee said in a statement. One law led to date is House Bill 14, also dubbed the School Stabili- zation Act. Proposed by Rep. Scott Cepicky, RCulleoka, the bill would require the Tennessee Basic Educa- tion Program to use results from 2019- 20 assessments rather that 2020-21 assessments when calculating school funding. SCORE also supports not penalizing districts, although Wasson said the organization believes the assessments should still be conducted. “We support statewide assessments every year because it’s one of many metrics that show how well schools are serving all students, and we think that during the pandemic, ... it’s important that we have more infor- mation about student learning rather than less,” Wasson said.
Maintaining relationships with students
Percent of Tennessee teachers expressing concern*
WCS response: In October, WCS approved eight asynchronous days to allow for more professional development with teachers and more one-on-one time with online students. WCS response: WCS initially sought a waiver for exibility on the mandated instructional days but approved full calendars for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. WCS response: The district has worked to hire additional teachers and sta throughout the 2020-21 school year, although ocials said stang has been a challenge.
Accessing remote learning
WCS response: Over the summer, the county purchased more than 18,000 Chromebooks to supply them to each student, as well as mobile Wi-Fi hot spots for those without reliable internet access. WCS response: In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, WCS is providing free meals to students during the 2020-21 school year.
Missing instructional time
Long-term economic impact
*SURVEY TAKERS COULD CHOOSE FROM THREE OPTIONS. SOURCES: TENNESSEE EDUCATION RESEARCH ALLIANCE, STATE COLLABORATIVE ON REFORMING EDUCATION, WILLIAMSON COUNTY SCHOOLSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
learning gaps caused by the pandemic and to allow younger students to catch up. While the district already has math and literacy coaches and 18 interventionists on sta, it does not have full-time interventionists at all schools, a need the district will look to ll when it presents its annual budget to the county. “We will be asking for more inter- ventionist positions because we want to make sure that we don’t have that anomaly that shows up with our screeners for rst grade, and we want to make sure that we do catch up,”
Golden said. The district is also working to implement a new phonics-based pro- gram targeted at younger students to help them improve their early literacy skills. Allen saidWCS has already seen promising results in young readers. Additionally, the Tennessee Depart- ment of Education announced Jan. 4 it will commit $100 million toward a new statewide initiative, Reading 360, which will help students develop phonics-based reading skills by third grade by providing tutoring and online support as well as training for
educators and districts. The program is expected to be funded through one- time COVID-19 relief funds and fed- eral grants, according to the TDOE. “Tennessee has a literacy crisis,” said Sharon Roberts, chief K-12 impact ocer for SCORE, in a statement. “The Reading 360 proposal from [Gov. Bill] Lee and [TDOE] Commissioner [Penny] Schwinn will help school districts and educator preparation programs adopt literacy instruction that is proven to work: developing foundational pho- nics skills, building knowledge with
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