KCS Superintendent believes more in-person learning will help students recover from class missed at end of last year

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — State officials released preliminary data Wednesday, which shows a direct impact from the abrupt ending to the last school year on student performance. It predicts a 50% drop in third grade reading proficiency and a 65% decrease in math. While their release noted learning loss is typical over the summer months, the loss from the extended break is projected to be 2.5 times worse.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said Thursday the district is actively reviewing the impact the lapse in instruction is having on students; however, he did note some teachers have reported seeing writing issues, as well as emotional and social development problems in students. He thinks getting more students back to the classroom is key.

“Some of the students who need the in-person learning the most are in the virtual platform. My hope is over the next few weeks…we have a significant number of students who will come back to us,” Thomas said.

Chris Letsos, Chief Executive Officer of the Knox Education Foundation, is optimistic, despite the grim statistics. He believes the issues can be addressed, but the first step is meeting the social and emotional needs for students, who learn best under stress-free and safe environments.”

He also believes the best way to mitigate the learning loss is by ensuring every student is on equal footing. That includes assisting with access to internet access, and other barriers impacting students from financially-disadvantages homes.

“I think we all have to come together to help make up for those lost days, hours, and weeks of learning for those children,” he said. “It’s going to take reimagining education to do that where we integrate learning in every action in school, home, and our communities.”

Specifically, he said the solution will take the whole community working toward creative, whole-child, solutions, and making sure basic needs are met before subjects like reading and writing can be addressed. He thinks this missed in-person learning can be reversed through “high expectations, equal opportunities, and equitable opportunities, and frankly, through caring adult relationships.”

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