ANDERSON CO./ GRAINGER CO., Tenn. (WATE) — Throughout the pandemic, learning loss has been a hot topic of discussion among school systems all across the country. For the 2020-2021 school year, high school graduation rates dipped in at least 20 states.

Tennessee school systems have been trying to combat learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the state, there was a 0.9 percent decrease in students graduating in 2021 compared to those who graduated in 2020.

Leaders in both Grainger and Anderson Counties said they’re working with not just their high school students but their younger students to help them get back to pre-pandemic level learning numbers.

Governor Bill Lee is proposing extending Critical Early Intervention Services through the Tennessee Early Intervention System to help with this.

“They’re services available to these families such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy to help students and to help these children reach their optimal development,” Dr. Atkins with Grainger County Schools said.

Right now these free services are available to students until the age of three. The proposal will up the age to four. This is one of several programs that school systems are using as they deal with the learning obstacles of the pandemic.

“We have seen the most learning loss in our lower elementary grades in grades 1 through 3, especially in math and language arts,” Atkins.

Grainger County Schools are utilizing tutoring programs to help combat the issue. Atkins added, “We started last week on a daily basis at our elementary schools and it’s through the states project the TN ALL Corps. Not all school systems are doing it but we are.”

Anderson County Schools are using their state funding to do the same.

“Now in our elementary schools and our middle schools, in response to the pandemic learning loss, we’re using money to hire teachers for tutoring,” Ryan Sutton with Anderson County Schools said.

They’re also using credit recovery programs to help their older students.

“Our graduation rate in Anderson County is actually above the state average. We have a 95.2 percent graduation rate,” said Sutton.

Grainger County Schools’ graduation rate was 93.1 percent last year. Atkins stated, “for the 21-22 class we anticipate a similar graduation rate of around 93 percent.”

Both school systems say they’re seeing growth across the board in both education and attendance as they continue to figure out how to navigate the pandemic.

Sutton said, “in the past week we have seen our absentee numbers drop. Still not back to a pre-covid level but the number of students and staff that were out this week are considerably less than they were the week prior to this.”

Students are in the process of taking their Common Assessment Tests.

Both Grainger and Anderson County Schools are seeing some growth but we’re told standardized tests will show the true numbers.

In the meantime, the school systems are encouraging their students to keep pushing through as we are in the second half of the school year.