NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn said they now have data that shows school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on student proficiencies, especially among younger children.

Dr. Schwinn said Wednesday, “this is incredibly urgent” referring to the need to get students caught up after some have been out of a traditional classroom setting for more than six months.

“What we would traditionally refer to as the “summer slide” is compounded by the fact that we had three additional months of school building closure and many of our students are learning remotely,” Dr. Schwinn said.

Breaking down the data

The following are some of the numbers provided by Dr. Schwinn during Wednesday’s COVID-19 news briefing:

  • Estimating a 50% decrease in proficiency in 3rd-grade reading
  • Projecting a 65% decrease in proficiency in 3rd-grade mathematics

Dr. Schwinn added, “In 3rd-grade we typically have a 33 percent literacy rate, we are probably going to look at somewhere between 12 and 14 percent literacy statewide. We know in mathematics we typically have a 33 to 35 percent proficiency rate in 4th-grade, we are currently looking at 17 percent due to some of the losses as a result of the COVID slide. This is incredibly urgent as I said, especially for our youngest learners and our most vulnerable students. It is going to be critical that we work together with our districts, the department of education, and our legislature.”

During the news briefing, Dr. Schwinn reiterated how remote learning has impacted students during the pandemic, “It is really hard to teach a child to read, but it is really hard to teach a child to read through a computer.”

You can watch the entire briefing on our WATE Facebook page below.