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TN Kids Need Help After COVID Learning Disruptions

By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service

American kids are returning to school an average of four to five months behind in their learning, according to a new study.

Groups that support children’s well-being have said the pandemic has exacerbated the disparities in education that have existed for years. Chapple Osborne-Arnold, who works in Tennessee for the nonprofit Save the Children, said the hardest-hit students include those living in poverty.

“And then of course, in rural communities, especially here in Tennessee,” she said, “we are seeing those state test scores from the spring significantly drop compared to years past.”

She added that establishing and normalizing daily routines will be critical for students this fall. Most Tennessee kids start school this week.

In the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results for this spring, less than one-quarter of students in third grade were meeting expectations for grade-level reading, and just 20% met expectations for math.

Shane Garver, Save the Children’s associate vice president for rural education programs, encouraged making sure kids have regular bedtimes and get enough sleep, as well as establishing environments that support homework and learning at home. He said extra support will be important for those who missed out on parts of their education last year.

“Things like after-school programs, additional tutoring programs and learning opportunities in the community are going to be critically important to supporting kids,” he said.

Osborne-Arnold added that Save the Children is partnering with school districts to help catch students up and provide wraparound services – through summer camps, after-school and even in-school programs.

“Tennessee is seeing a surge in COVID numbers,” she said. “So, I think routines now are going to be more important than ever, because no one wants another school shutdown.”

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