State officials report 'stark learning loss' in students across the state

TCAP results show declines across all subjects
Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 00:24:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee education officials released the 2020-21 Spring TCAP state-level results, which show declines across all subjects and grades.

"We've seen stark learning loss across our state and some of the numbers are very sobering," said Governor Bill Lee.

Governor Bill Lee held a news conference Monday to put the spotlight on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on student achievement. He said the pandemic-related disruptions to education led to declines.

“These results show that COVID-19 has disrupted learning in every school district in Tennessee,” said Gov. Lee. “We’re grateful to the dedication of our educators and districts who worked to mitigate this loss over the past year, and we’re committed to implementing long-term strategies and investments to get our students back on track.”

Multiple state officials spoke at the press conference including Education Commission Penny Schwinn, who said the declines were serious, but that she is confident districts have the tools to help students meet grade-level expectations in the upcoming school year.

"I can’t underscore enough that the pandemic has hurt our movement forward. It has slowed us down," said Commissioner Schwinn. "Having this amount of decline in student proficiency is going to have an impact on students if we do not act with that urgency, if we do not act swiftly and if we are not incredibly strategic about the way we spend our time and money."


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TCAP Results
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TCAP Results
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TCAP Results

See an overview of the state-level results with comparisons by student group and grade level here and additional information here.

Governor Lee said by looking at the results it was clear that minority students have been negatively impacted disproportionately.

The data also showing increases in students scoring below grade level and deceases in scoring Mastered and On Track.

State testing was canceled in 2020, but in 201 students improved in nearly every math subject, older students showed gains in English, and more than half the schools improved in most subjects.

Overall English Language Arts proficiency dropped 5 points from 2019.

  • 3 in 10 Tennessee students are meeting grade level expectations in ELA.
    • 1 in 7 economically disadvantaged students is meeting grade level expectations in ELA.
    • ELA proficiency rates dropped 4 - 6 points across racial and ethnic lines.
  • 2nd & 3rd grades scores showed large increases to students scoring Below.
    • The rate of 2nd graders scoring Below increased 68% , and the rate of 3rd graders scoring Below increased 47%.
    • Students scoring at Below in 2nd and 3rd grades are typically those who are not able to read proficiently.


  • 1 in 4 Tennessee students is on grade level in math.
    • 1 in 10 economically disadvantaged students is meeting grade level expectations.
    • Black students were most impacted in math, with 67% scoring Below and 9% meeting grade level expectations.​
    • Hispanic and Asian students had 12 and 13 percentage point declines, respectively, from 2019.
    • White students experienced ​an 11-percentage point ​decline overall from 2019. ​
  • Overall 3rd grade proficiency declined from 44% in 2019 to 31% in 2021, while 4th grade proficiency declined from 46% in 2019 to 34% in 2021.
  • The greatest drops across subject areas were understanding and using mathematical notation to describe quantitative relationships and situations.
  • Science:
    • Proficiency rates dropped by a third in science, with only 38% of Tennessee students demonstrating proficiency.
    • Drops in science were larger in science than in any other subject area.
  • Social Studies:
    • This data saw fewer declines than other content areas and maintains performance from statewide increases that began in 2018, when standards were updated. ​
    • While proficiency dropped by 4 points in middle school, it increased 4 points in high school.

Sonya Thomas is a parent and the executive director for the Metro Nashville Public School parent group -- Nashville Propel.

"I was not surprised because we knew this a year ago, parents knew how catastrophic this was going to be. And we knew that it and the impact that would have on black children."

Thomas says she and other parents having been fighting for a different approach to help with learning loss.

"We know that our children are not the same. None of them; they all they know different, different interests, they learn different ways. And so, we have been demanding a plan to recover our children a personalized plan for each and every one of them,"said Thomas, "Not a one size fits all."

She says Metro Nashville Public Schools told her staff couldn't do personalized, individual student plans, but Thomas says parents are not giving up on their children.

In January 2021, Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly convened a special legislative session on education, which addressed urgent issues facing Tennessee students and schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the special legislative session passed legislation on accountability, learning loss, literacy, and teacher pay. The Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act established summer learning loss bridge camps for elementary students to help them recover learning loss and accelerate their achievement.


House Speaker Cameron Sexton made it clear that he's not going to tolerate schools closing or requiring face masks.

“I sure hope that school systems do not require a mask mandate for those students," said Speaker Sexton. "And if they do, I’m going to ask the Governor for a special session. If they close the schools, I'm going to ask the Governor for a special session."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says face masks are the best hope for keeping kids in the classroom during the coming year, especially with the more infectious delta variant now sweeping the country.

Currently, there are no school districts in the mid-state with a student mask requirement for the 2021-2022 school year.

The Metro Nashville Board of Education has announced that it will meet this week to discuss the current COVID-19 protocols in place for the upcoming school year.