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HomeEducationTennessee’s first summer camps yield improvements in reading, math

Tennessee’s first summer camps yield improvements in reading, math

Tennessee public school students who participated in recent summer learning camps showed improvement in reading and especially in math, based on test results released on Wednesday.
Gov. Bill Lee’s administration reported an overall improvement of nearly 6 percentage points in English language arts and more than 10 percentage points in math for students who attended the six-week camps.
About 120,000 students in grades 1-8 — or 20% of those who were eligible — enrolled in the voluntary camps that districts were required to host under a new law aimed at recouping pandemic-related learning loss. The state picked up the $160 million tab.
“We know it’s been a tough year, but we’re very encouraged by this data that shows that swift action did pay off,” Lee said during a conference call with reporters.
Tennessee has been one of the most aggressive states in the nation in trying to address declines in student proficiency as the pandemic creeps into a third straight academic year. In January, Lee called a special legislative session for lawmakers to focus on K-12 education and approve initiatives to launch summer camps and after-school tutoring and to emphasize phonics-based literacy instruction.
Results provided Wednesday were the first learning-related data shared since early August, when the state released its first pandemic test scores showing a dramatic reversal of previous gains. Overall student proficiency declined 5 percentage points since 2019, the last time the state administered standardized tests under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, also known as TCAP.
Summer camp data showed improvement was markedly higher among students in the elementary grades than for middle schoolers.
In math, elementary school students saw an improvement of nearly 12 percentage points — double the performance of middle school participants. Middle schoolers who are considered economically disadvantaged improved more than their peers who are more affluent, officials said, without providing specific data.

A writing exercise during a summer learning camp at Rutland Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, TennesseeMarta W. Aldrich / Chalkbeat

In reading, elementary grades showed an improvement of over 7 percentage points, compared to less than 1 percentage point for middle school students. The state reported “no discernable difference” in reading improvement based on students’ economic status.
The department used 10-question tests anchored in the state’s academic standards to measure improvement from the outset to the end of the camps, which were required to provide six hours of daily instruction in reading and math five days a week.
The state did not provide attendance data other than to report that attendance was higher in elementary schools than middle schools.
State officials also did not respond to questions about the percentage of camp participants who took both tests, but Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn called it a representative sampling.
Schwinn also said the 10-question assessment was the right tool to measure improvement over the summer.
“I do not think it’s appropriate to give students a 3-hour test at the beginning and the end of a summer program,” she said, adding that the assessments gave her department “a directional sense on improvement.”
“I feel strongly that we absolutely saw academic benefits,” she added, noting ancillary benefits in student confidence, engagement and — for those returning to in-person instruction after a year of remote learning — preparation to re-enter classrooms.
Schwinn was to present the data to state lawmakers later in the day during a joint meeting of House Education committees.
This developing story will be updated with discussion from the afternoon legislative hearing.



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