Students show effect of ‘COVID-19 slide’ in Shelby County TCAP results


A student works with social distancing barriers around his desk at Lowrance Elementary in Memphis.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools says COVID contributed to declines in TCAP standardized test scores for students in 2021.

Data released by the district Wednesday shows this year fewer students were considered proficient in most subjects compared to 2019.

Only 4.4% of students in grades 9-12 had TCAP scores in Math that were considered On Track or Mastered by the state. That’s compared to 12% who met that level in 2019 and 9% in 2018.

Younger students saw even bigger learning losses. Math scores for grades 3-5 declined from 33.5% On Track or Mastered in 2019 to 8.8% in 2021.

Shelby County Schools said in a release that the performance was “below historical norms” but not unexpected given the pandemic.

“Shelby County Schools (SCS) is determined to mitigate the impact of the ‘COVID-19 slide’ on students as we address learning opportunities presented through the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) data,” the district said. “Recognizing that shuttering schools could impact academic achievement, the risks to public health and safety were too great to be ignored. Virtual education was never intended to be a replacement for in-person (K-12) learning; however, considering COVID-19 circumstances, the District quickly adopted innovative ways to deliver instruction.” 

The district noted COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on students of color, impacting the majority of urban school districts like SCS. 

The state said schools and districts would be “held harmless” from the accountability provisions when they met the 80% TCAP participation requirement.

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