NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Student testing, lack of broadband, and fears of low performing students came up Tuesday in a lengthy hearing on how Tennessee schools are doing so far with COVID-19.
They were key issues raised on the first day of a Tennessee House Education Committee hearing. It comes as schools across Tennessee are either online or in class amid the pandemic.
“When we opened we had to fight fear,” said Bradley County Director of Schools Linda Cash. “Are we going to die?”
Those sobering words came from the head of a 10,000 student district east of Chattanooga, but she said after taking precautions there are only a few classroom COVID cases traced to Bradley County schools.
Another key point came from a lawmaker who told the committee what he’s heard from a majority of school superintendents across the state concerning kids who do not learn easily.
“Where we have lost a year, maybe two years of education are in our lower-performing students and I don’t want to wait for a report,” said Greeneville Rep. David Hawk.
Lawmakers also heard from the state board of education about a waiver that pushed back achievement tests for students because of COVID-19.
“On the waiver with all the testing at the end of year, is the board concerned with ongoing educational lapses of those students?” asked Middle Tennessee Rep. Scott Cepicky.
“I think we are still flying blind still as a state not having state tests last spring,” said Dr. Sara Morrison, who is executive director of the state board of education. “But I am concerned that we don’t know how bad the gaps are across the state.”
Along with student testing and an estimated half-million K-12 students learning online, the issue of providing broadband to them remains critical for Tennessee’s vast rural school systems and even in some urban districts.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn was scheduled to testify at mid-afternoon, but the hearing before lawmakers was running more than 90-minutes behind schedule.