Watch the 2021 Summer Study recording here

1. What is Summer Study?

Summer Study is an informal, out-of-session opportunity to analyze and discuss the implications of specific bills, programs, and other education issues. The 2021 Joint House Education Summer Study was held Wednesday, September 22, and Thursday, September 23, with the House Education Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Mark White of Memphis, the House Education Instruction Committee, chaired by Rep. Debra Moody of Covington. They were joined by the House Civil Justice Committee’s Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Mary Littleton of Dickson. 

2. How are agenda items selected for Summer Study?

Committee bills can be assigned to Summer Study for additional review and discussion during the business of the regular legislative session, which generally occurs between January and late April or early May of each year. Other major, timely topics for consideration, i.e. chronic absenteeism and truancy, that may not necessarily be associated with an existing, specific bill can also be suggested for placement on the agenda. The final agenda is ultimately at the discretion of the chairs of the committees, however.

3. The first topic for discussion was chronic absenteeism and truancy, which continues to be a challenge for the state because districts classify absences differently.

The Joint Committees began Summer Study with a discussion of chronic absenteeism and truancy’s impact on student academic, social, and emotional well-being. Presenters represented perspectives from schools, districts, boards of educations, court systems, research, and nonprofits. A Tennessee student is chronically absent if they miss 10% or more instructional days. Truancy rates are based exclusively on unexcused absences. Districts classify excused and unexcused absences differently, and state reporting does not differentiate attendance due to suspensions. The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability shared pre-pandemic chronic absenteeism data and reporting on statewide trends, separated data by student groups, and identified the prevalence of different attendance barriers. They found that economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities are 7.6 and 5 percentage points more likely to be chronically absent than their peers. Additionally, 69.3% of Tennessee’s schools had modest to significant levels of chronic absenteeism over the 2016-17 through 2018-19 school years. Stakeholders identified promising practices, including offering providing wrap-around services to address student’s nonacademic barriers to attendance, as well as policy solutions that create consistency across district and school attendance policies to improve data accuracy and intervention strategies for TDOE and juvenile courts. 

4. Commissioner Schwinn presented 2021 summer learning camp data to the Committees.

After lunch, The Tennessee Department of Education reviewed the 2021 summer learning camps based on the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act. Approximately 20% of K-12 students in Tennessee participated in one of the three summer camps, with an overall 96% attendance rate. The Commissioner noted that there were tradeoffs made in order to measure student learning, with time set aside during the camps for administering assessments to gather data. Across those pre and post-assessments, students grew in ELA by 5.97 percentage points and 10.49 in math. The Department found no discernible difference in performance between economically disadvantaged students and their peers. Overall, the 2021 summer camps cost $135.3 million, or $1,127 per student. The Governor announced on the same day as this meeting that students in Summer Programs had made academic gains in literacy and math. 

5. Legislators discussed student performance data and the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

The focus of the second day of Summer Study was TVAAS, which is a tool Tennessee uses to measure academic growth from year to year by comparing a student’s performance levels to their prior achievement history. During Summer Study, there was a presentation by John White, the Senior Director of SAS EVAAS for K-12, about TVAAS scores, calculation breakdown, and impact.  In Tennessee, TVAAS was developed as a resource for educators and is used as part of their evaluation, in addition to providing information for the state report card and federal accountability. The pandemic has presented new considerations for measuring growth since learning conditions were disrupted, some data wasn’t available, and fewer students took assessments. Mr. White described how reviewing the 2020-21 TVAAS reports will be helpful in order to understand the impact of COVID-19 and how schools and districts grew over the past two years. This past year’s TVAAS report will also highlight the challenges and successes of specific student populations and most importantly, how we can apply what we learned to future instruction to support students as they recover from unfinished learning. Mike Winstead, the Superintendent of Maryville Schools, closed the TVAAS conversation by emphasizing how TVAAS shows that poverty rates do not pre-determine performance, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing child development.

Equitable Considerations: 

  • How are districts and the state leveraging ESSER funding and other sources to address student and families’ non-academic barriers to attendance?
  • What were the summer learning camp assessment participation rates and how do participation rates impact the growth data presented?
  • How did Black and Latino students, English learners, students with disabilities, and students identified for priority status perform on the summer learning camp assessment relative to other student groups?
  • How will 2020-2021 TVAAS data be used for accountability and other factors, and what are the limitations that should be considered?