AUSTIN (KXAN) — When it comes to the pandemic’s impact on learning across Texas, the numbers spell out the obvious. It’s been bad.
Local school districts are now unveiling their annual reports as they look for ways to move ahead after a series of disrupted semesters and learning loss.
Hays CISD was slated go over its 2021 Texas Academic Performance Report from the Texas Education Agency during its regular meeting Monday night. Round Rock ISD and Lake Travis ISD did the same last week.
The TEA report contains last summer’s STAAR test results that showed drops in performance across the board for Texas students, particularly in reading and math.
Because of the learning loss, Texas state lawmakers gave parents the option to have their child repeat a grade or course ahead of this school year.
Governor Greg Abbott’s re-election team is looking to make that option permanent, by pushing an amendment to the state constitution. The move would “reinforce that parents are the main decision makers in all matters involving their children,” according to tweet from Abbott’s personal account last week.
KXAN asked eight local school districts how many parents opted to hold their child back. The districts that replied didn’t have the data readily available.
Austin ISD’s director of counseling and mental health. Dr. Twyla Williams said the effects of keeping a student from advancing depend on the individual child and their age.
“Say a kindergartner or a first-grader, it may not have much of an impact on that younger student as it would a fifth-grader transitioning into sixth grade or an eighth-grader transitioning to ninth,” Williams said.
Statia Paschel, AISD’s Director of Social-Emotional Learning and Cultural Proficiency & Inclusiveness, said parents considering retention for their child need to keep the pandemic’s challenges in mind.
“Use a different lens when you’re assessing what is proficient and what should be expected academically from [a] student during this time, what is most important in this moment,” Paschel said.
Associate Professor David DeMatthews with the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education said pandemic or not, retaining a student shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Sometimes, I think policy decisions are made in a kind of quick moment at a time where there might be a need, but the long-term effects of that could be problematic,” he said.
A recent education policy analysis done at the University of Connecticut found that having a child repeat a grade has no lasting benefits for student achievement and that it might, in fact, have negative consequences for both students and districts.
The study found the gains a student makes by repeating a year often fade away as their education continues. Non-academic negative effects include behavioral difficulties and lower peer acceptance.
Rather than keeping a child back in a grade, researchers recommend interventions for students like tutoring or individualized in-classroom learning, specifically tarted to the needs of the student.