AUSTIN (KXAN) — New STAAR data released Monday from the Texas Education Agency reveals that many students tested in 2021 slipped significantly in their academic proficiency compared to 2019, the last year the standardized test was administered.
The results show that the number of students not meeting grade level increased from 2019 across most subject areas and grade levels. Mathematics saw the largest decline in proficiency and districts with the highest percentages of students learning virtually saw the greatest degree of declines.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath warned the State Board of Education last week ahead of the data dump, calling the results “problematic” and saying the state will need to accelerate learning to catch up all scholars who are behind due to the pandemic.
The effects are being felt locally. At the Austin Independent School District, 30% of 7th graders “did not meet” standards for reading. That number jumped to 45% in 2021. The discrepancy was even more heightened for mathematics. In 2019, 44% of 7th graders “did not meet” expectations. That number jumped to 72% in 2021, meaning nearly 3 out of every 4 7th graders were not at their understanding their concepts appropriate for their grade.
NOTE: The following STAAR data, courtesy of the TEA, represents the percentage point change from 2019 to 2021 for all Texas students tested in reading and math. Math includes tests in grades 3-8 (inclusive of 3-5 tests given in Spanish), and the Algebra I EOC. Reading includes tests for reading (but not writing) in grades 3-8 (inclusive of 3-5 tests given in Spanish, and the English I and English II EOCs.
Among all students tested, there was a 4% increase in students that did not meet their grade level in reading compared to 2019 and a 16% increase in students that did not meet their grade level in math.
The percentage of students who approached, met or mastered their grade level material in both subjects all declined.
The results were also extrapolated to reflect the impact virtual/in-person learning had on subject mastery: The school districts which reported higher in-person student counts performed better on their STAAR tests than districts which reported higher numbers of remote learners.
For example, the districts that reported fewer than 25% in-person students for most of the year saw a 9% increase in students who did not meet their grade level for reading and 32% increase in students who did not meet their grade level in math.
In comparison, for districts that reported more than 75% of in-person students for most of the year, those numbers only increased by 1% and 9%, respectively.
There were positive exceptions, Morath reports, of school districts with high concentration of remote learners who performed satisfactorily. A “commission to study remote instruction” will investigate those outliers to see what additional investments can be made and what new policies can be implemented to create new best practices for virtual instruction.
Morath encouraged parents to get involved, read into their children’s scores and open a dialogue with school principals and teachers to find out what the best course of action is moving forward.
“The data may be disheartening, but with it, our teachers and school leaders are building action plans to support students in the new school year. Policymakers are using it to direct resources where they are needed most. And parents can log into TexasAssessment.gov to understand how well each of their children learned this year’s material, and how to support the academic growth of their children moving forward,” Morath said.
Commissioner Morath said that historically, across all grades, only 4% of students who are below grade level catch up in two years, on average. House Bill 4545, which passed during the 2021 legislative session, requires school districts to offer high performing teachers and tailored tutoring to any student who did not meet their grade level STAAR expectations.
The agency will also be working with school districts throughout the summer to provide “rigorous instructional materials, additional teachers support, help wherever appropriate to expand learning time, and targeted tutoring.”
Gov. Greg Abbott waived grade promotion requirements for the 2021 STAAR tests, but students were still asked to report to campus to take it so the state could determine the effects of the pandemic on the school year.