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TEA reports drop in statewide STAAR test scores due to pandemic

Brazos Valley school districts claim only minor changes measured
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jun 29, 2021

In a news release issued Monday, The Texas Education Agency [TEA] credited learning disruptions caused by the pandemic for lower standardized testing scores seen throughout the state.

The report compared the 2021 spring semester to scores from 2019. It noted that fewer students met their grade level’s testing standards in all subjects except high school English, with the greatest drop in scores reported for Mathematics. However, some Brazos Valley districts have reported less alarming changes to performance.

"Our change overtime was much less drastic than what we saw in the rest of the state," said Molley Perry, Chief Administrative Officer for College Station ISD. "... We saw gains from 2019 to 2021 from several grade levels, in Reading as well as Writing.”

Perry pointed out that approximately 90%of CSISD students had returned to in-person learning by this spring semester. The TEA release notes that school districts with more students attending class in-person, as opposed to virtual learning, performed better overall than their counterparts.

"In Caldwell, we ended online learning for pre-K through third grade by Christmas, and really cut down to less than three percent of our kids doing online learning," said Andrew Peters, Caldwell ISD superintendent. "That made a huge difference.”

Peters noted that although his students out-performed many of their peers across the state this spring through standardized testing, they did initially have to play catch-up when returning to class in the fall of 2020.

"We did very little, as a state, to educate our kids from March 13, 2020, to the end of the school year," he said. "So these fourth graders never got to experience a third-grade test."

Molley Perry explained that the systems College Station ISD has had in place, independent of the pandemic, have not required teachers to place a heavy focus on the STAAR curriculum.

"STAAR performance is really a bi-product of good instruction," she said. "Our focus is not teaching to that test or ensuring our students perform well in that test. We want our students to be successful in life, and assessment of skills on a multiple-choice test is not the best way to accomplish that.”

The TEA release expressed the state's hope to replenish lost learning through means of added district support, and legislation such as Texas HB 4545.