STAAR test results improved this year for Texas elementary, middle school students

STAAR test results for 3rd to 8th grade students came out Friday and the results show an improvement over last year, but there's still a long way to go to address COVID-19 pandemic learning loss.

In the wake of a global pandemic and closures that set student learning back, new STAAR test results show that Texas students are headed in the right direction.

In reading and language arts, the number of 3rd-8th graders meeting the grade level or above is now above pre-pandemic levels.

Math is up since last year, but it has a ways to go to return to pre-pandemic numbers.

"It's going to take time and it's going to take money going to the right places," State Board Of Education Member Aicha Davis said. "The more that we do try and the innovative ways to address student learning, the more we'll get back to where we were any time."

In a statement Friday, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath said: "The investments that the state is making in reading academies and accelerated instruction are clearly paying dividends for our students, and the results are a testament to the hard work of teachers across our state. While we still have much work to do to recover from COVID-related learning loss in mathematics, the improvements our students have made in reading are clear."

"I’m not super surprised. I think there’s several reasons why we may not be seeing the same kind of rebound we saw in mathematics that we saw in reading," said SMU associate professor Candace Walkington, who specializes in math education. "In mathematics, you really have to have a strong foundation in order to learn future math concepts effectively, and assessing whether students have that strong foundation or whether it’s missing is really hard, and you may not see it until they get to those future math concepts."

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The TEA said, when trying to catch students up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, students recovered in reading after four years, but did not recover in math.

Walkington said educators may have to adjust how they’re teaching math too, with students changed after having more control and independence during virtual learning.

"We can’t just go back in time and pretend like the pandemic never happened," she explained. "We have to go back and build on the good parts about it, the parts where students had more say in their learning and more control in order to re-engage them in a post-pandemic world in mathematics."

The TEA said 40% of students met grade level requirements in math, up 5% from last year, and 52% met their grade level in reading, which is up 9%.

Last year, STAAR exams were optional.

This year, the scores will count, and it’s expected that accountability ratings for school districts will be released next month.

Test results for high school students were released a couple of weeks ago, and they were also improved.