Newly released state data found Texas elementary schools have reached their lowest proficiency in math in six years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across Texas, data shows that students in grades three through eight lost substantial growth in both reading and in math, as the number of students who did not meet state standards increased across all subjects since the test was last administered in 2019. The number of students who did not meet state standards in math increased from 21 percent in 2019 to 37 percent in 2021, according to the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.
Trends suggest students did more poorly in math than in reading. Education researchers believe this is due to parents being better prepared to provide children with support in reading than math.
For those in HISD, the biggest drop in test scores for students was in eighth-grade math. Compared to the 28 percent of students who did not meet standards in 2019, 66 percent of students did not meet state proficiencies.
However, there were a number of caveats along with this year’s STAAR test, including system crashes and the optional nature of the exam for those who were remote.
The Texas Education Agency further found students who learned remotely had noticeably lower scores than those who were in person.
“[I]t is also painfully clear that the pandemic had a very negative impact on learning. I shudder to consider the long-term impact on children in states that restricted in-person instruction,” says Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
In April 2021, Gov. Abbott announced the release of the federal COVID-19 relief fund intended for public schools after months of debate. Two-thirds of the funding was to be made available immediately, while the remaining third will be distributed pending federal approval.
While students went almost an entire year without this additional aid, there is a widening gap in Texas education. There is hope that this funding will help shrink this gap.
Furthermore, House Bill 4545 was recently passed and is to go into effect at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. HB-4545 is designed to provide additional instruction to those who did not meet state standards on the STAAR the previous year. However, alongside this additional instruction is the elimination of retaking STAAR if a student failed the previous year. Morath explains, “STAAR is about identifying student need and creating targeted supports from us as adults. So, students who do not meet grade level are now entitled to receive extra services from their districts.”