After a year of students moving between online and in-person learning, results of 2021 state testing have been released and show a mix of declines and gains.
In statewide results, all but seven performance levels in elementary and secondary STAAR and end-of-course exams showed declines. However, some local districts saw gains, especially in the areas of reading and English.
Navasota schools saw gains in multiple grade levels in reading, math, writing and science, either through an increasing number of students who met or mastered the grade level in 2021 or a decline in the percentage of students who did not meet that standard set by the state compared to 2019.
On the English I end-of-course exam, high school students in Bryan went from 0% reaching the masters grade level mark in 2019 to 6% of students reaching the highest level this year. There was also a 16% gain in the approaches and meets performance levels for the course.
Most of the gains College Station schools saw came in the reading, writing and U.S. history courses with English II results showing a 9% increase in students meeting the masters performance level and 8% more at the meets standard level.
The Hearne school district saw the fewest number of gains in the area, showing a 1% gain in students mastering the fifth grade reading and biology end-of-course exam performance levels.
Hearne Superintendent Adrain Johnson wrote in a text message that the district is looking for ways to build capacity for in-person instruction to address learning losses, saying those losses are reflective of most districts in the state.
The Texas Education Agency identified math as the area seeing the largest decline. In a press release accompanying the announcement of the results, the TEA noted school districts with a higher percentage of online students seemed to show greater declines.
A comparison published by the TEA showed larger learning losses at districts with fewer than 25% of students in person for most of the year as compared to districts with more than 75% of students in person for most of the year. The losses were greater for districts with more remote students across all demographic and economic categories.
The STAAR test had to be taken in person, and districts with more than 75% of in-person students also showed a higher percentage of students tested.
Molley Perry, chief administrative officer for the College Station school district, said she was not surprised to see the statewide decline in student performance, also finding the correlation between in-person learning and smaller declines.
“Not only did students miss a significant portion of face-to-face instruction at the end of the 19-20 school year when statewide, schools were closed to face-to-face instruction, but many districts did not experience the volume of students returning for on-site instruction like we did here in College Station throughout the year,” she said. “There is no doubt that that key element of face-to-face instruction is critical to the success of the vast majority of our students, so a decline was expected, certainly across the state.”
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath stated in the TEA press release that while the assessments may be disheartening, it will allow teachers to build action plans to help students.
The scores will not be used to assign an A-F accountability score for campuses or districts, and there are no results for the 2019-2020 school year because 2020 testing was canceled when schools were forced to close in March 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Perry said even with the results being just data points, the district’s perspective of the STAAR results are still that they only reflect one test on one day.
“That’s just one measure of student performance, and we began back in August looking to see where our students’ strengths and needs were and responded to those much more immediately than an assessment like STAAR could allow us to do,” she said.
To do this, she said, the district uses the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, tests that are given throughout the year. The MAP assessment is something Bryan schools will begin using also.
“We’re going to look at this information, and we’re going to continue to try to improve our instruction for all students because success in life is really our goal here,” more than a performance on a test like STAAR.