Texas Education Agency Releases End of Year STAAR Test Results to Mixed Reactions

The Texas Education Agency has released end-of-course STAAR results, which have received mixed responses as multiple changes were made to the exam.

The Texas Education Agency has released the scores of its end-of-year Standard Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test, and they have been met with a range of reactions.

Some tout the results as showing marked improvement and recovery of scores after the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are more hesitant, saying long-term outcomes have become “concerning.”

In a press release, the TEA stated that their end-of-course STAAR results “show progress and continued academic recovery among Texas public school students who endured multiple years of pandemic-induced disruptions to learning.”

“The number of students that achieved Approaches grade level or above increased in all five tested subjects,” said the TEA.

According to the TEA, scores improved and approached grade level achievement or above compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, in Biology, English I, English II, and U.S. History. The results are also reported to show the STAAR’s largest “year-over-year gain” in Biology.

There are two notable elements pertaining to the most recent results: that the STAAR test underwent a redesign for this past year, and that the context to “pass” the end-of-course exam requires further clarification.

First, the STAAR test redesign changed many aspects of the exam. The TEA increased the number of open-ended questions because of an established “multiple choice cap” that limits multiple choice questions on the exam to account for no more than 75 percent of points.

The test is now also required to be administered online, which TEA said, “provides faster test results, improves test operations, and allows new non-multiple-choice questions.”

Second, to “pass” the exam a student only needs to reach the “approaching” standard. This is “important to caveat,” according to Texas 2036, when contextualizing the reported positive trends because it recognizes that “‘passing’ doesn’t actually mean the students are meeting grade level expectations.”

“This is one of many areas where the state’s accountability system has expectations lower than many in the public might expect and why persistent efforts to further water down our accountability system are misguided,” states Texas 2036. “Even at this lower passing standard, more than a quarter of students can’t even approach grade level in Algebra or English.”

The long-term downward trends of educational achievement are not exclusive to Texas students.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has monitored academic performance since the 1970s and has noted that national scores on reading and mathematics have declined since 2020. The NAEP found reading scores for 13-year-olds in five different percentile levels declined from 2020 to 2023; similarly, math scores for the same age group in all five selected percentile levels declined in the same time period.

Additionally, analysis by the NAEP found a correlation between how much a student enjoys reading “for fun” and how well they perform on reading tests.

“Fifty-one percent of 13-year-old students scoring at or above the 75th percentile in 2023 reported that they read for fun on their own time at least once a week, whereas 28 percent of 13-year-old students scoring below the 25th percentile reported doing so,” the NAEP wrote.

Calls for changes to the school system are not new, as many have urged Texas lawmakers to implement school choice legislation as a remedy for falling scores. This comes amid recent polling from Gallup showing trust in public schools hitting record lows in 2023.

Gov. Greg Abbott is a longtime supporter of school choice legislation and has confirmed that a school choice special session will be called following the resolution to the current special session addressing property taxes.

SOURCE: The Texan