Updated June 28 5:28 p.m.

The full release of spring 2021 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, and high school end-of-course exam results June 28 largely showed Georgetown ISD falling behind its 2019 performance levels, and that district students this year scored below statewide averages across several grades and subjects.

The dropoff in testing performance was experienced across Texas this spring, a trend Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath labeled as "disheartening" and one he attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was not a year like any normal year that our students have had to face, that our teachers have had to face. The impact of coronavirus on what school means and what school is has been profound. And unfortunately, the impact that the broader conditions of the coronavirus have had on schools in Texas and what ... will likely be throughout the United States is significant," Morath said during a June 28 conference call.

Within GISD, the percentage of students in third through eighth grade who approached grade-level STAAR scoring dropped off across nearly every testing subject area between 2019 and 2021. The depressed scores ranged from a 1% dip in third-grade reading to a 13% decline in third-grade math. STAAR achievement did increase slightly year-over-year for three exam sections: seventh-grade reading, seventh-grade writing and sixth-grade math.

GISD students did not outpace STAAR statewide averages in any grade or subject area, although the district equaled the state-level marks in seventh-grade reading and seventh-grade writing.

The district fared better in its end-of-course exams for high school students, both compared with its own 2019 achievement levels and statewide figures. While biology and U.S. History scores did drop from their 2019 levels, the percentage of students approaching grade level on each exam was on par with state-level marks and several points above GISD performance on any other tests this year. District high school students also outperformed GISD's 2019 end-of-course testing scores in algebra, English I and English II by between 4% and 25%.

During the June 28 call, Morath also said the percentage of Texas students who participated in spring assessments dipped 9% between 2019 and 2021, and that the districts experiencing the smallest declines in testing performance were those with between 76% and 100% in-person attendance through the 2020-21 school year.

“Where there was very significant rates of remote instruction, we saw the most significant declines in student proficiency," Morath said. “While I think Texas teachers responded heroically to the remote instruction environment, it was just a very difficult environment to teach in and to support students throughout the course of the school year.”

Matt Stephens contributed to this report.

June 25 2:34 p.m.

Preliminary State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, results for Georgetown ISD show an increase in the number of students underperforming for the state's math and reading testing expectations this year compared with 2019, the most recent year the tests were administered.

Texas Education Agency and Data Interaction for Texas Student Assessments figures released this week show 30% of GISD fifth graders and 29% of eighth graders did not meet state expectations for the reading portion of the spring 2021 STAAR exams. Those numbers are up from the 28% of district fifth graders and 25% of eighth graders who did not meet expectations in 2019. The percentage of fifth graders identified as having mastered reading did increase slightly, from 25% to 30%, while the percentage of eight graders mastering the subject fell from 24% to 17%.

The dropoff in meeting expectations across the two years was more pronounced in mathematics exam results. The portion of GISD fifth graders not meeting expectations in math rose a full 10% from spring 2019 to spring 2021, increasing from from 24% to 34% of the hundreds of students tested. A similar trend was tracked among the district's eighth graders, with 34% not meeting math expectations in 2019 compared to 41% in 2021. Mastery of math among fifth graders also fell by 8% between 2019 and 2021, and remained lower among eighth grader results, in which math mastery fell from 11% to 8%.

Statewide math scores show the amount of fifth graders not meeting expectations increased from 17% in 2019 to 31% in 2021. For eighth graders, the pool grew from 19% in 2019 to 40% in 2021.

During a Texas State Board of Education meeting June 23, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath spoke about the “academic damage” the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the state’s school system. Morath said he expects the final STAAR scores will be released June 28 or 29, but called the preliminary numbers “problematic.”

“What that means is that the name of the game for us for the conceivable future, is how do we modify our systems, across all 1,200 school systems in the state of Texas, to increase the rate at which we accelerate learning,” he said.

One reason that students may have done poorly on the STAAR this year, according to Morath, was that they were being “exposed to below grade level material all year long,” which students could not control.

He said under new requirements passed by the Texas Legislature this year, districts have to create a written plan for how they will accelerate learning for students that did not meet grade level in third, fifth and eighth grades.

“For students who are below grade level, that's what we have to do to get them caught up to grade level,” Morath said. “The number of students who are significantly below grade level is far higher this year than we've ever seen it before because of the academic impact of COVID.”

William C. Wadsack contributed to this report.