During a June 28 board of trustees meeting, Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright expressed relief about how the district's students scored on 2021 state assessments, despite declines from 2019 results due to the pandemic's effect on learning.

"I would like to point out our average loss from 2019, which was the last time that we took the [State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness] and [end of course] assessments, to 2021 was about nine percentage points across the board in approaches, meets and masters," Wright told board members. "Honestly, I thought it was gonna be a lot worse."

EOC and STAAR assessment results were released June 28 and show HCISD did better than the state average in the majority of subjects.

Exams tested for reading and math in grades three through eight, writing in grades four and seven, science in grades five and eight, and social studies in grade eight. High school end-of-course exams were for algebra I, English I and II, biology and U.S. history.

HCISD students fell behind the state average for students approaching grade level knowledge in seventh-grade math, seventh- and eighth-grade reading, eighth-grade science and eighth-grade social studies testing.

The largest gap, and drop since 2019, was in seventh-grade math, in which the state average was 54% and the district average was 36%. In 2019, HCISD students averaged 63% in seventh-grade math.

While most subjects did see drops in performance at the district level, HCISD students tested better in EOC exams for English II and U.S. history. STAAR results for seventh grade writing remained the same from 2019.

"We fared better than a lot of our neighboring school districts, except for the ones that are really high-income districts," Wright said.

According to the superintendent, the district had more than 80% participation.

Statewide results

During a Texas State Board of Education meeting June 23, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath spoke about the “academic damage” the pandemic has done to the state’s school system.

“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 who 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[-19].”

Additional reporting by William C. Wadsack.