The scores in reading, writing, math and science as well as end-of-course exams for high school students offer a tangible look at the learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the state saw an overall decline of 4% in students who passed reading tests this year compared with 2019. Math scores across Texas saw a 15% decline in passing scores, according to the state.
In LISD, passing rates declined in almost all tests as well. There was a significant decrease among seventh-grade students taking the math STAAR, with 53% passing in 2021 compared with 74% two years ago. Other decreases include eighth-grade math, which went from 88% passing to 72% this year, and the algebra I end-of-course scores, which went from 92% passing to 81% this year.
LISD officials said in a statement that they are continuing to analyze the results and urged the community to not jump to conclusions.
"It would be a disservice to our students, staff and families for us to draw any overarching conclusions based upon the data we received yesterday," the statement read. "If there is any major takeaway from this school year, it is that we are so proud of the work of our students and staff to persevere through an extremely challenging year together, regardless of the obstacles we faced."
An area where LISD saw gains was in the English I end-of-course scores. While 49% students passed in 2019, the percentage of students passing this year shot up to 73%.
Another trend emerging from the results involved in-person versus virtual learning.
“What we know now with certainty is that the decision in Texas to prioritize in-person instruction was critical,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said. “Where we saw very high rates of in-person instruction, we saw almost no reading declines.”
Morath said schools statewide with 76% or more of their students in-person had better test scores than those with more virtual learners.
During the 2020-21 school year, LISD gave families the option of choosing each nine weeks whether a student would be in-person or learning virtually.
“This was not a year like any normal year that our students have had to face, that our teachers have had to face," Morath said. "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.”
LISD officials stated that comparing scores to previous years could be misleading because of differences surrounding this year's testing. Statewide, for example, 85% of students in grades three through eight took STAAR exams compared with 96% two years ago.
LISD officials noted that students this year had only one chance to take the test whereas in previous years students could take a test twice. This was also the first year for fourth-graders taking a STAAR test because tests were not given when they were in third grade, LISD stated.
"We could not have gotten through this school year without the partnership between our students, staff and families and are incredibly grateful for the support we have received from our community," according to the district's statement. "We know our students will continue to thrive as part of the LISD family."
Matt Stephens contributed to this report.