State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results for spring 2021 showed New Caney ISD students performed better than the state average at some grade levels and worse than or similar to the state average in others. However, the percentage of students who passed exams was lower in almost every subject in spring 2021 than in spring 2019—the last time STAAR was administered.

Texas officials said the COVID-19 pandemic had significant effects on students, which led to a noticeable decline in STAAR performance. STAAR did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic, but state average results in 2021 showed a 4% decrease in students reading at or above grade level and a 15% decline in students doing math at or above grade level from 2019.

"This was not a year like any normal year that our students have had to face, that our teachers have had to face," Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a June 28 press conference. "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."

Scott Powers, executive director of public relations for NCISD, said the district's STAAR results were in line with trends seen across the state due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our scores reflect statewide trends in terms of a decline in proficiency on STAAR in 2021 from 2019 across the tested areas," Powers said in an emailed statement to Community Impact Newspaper on June 30. "While we had some gains in English and biology end-of-course proficiencies, we anticipated learning loss in many areas due to the pandemic and are working, like school districts all across the state, to support accelerated learning and facilitate academic growth in the upcoming school year and beyond."

Statewide STAAR participation was about 87% in 2021 compared to 96% in a normal year, according to Morath. Data from the TEA shows the lowest performance declines were in districts where 76% to 100% of students were learning in the traditional classroom setting as opposed to virtually.

"What we know now with certainty is that the decision in Texas to prioritize in-person instruction was critical," Morath said.

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Danica Lloyd and Matt Stephens contributed to this report.