EducationNewly Released TEA Data Shows Drop in Test Scores, Spike in Emergency Teacher Credentials Last School Year

More teachers were working under emergency or provisional credentials, but fewer were inexperienced than in previous years.
December 17, 2021
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) just released new data for the 2020-2021 school year, and the results for elementary and middle school children solidify what the TEA already knew: it was a bad year for learning.

Every year, the TEA publishes data about student success, staff quality, and other records in the state’s federal report card. An exception was made for test score data in the 2019-2020 school year since Abbott waived testing requirements due to COVID-19.

Texas public school students from the 3rd grade to the 8th grade take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) at the end of each semester. On December 14, the TEA released its overall calculations of STAAR scores for the whole state. Scores by campus, district, and region were already available.

After the data gap in 2020, students in grades 3-8 show a clear decline in STAAR success.

Before 2017, the technical names for “Passing, Intermediate, and Advanced” scores were “Level II Satisfactory,” “Level II Final,” and “Level III Advanced.” After 2017, they are “Approaches Grade Level,” “Meets Grade Level,” and “Masters Grade Level.”

In fact, the state’s overall percentage of children that pass the STAAR had not dipped below 70 percent since at least before 2014. In the 2020-2021 year, just 67 percent of children passed.

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Since 2017, Texas has used a four-part system to describe students’ STAAR performance. From lowest to highest, the possible performance levels are “did not meet grade level,” “approaches grade level,” “meets grade level,” and “masters grade level.” To pass, a student must approach grade level.

The STAAR is administered in several subjects. Although the TEA made scores available in June, the agency did not aggregate statewide scores for all subjects until the release of the federal report card on December 14.

When the TEA did release scores in June, data showed that high schoolers fared poorly as well, with some subjects plunging to their lowest success rates in years. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath largely attributed the dip to virtual learning.

The report card also shows that Texas relied more heavily on emergency credentials for teachers than in previous years. The share of teachers working under emergency or provisional credentials jumped from about 17,000 teachers in the 2019-2020 year to 24,855 last year, or a 2 percent increase out of the total workforce.

Fortunately, the report also shows that students learned under more experienced staff last year. Though Texas public schools hired more teachers and administrators than ever before, both the number and percentage of inexperienced staff dropped.

The jump in emergency credentials and dip in new staff together could suggest that schools drew a substantial share of the teaching workforce out of retirement.

Furthermore, fewer teachers taught outside their own field last year. Report card trends show a visible dip in the share of teachers working in subjects or fields for which they are not licensed in the 2020-2021 year.

Lastly, the report also includes a measurement of school success, determined by high school students’ college, career, or military readiness (CCMR).

Notably, schools gauged students’ readiness to be very high when STAAR requirements were waived. In the 2019-2020 school year, 71 percent of students were deemed ready for life after high school. The year afterward, CCMR fell ten percent.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.