Public school students made improvements in all subjects except English I on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR).
The STAAR tests are administered in five subjects: Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II, and U.S. History. These are technically high school subjects, but school systems commonly let middle school students take certain freshman classes early, such as Algebra I or English I.
According to statewide results released last week, Texas public school students are climbing out of the pandemic trough in terms of how many passed their STAAR tests. While none of the scores that dropped last year immediately spiked back to pre-pandemic levels, results in the Algebra I, Biology, English II, and U.S. History tests show clear growth in the percentage of students that passed.
Last year, Algebra I had the steepest drop in passing students, falling from 84 percent of students to 72 percent at the end of 2021.
74 percent of Texas students passed the Algebra I STAAR this year, a modest gain of two points.
Notably, students performed worse in one of the few subjects that saw improvement during the COVID-19 period: English I, which maintained upward momentum from 2018 through 2021. Historically the state’s worst-performing STAAR subject, it was the only subject to see a decline this year. 63 percent of students passed the English I test this year, down three points from the year before.
Under the state’s performance standards, students need not “meet grade level” to pass the STAAR. A student who “approaches grade level” understanding of the subject earns a passing grade.
Since 2017, the highest performance label has been “masters grade level,” indicating that a student shows an advanced understanding of the subject.
Results for this category of scores followed similar trends.
The share of highest-performing students in each subject has remained far stabler since 2019 except for Algebra I, which dropped even more sharply for the highest-performing students than for those who merely passed. History and biology both saw slight 4-point dips in the percentage of students mastering grade level from 2019 to 2021, an appreciably shallower drop than the percentage of students approaching grade level in the same subjects during the same time period.
As for the most recent scores from spring 2022, the shares of students that mastered grade level in algebra, history, and biology all grew slightly. The shares of students passing history and biology grew by one point apiece, commensurate with growth in the same subjects for all students that passed.
The state has been redesigning the STAAR since 2019, but the new version won’t be implemented until the 2022-2023 school year begins this fall.
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