On June 14th, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released STAAR test results for grades 3-8. 2024 scores are lower than pre-pandemic scores in many categories, particularly in the "mastery" category in most subjects across most grade levels.

Mastery refers to scores that are high enough to indicate that a student will be able to succeed in the next grade, "with little or no academic intervention." Each subject and grade has different scores and metrics to determine mastery.

Read More: AI Grading Texas STAAR Tests Feels Like Pure Hypocrisy |

For instance, 3rd-grade math mastery means a student is doing well with math problems that involve fractions, time, two-step applications, etc., whereas a child who does not meet grade level may not be able to determine the value of coins and bills. It's quite a gap.

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There is a sharp decline in the percentage of children reaching mastery across subjects this year versus 2019, the last year before the test took a year break due to COVID.

Here are the Reading/ Language Arts results:

https://tea.texas.gov/
https://tea.texas.gov/
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These are mixed, with 3rd grade dipping a significant 7%, 4th improving a negligible 1%, 5th remaining the same, 6th improving 8%, 7th remaining the same, and 8th improving 1%.

However, science and social studies are different stories:

https://tea.texas.gov/
https://tea.texas.gov/
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5th grade science tumbled 13%, and 8th 8%. Social Studies was down 2%.

Read More: What Happens If My Kid Fails The STAAR Assessment? |

There is also bad news in math:

https://tea.texas.gov/
https://tea.texas.gov/
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3rd grade is down 9% in mastery, 4th 7%, 5th tumbled 16%, 6th 7%, 7th 6%, and 8th 1%.

So what changed? 

As you can see, the STAAR test was redesigned before Spring 2023, which could account for the change in students achieving mastery. Beyond learning the subject at hand, students are also taught how to take the test- and with a redesign, teachers may have been underprepared.

There is also no denying that losing up to a year of in-person classroom instruction was to the detriment of students, as online learning wasn't universally accessible (particularly to lower-income students) and presented other challenges like controlling noise/ activity in the child's home, tutoring availability, attendance, etc.

Not every child will be a "master" of every subject every year, but this decline doesn't bode well for future STEM students if you believe the test is a reliable metric of understanding the subjects.

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