Recently released test scores show that Texas public schools fared better than many through the pandemic, though ground was clearly lost. In a recent column, I examined scores from the National Center for Education Statistics which indicate the declines in averages at a national level; now, we have the state level data.
First, the good news. Texas scores for the most part were not statistically different from national averages. Our students did a little better in some areas (fourth grade math and eighth grade science) and a tad worse in others (eighth grade reading). Compared to other states with large populations, Texas scored notably better than California in several areas, with some better and some worse when compared to Florida, New York, and Georgia. Another good signal in the data is that the gaps between scores for White students and Black or Hispanic students, while substantial, are significantly smaller in Texas than in most areas, meaning that positive results are occurring across racial/ethnic groups (which is not the case in some states). Performance wasn’t uniquely tied to spending per pupil, although resources are very important.
One challenge for Texas is the high proportion of students who are identified as English language learners. While bilingual (English and Spanish) test booklets are offered for the mathematics assessment, they are not permitted in the reading test. Over 26% of Texas students in grade 4 and 21% in grade 8 were in the English learner category. By comparison, in Massachusetts (a top scoring reading state), only 13% of fourth graders and 7% of eighth graders are English learners.
Now, the bad news. As with every other state, Texas scores were lower than they were in 2019, especially in math. Given the disruptions of the pandemic, this result is hardly surprising. Math can be a particularly difficult subject for students to grasp without in-class explanations, and virtual environments simply don’t work as well. The losses wiped away years of progress in improving scores. In addition, the percentages of students meeting higher standards (“proficient” or “advanced” rather than “basic”) would ideally be higher to ensure students are prepared for their future lives and the work they will be doing. Knowledge workers are key to sustainable growth.
Texas teachers, administrators, and other school personnel have worked diligently to keep students from losing as much ground as some parts of the country. COVID-19 was a tragic setback of epic proportions, with vestiges that will no doubt linger for decades. These dedicated educators need our support, including ensuring that they have the financial resources required to lead our students to reach their full potential. Their future depends on it, as does that of the entire state. Onward! Stay safe!
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Dr. M. Ray Perryman, president and chief executive fficer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com). The Perryman Group has served the needs of more than 3,000 clients over the past four decades. The above column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Perryman can be reached by email via: [email protected].
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