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TEA commissioner says STAAR test will get a shakeup next year, touts academic recovery

A man in suit and tie stands in front of a lectern, arms outstretched
Bill Zeeble
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told Dallas Regional Chamber members Texas students have largely recovered academically - in reading - from the height of the pandemic, unlike kids most other states.

In his annual address to the Dallas Regional Chamber, Texas Education Commissioner said the state’s students have largely recovered from pandemic-era learning losses in reading. He also said the format of the STAAR test will soon change.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath returned to Dallas Tuesday with a triumphant message he’s touted before.

He reminded members of the Dallas Regional Chamber that the worst of the pandemic wiped out a decade’s worth of academic gains. He said COVID-19 was the largest academic disruption in the last century.

But he also said thanks to an infusion of $20 billion well-spent dollars, Texas has “largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels” in reading. He praised teachers and tutors for their extra efforts that helped lead to, in the last year, “the biggest jumps in math and literacy proficiency in state history.”

Morath also said COVID left more students performing below grade level than ever before. But after the extra efforts, testing showed a higher level of acceleration (in reaching grade-level performance) than before.

For example, in a “normal year,” Morath said 32% of kids who are below grade level begin to catch up. In the past year, he said that grew to 45%. It represented “the largest percent ever seen in Texas kids. To be clear, this number doesn’t represent Xanadu. It represents improvement. We have a lot of work in front of us.”

Shaking up school ratings and the STAAR

Morath also talked about the A through F rating system, designed to eliminate achievement gaps, and help parents assess their districts and schools. Without offering specifics, he said the system of evaluation would change next year, to keep up with the times.

As for the measure of evaluating students, Morath said the “wildly popular” STAAR test, (prompting laughter), will change too.

He said it’s time to get rid of so many multiple-choice questions.

Morath told the crowd in Moody Performance Hall there will be “writing all over the place, lots of open-ended writing, because, as it turns out, reading and writing are pretty well connected.”

Those are just some of what Morath called significant upgrades to the next STAAR test. He did not mention any others.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.