NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dallas STAAR scores on par with state, but still lag pre-COVID results

Rows of desks in a school classroom
Yfat Yossifor
Teacher Amanda Inay chats with Sophia Barajas-Ortiz on the first day of school Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, Rufino Mendoza Elementary School in Fort Worth.

Dallas school district students in grades 3 through 8 mostly mirrored kids across the state in how they performed on this past spring’s standardized State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, test.

Some, though, did worse.

For example, among Dallas 7th grade math test takers, only 14% met the grade level expectations. That means those 14% of students were the only ones with “strong knowledge of course content ….prepared to progress to the next grade.”

Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said her staff is looking into why that grade underperformed.

“We have campuses that did not follow this trend, right? In aschool district this size, data can mask some really great outcomes,” she said. “And we need to find those islands of excellence so we can find out what did we do there and how did we get those results?”

Elizalde said the district’s research will take some time.

Granted, 7th graders state-wide did not do much better in math. Only 35% - basically a third - met the grade standard.

Elizalde noted some other Dallas ISD student groups, like her 5th graders, actually outperformed the state average, if only by a percentage point.

“There is no gap between Dallas ISD performance that ‘approaches’ math or, - really important, the ‘meets level,’ because we all know that's really the measuring stick, right?” she said. “We need to make sure our students are on or above grade level.”

Elizalde said she and her staff are still taking about the challenges of COVID declines, even as Dallas and Texas are recovering faster than the rest of the country. She also said what Texas school leaders have said many times through the years - that Dallas ISD teachers are refraining from “teaching to the test,” in order to be more creative in the classroom and more successful with academic outcomes.

And she emphasized a continued focus on early childhood education.

“We know it pays off,” said Elizalde.

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