AUSTIN — Results from the 2022 STAAR end-of-course assessment exams released Thursday show Texas students are recovering from learning loss incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

The STAAR assessments are state-issued tests that measure students’ academic performance in five core classes: algebra I, English I, English II, biology and U.S history. After observing a significant decline in scores in 2021 due to disrupted learning for more than a year, Texas Education Agency officials said student performance in the “meets grade level” category has improved, with results moving closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“These improvements are a welcome sign that Texas students are moving in the right direction in their post-pandemic academic recovery,” education officials said.

The greatest percentage recovery occurred in algebra I, where 62% of students met performance requirements in 2019. That dropped to 41% in 2021 but has recovered to 46%.

The STAAR exams were canceled in 2020. In 2021, they were optional, but 87% of students participated, compared to 96% in 2019. The subjects’ overall pass rate increased from 2021 to 2022, with 74%. In 2019, the pass rate was 84%.

In biology and U.S. history, the number of students reaching the “meets requirements” level rose 3% from 2021 to 2022, after dropping 9% and 6%, respectively. The biology pass rate sits at 82%, down from 88% in 2019. The U.S. history pass rate is 89%, down from 93% in 2019.

In English I and II, results did not greatly change over the past three years, with students performing just as well or better in 2022 as they did in 2019 and 2021. The overall pass rate in English II surpassed the 2019 rate at 71%, up from 67%.

“These results provide encouraging evidence that the academic recovery plans adopted by the Texas Legislature and implemented by our state’s 370,000 dedicated teachers are working for our students,” Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement. “We have made some progress to date, but there is still work to be done to fully recover from the academic effects of the COVID slide.”

Among policies lawmakers adopted to improve student outcomes is House Bill 4545. The law entitles students to receive 30 hours of targeted tutoring before, during or after school for each subject in which they did not pass the corresponding end-of-course assessment, or to be assigned to a classroom overseen by a certified master, exemplary or recognized teacher.

The STAAR exams have been at the forefront of much criticism in recent years, including loudly from gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke. The Democratic candidate said it is time to get rid of the assessments altogether, stating the pressure the test has on kids, their families and the teachers is unnecessary. School districts, too, are rated based on how well students do on the tests.

Critics of the assessments also say they dictate what is taught rather than allowing educators autonomy in their lesson plans as they prepare students for life beyond structured schooling.

Texas education officials say they are working to better align the exam with classroom instruction, in accordance with a separate new state law, so that it eliminates instruction that is solely directed toward test preparation. These changes are expected to take effect in spring 2023.

Morath said standardized tests remain a critical tool in measuring student performance, and help districts and educators address any possible learning loss from COVID-19-related disruptions.

“Parents need to have access to clear information on where their students are, compared to previous years, and how much progress was made during the most recent school year. Teachers need reliable input on how students are doing relative to a consistent set of state standards. And school district leaders rely on the results from these assessments to properly lead their school systems in ways that maximize support for student academic growth,” Morath said.

Results for assessments for students in the third through eighth grades will be made publicly available on June 24. State law has recently changed to remove any high stakes for students associated with STAAR tests in those grades, no longer requiring students in those grades who fail the exams to repeat a grade.

Trending Video

Recommended for you