Aug 18, 2023 - Education

Texas students struggle in math, reading

Illustration of a standardized test answer sheet with a cursor

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Texas students in grades three through eight are underperforming in math and half of them read below their grade level, per STAAR test results.

Driving the news: The Texas Education Agency released the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results this week, noting improvements since 2020 and 2021.

Why it matters: Texas students haven't fully rebounded from the effects of the pandemic, and Dallas ISD's superintendent has repeatedly called on the state to do more to fund school districts.

How it works: STAAR testing, which takes place toward the end of every school year, includes reading, writing, math, science and social studies.

  • The test was redesigned last spring to be taken online.
  • Results are broken down by overall scores and scores among economically disadvantaged, bilingual and special education students.

Details: Statewide, 52% of students in grades three through eight met their grade level or above in reading/language arts. That's consistent with 2022's results, per TEA.

  • In math, 43% of students met their grade level or above. That's 3% more than 2022, but 7% less than 2019's results.

Zoom in: Dallas ISD saw overall improvements in STAAR results in 2023 compared with 2022, according to the TEA results.

  • 32% of students who were tested in 2023 did not meet their level in math, compared to 38% in 2022.
  • 27% didn't meet their level in reading this year, down from 29%.

What they're saying: "Everyone anticipated big drops in scores because of the #STAAR test redesign. That didn't happen at [Dallas ISD]," Dallas ISD superintendent Stephanie Elizalde posted on X this week.

  • She said Dallas students "whose early education started or was interrupted by the pandemic" are now at or above pre-pandemic levels in most categories.

What's happening: Elizalde told WFAA that the district is looking to decrease teachers' workload this school year by offering a comprehensive curriculum that keeps teachers from having to turn in their own lesson plans.

  • "Instead of spending time creating lessons, they can focus their time on delivering the lesson in a fun, engaging way," Elizalde told the station.
  • The district is also cutting the number of days students spend taking assessments during the school year.

Yes, but: Teacher pay remains a challenge statewide, along with the increasing costs of operating a school.

  • Last legislative session, the state, which had a $32 billion surplus, failed to increase teacher pay. DISD took $67 million out of its emergency relief funds this year to give up to $5,000 to certain returning employees.
  • Texas lawmakers' new security measures for schools have been costly to implement.

What's next: Next month, the Texas Education Agency will release district scores, which are largely based on standardized test results.

  • Elizalde says she expects scores to be lower this year for Dallas schools because of the recent overhaul to the state's accountability system.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Dallas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Dallas stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Dallas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more