Dallas County school districts continue to close gaps with the state in both reading and math achievement across grades 3-8, despite serving more Emergent Bilingual students and students experiencing economic disadvantage. That’s according to our preliminary analysis of the results of the 2023 STAAR test, released Tuesday, for the county’s 14 public school districts and largest charter school network.
Forty-seven percent of Dallas County students in grades 3-8 met grade-level standards in reading, a percentage point gain over the previous year that brings Dallas County students within four points of the statewide average. Forty percent of Dallas County students in grades 3–8 met grade-level standards in math, compared with 43% of students statewide. This is a remarkable five percentage point jump that brings the gap with the state to just three points.
“While there remains substantive work to do to ensure that all of our students are academically prepared to meet grade-level standards and subsequently thrive in life,” says Commit CEO & Founder Todd Williams, “it’s worth pausing for a moment to celebrate the real progress that our area public school districts continue to make in recovering from the worst of the pandemic’s negative impact. By continuing to focus intently on quality early childhood education, rewarding and strategically staffing our effective educators, and ensuring that high-quality instructional materials are in every classroom, we can provide the quality education that every child needs and deserves.”
Last school year, the state introduced a redesigned STAAR test to better reflect the instruction students receive in the classroom. That includes fewer multiple-choice questions, new question types, digital administration, and short-answer writing embedded into the new English Language Arts assessment.
We will continue to analyze and share insights over the upcoming weeks as more data become available. Here are initial takeaways from the STAAR indicators we monitor most closely as part of our annual Community Scorecard:
Reading: Closing the Gap
Dallas County students’ reading results have surpassed pre-pandemic levels and are closing the gap with the statewide average.
Forty-four percent of Dallas County third graders met grade-level standards in reading, compared to 48% statewide, a gap 3 percentage points smaller than the previous year. Students who learn to read by third-grade are four times more likely to graduate high school, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, making this a critical area to monitor and one of our 12 indicators.
The continued growth in reading scores indicates the efficacy of Reading Academies, professional development in the science of literacy instruction provided to all Texas instructors as part of 2019’s House Bill 3. It’s our hope this strategy continues to push scores higher as more Texas educators and teacher candidates complete the courses.
Math: Holding Steady
Forty-four percent of Dallas County fourth graders met grade-level standards in math, another Scorecard indicator, compared to 46% of fourth graders statewide. This marks a 7 percentage point increase for Dallas County from the previous year, which is now just a percentage point away from returning to pre-pandemic levels of student success in a subject that has proven uniquely challenging for learning recovery.
In later grades, 41% of Dallas County students met standards in Algebra I. While Algebra I scores held steady from the previous year, more interventions are clearly needed for scores to return to pre-pandemic levels, when as many as 65% of Dallas County students met expectations. Just as the House Bill 3’s Reading Academies have helped boost reading scores, Senate Bill 2124 has the potential to boost achievement in Algebra I in eighth grade by ensuring more academically eligible students have access to advanced math pathways in middle school.
Success in fourth-grade math increases the likelihood students will be prepared to take Algebra I in eighth grade, which in turn puts them on an advanced math pathway in high school. Students who complete four years of math in high school are more than twice as likely to complete a postsecondary degree or credential as their peers who take three years or less, making it especially important to continue monitoring progress in these subjects.
Check back on the Commit Partnership blog over the next month as we continue to dive into these STAAR results and celebrate more successes at the campus and classroom level.