HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —Texas students will begin taking the STAAR test on Tuesday. Schools hope it will be an important tool to determine how much learning loss has happened during the pandemic.

“Most students are behind, where they would have been had the pandemic not occurred,” said Chris Walters, education policy analyst for Texas 2036.

Walters said that students are feeling the pandemic in different ways, and it’s not equal.

“Elementary students, younger grades students in math, and then also low-income students, and student of color have been hit hardest in terms of COVID learning loss,” he said.

At the beginning of the year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) offered an optional STAAR exam, which showed that that on average, students were three months behind, but studies show that gap has grown.

“By the end of this year they predicted that students would be on average five to nine months behind in math and students of color would be on average six to 12 months behind in math so you can sort of seeing big learning losses between a half year and a full year behind,” he said.  

Walters added that people need to understand where Texas students are, which begins with the STAAR test.

“It could take this entire next school year, to kind of get everything back on track, to more or less where we were as far as the learning curve,” said Dr. James Whittenburg, an associate professor of counseling at UTRGV.

Dr. Whittenburg said that for parents to understand the learning loss they can compare the situation to sports training.

“Can a child simply play basketball by watching videos? No, they have to go out and dribble and shoot, that tactile learning that is very important,” Dr. Whittenburg said.

Walters said that the STAAR test will help understand who’s been hit the hardest and how they will provide resources and support to the students who need it most.

“Better learning time, meaning more supports whether it’s tutoring small groups, more supports within the classroom, better curriculum, etc,” added Walters. “Then more learning time, better learning time then more learning time. So were supporting summer school, and extended school year type of options.”