Poor STAAR test results show pandemic’s impact on children’s learning

Local News

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) — STAAR standardized test scores took a hit this year as millions of students adjusted to online and hybrid learning due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

The Texas Tribune reports that the percent of students in grades 3-8 were at a satisfactory level for reading, having dropped 4% in 2021 compared to 2019.

Math scores were even worse. Only 35% of students were at a satisfactory level for math compared to 50% in 2019.

The pandemic forced billions of people to change their daily lives and caused a lot of stress and uncertainty. Pretty much every aspect of daily life was affected, and children’s learning was no different.

Student’s abilities to learn online differed, simply depending on if they had a strong internet connection or not.

According to a 2019 study from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, three Rio Grande Valley cities ranked in the top five cities for “worst connected cities” for wireline. Which is “defined by the American Community Survey as ‘Broadband such as cable, fiber optic or DSL.'”

Pharr was ranked number one, Brownsville second worst, and Harlingen was ranked the fifth worst connected city.

In Brownsville, internet connectivity issues were not evenly spread throughout the city.

“From some campuses, the connection – it was minimal connection problems,” said Ida Abeldano, an Association of Brownsville Educators organizer who was answering questions on behalf of teachers who did not wish to go on camera.

While some students faced no connectivity issues, others had to contend with issues that impacted their ability to even join their online classrooms.

“It was just very bad signals in that area so there was times where the parents had to go drive to some of the campuses to be in the parking lot,” said Abeldano.

On top of connectivity issues, students and teachers alike had to learn and adjust to new systems of online learning far different from what they are used to, and everyone was struggling.

“This has been one of the most challenging years in education that the majority of the teachers have ever experienced,” said Abeldano.

In a year highlighted by the deaths of over 600,000 Americans and over 50,000 in Texas, children had to adapt to new learning environments away from their friends and usual school structure.

Abeldano relayed that educators believed issues other than internet problems could have played as much of a role in lower test scores as online learning did.

“They had a lot of people, loss of lives, or loss of jobs in their family and things like that. So we believe that might have impacted the score as well,” said Abeldano.

The number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and things are beginning to return to normal.

Abeldano said that the teachers she spoke with believe that STAAR test scores will “return to normal,” too.

“They feel that students are very resilient and they’re going to be able to bounce back,” said Abeldano.

And in the meantime, they hope that the ordeal of the past 15 months will have taught students and teachers at least one positive thing.

“Be understanding,” said Abeldano. “We don’t know what they’re battling, we don’t know what issues they have going on.”

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