The Texas State Board of Education met at the State Capitol on Monday and discussed the widespread concern over student shortcomings.

Texas students’ assessment math scores have continued to decrease on their State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams.

Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) published end-of-year assessment scores, showing a decrease in math performance scores, especially in middle schoolers, as reported by The Dallas Express. In the latest accountability report from the TEA, Dallas ISD had an average of just 41% of students score at grade level on their STAAR exams in 2021-2022, with only 39% doing so in math. More recently, only 32% of Dallas ISD students this past spring met grade level in 6th-grade math.

“Students never recovered from Hurricane Katrina in mathematics skills, and we’re seeing it all over again on a large scale due to COVID,” said SBOE member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) at the meeting. “We had to start over with mathematics standards after Katrina. We know we have issues, but we don’t know how to pinpoint those. How many of those issues are standards related versus all this other noise in the room?”

“Did COVID cause [the decline], or was our math going downhill and COVID accelerated it?” echoed board member Julie Pickren (R-Pearland).

Board members called for more specific data analysis from the TEA outside of the STAAR exam scores. The SBOE requested data showing how well-prepared students were for careers after graduating, as board members agreed that skills may be taught, but students are not learning them.

Pickren raised concerns that the math curriculum is too difficult for students’ families to understand and help them with.

“Parents don’t understand new math, they can’t do homework with their child,” she said.

Board member Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D-San Marcos) said she believes that the approach to math instruction should be allowed to evolve as teaching methods advance.

“If parents can’t get that, that’s understandable because that’s not how they were taught,” responded Bell-Metereau. “[But] I don’t think we should base our decisions on our math curriculum on what parents are able to explain to their children. We have to acknowledge that there’s progress.”

The board decided to green-light an advanced math program in middle schools that condenses grades 6, 7, and 8 math into courses that take place between 6th and 7th grade. Come 8th grade, students will begin studying algebra.

SBOE President Aaron Kinsey (R-Midland) stated that the board will revisit the subject at its September meetings after the TEA is able to provide more data.

The board will be meeting at the Texas Capitol for the remainder of the week. A live stream of the meetings can be watched here.