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Texas Schools Improving Post-Pandemic, DISD Remains Behind

Education

Dallas ISD | Image by NBC DFW

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Texas schools are seeing improvements after falling behind during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Commissioner Mike Morath of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education.

This Tuesday, the Dallas Regional Chamber hosted the 2022 State of Public Education with a keynote speech delivered by Morath.

The commissioner spent much of his speech explaining how Texas schools are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which he described as the “largest educational disruption in a century.”

“And that is not hyperbole,” he added. “That is provable with mathematics.”

Morath said before the pandemic, public education in Texas was continuously improving, but much of that improvement was “wiped out” by the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, we have far more students below grade level than ever before,” he said.

However, Morath claimed that because the state invested $20 billion in education and “went all in” on the TEA Strategic Plan, Texas has seen “a higher level of acceleration than has ever happened before.”

Morath said education is “easily the number one priority of the Texas Legislature,” and that prioritization is “starting to generate results.”

Schools have largely improved to pre-pandemic standards, according to the commissioner.

“In the last year, we saw the biggest jump in a mathematics proficiency in state history, [and] the biggest jump in literacy proficiency in state history,” he said. “We have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels in the level of literacy for our students.”

In a “normal year,” 32% of kids who were falling behind in previous years begin to catch up to grade level, according to Morath. This year, he said, it was 45%.

Despite what Commissioner Morath reports as improvements, however, Texas districts, including Dallas ISD, are still falling behind.

According to results from the STAAR Test, only 41% of students in Dallas ISD met grade level in the 2021-22 school year, compared to 44% before the pandemic in 2019.

In Texas overall, 48% of students met grade level in the 2021-22 year, compared to 50% in 2019.

Morath spoke positively of the accountability rating system, saying, “The use of a tiered accountability system in the state of Texas … has been proven to help students grow academically.”

Dallas ISD’s overall accountability rating was a B in 2021-22, with a score of 86/100, the same score it received in 2018-2019, thus showing no improvement post-pandemic.

Dallas ISD is seeing these failures despite its budget being increased by almost $400 million over the past four years, going from $1.8 billion in 2018-19 to $2.2 billion in 2021-22.

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