Report highlights teacher strain and student underperformance in Texas

Although schools aren’t getting a letter grade this year, they still have report cards to worry about — albeit with quite a few gaps in the scores.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has made its 2019-2020 Federal Report Card available online, organized as a searchable wealth of student metrics. A typical Federal Report Card would include test results and other academic measurements which the federal government has waived this year. Demographic information, graduation rates, teacher quality data, disciplinary data, and some measurements of student progress are available.

The report does not include 2019-2020 STAAR test results, which bear a heavier load of scutiny this year amid expectations of a widespread dip in scores. Students will still take the STAAR this school year.

The report does include the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federal assessment to measure reading and math scores in grades four and eight.

Scores show Texas slightly trailing the national average in each subject. In the fourth-grade, Texas shows 61 percent of students scoring above the basic level in reading, compared to 66 percent on average across the country. In the eighth-grade, Texan students lag six points behind the U.S. average in reading: 67 to 73 percent.

The gap in eighth-grade math is much smaller: 68 percent of Texan students scored above the basic level, compared to 69 percent of Americans overall. Fourth-grade math is the one category in the NAEP where Texans beat the national average: 84 percent of Texan fourth-graders scored above the basic level with 44 percent earning a “proficient” score, compared to 81 percent of Americans overall surpassing the basic level with 41 percent proficiency.

The database doesn’t just include statewide numbers. Each district, and the schools within, submit their own report card to the TEA every year.

The TEA also reports test scores and other data to the U.S. Department of Education each year. Since the federal government waived the requirement to report test scores due to COVID-19, the 2019-2020 report only includes lists of schools picked for improvement and some minor data on teachers.

The percentage of teachers in the classroom with emergency or provisional credentials jumped up a full percentage point this school year. That leaves in a statewide posse of over 5,000 emergency deputies: 4.7 percent of the teacher workforce. For comparison, the previous school year ended with teachers under emergency or provisional credentials making up 3.2 percent of the teaching workforce. The year before that, they were 3.3 percent.

This school year brought in about 900 inexperienced teachers, a number too slight to budge the percentage: 13.3 percent of all teachers in the state, for this year and the last. That means most of the teachers who taught under emergency or provisional credentials were veterans, possibly taking on new subjects, coming from another state, or coming back into teaching a second time.

By suspending certain rules of the State Board for Education Certification, Governor Greg Abbott allowed school districts to renew emergency certifications for the 2020-2021 school year.

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