SAISD students are testing a year or more below their grade level in math and reading.
Students in Texas are "essentially back at a level that we would have expected had COVID-19 never happened in the first place,” said Education Commissioner Mike Morath regarding the release of preliminary data from this year’s state standardized exams. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Independent School District students’ scores on this year’s state standardized exams reflect the “disproportionate impact” the coronavirus pandemic had on the high-poverty district, officials said in a statement.

District officials did not respond to multiple requests to discuss the test results this week, instead offering a written statement.

The district of roughly 46,000 students, of which 89% are economically disadvantaged, saw significant declines in students’ math and reading scores. Eighth grade math scores in SAISD dropped the most this year, with 82% of students failing the test. In 2019, 43% of students failed the eighth grade exam, the last time the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness were administered.

“The pandemic served to highlight the disparity that already existed for children in poverty, which are predominantly represented by children of color,” SAISD officials said in the statement. “Our data is evident of the disproportionate impact affecting our community.”

Statewide, students doing math at grade level or above dropped about 15 percentage points this year compared to 2019. The standardized exams were canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Students of color and economically disadvantaged students did not perform as well as their more affluent, white peers on the standardized tests, although the disparities were not as great as those between remote and in-person learners.

Economically disadvantaged students in school districts with less than 25% enrolled in person for most of the school year saw on average 35% fail the math exam and 11% fail the reading. In districts where in-person enrollment exceeded 75% most of the school year, 11% of students failed the math exam and 2% failed the reading.

Of the 82% of eighth graders who failed the math test, 82 percent of those were economically disadvantaged students. Roughly 90% of Black students and 82 percent of Latino students failed the test, while 74% of white students failed.

Almost 90% of SAISD students are Latino and 6.1% are Black, according to the Texas Education Agency. Less than 3% are white.

“We were not surprised in the decline of our STAAR data,” the district statement said. “These results were anticipated because they align with our own internal tracking. While we were able to maintain our performance in reading, we did see a decline in math and science, which paralleled the nationwide decline in math and science scores. We have been prepared to see differences in outcomes based on whether students were learning remotely.”

Superintendent Pedro Martinez said in March that remote learning was not working for SAISD students, particularly children of poverty and children of color. To help catch up students, the district has implemented a recovery plan that includes a summer accelerated learning program. More than 12,000 students registered for the program.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.