As a community, we should look beyond state test scores and instead look at what they mean.

The Texas Education Agency released this year’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, scores. The scores showed a staggering regression in key content areas including math and reading.

Though the scores show regression, we need to take that information with a bit of context.

Students were not tested by the state in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These scores are a reflection of the learning gaps the pandemic created in the last year and a half of schooling. The STAAR scores are the first tangible look educators are getting into the learning loss students experienced this year.

Statewide, about four out of 10 Texas public school students failed the standardized state math exams. State data shows that students who learned virtually struggled more than those who learned in a standard classroom setting.

Instead of criticizing schools for the scores our kids received, we should look at ways to improve the learning gaps that were exacerbated from the pandemic.

We learned through the scores that students who learned remotely scored poorer than students who returned to the classroom. This is nuanced and limited to the pandemic because remote learning options are limited in Texas for the 2021-22 school year.

With remote learning students, schools should and will work on catching those students up on information from the previous school year. This can be done in small group tutoring before, during and after school.

We learned that students who come from economically disadvantaged homes scored poorer than students who do not.

As a community, we should not look down on those kids or schools but look to what we can do to help those students and families.

Some ways we can help are offering accessible after school programs, tutoring opportunities and access to technology and resources.

The Victoria school district said they are using the scores to address student needs.

New phonics programs will be implemented for younger students who struggled with reading. Tutoring will be expanded across the district and content areas. Summer school has been extended for credit recovery.

This is a good start but we have to continue to offer programs and be ready to help.

We should change our mindset from “why aren’t these students scoring better” to “why are students struggling and how can we address those needs.”

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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