Texas Education Agency

TEA Commissioner Shares ‘Catastrophic' Impacts Pandemic Is Having on Student Achievement

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The leader of the Texas Education Agency shared a troubling assessment before the TEA on Wednesday.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath says no one expected to be dealing with another surge of COVID-19 cases, and it’s impacting how well schools operate.

There is continued concern over student learning loss.

“The impact on elementary and middle school students in terms of literacy levels has been nothing short of catastrophic,” said Morath.

The commissioner previously told NBC 5 the state has lost roughly a decade’s worth of academic gain because of the pandemic.

Dallas ISD’s deputy chief academic officer Derek Little says the district, like many others, will be tackling learning loss for years to come.

“It is the more serious thing that we are working on,” said Little.

When asked if he agrees the situation is ‘catastrophic,’ Little responded:

“We have definitely seen severe impacts from the pandemic on our students’ learning and development. Whether it’s catastrophic or severe or alarming. I think the adjective is less important. What matters most is what we are doing to actually get our students back on track.”

DISD reports its setbacks have not been as big as other large cities in the state.

The biggest challenge has been in learning and mathematics, instead of learning and reading, Little said.

The pandemic has led to regression and ‘unfinished learning,’ meaning lessons students simply never learned.

Declines have been particularly higher in Dallas high schools instead of elementary schools.

The district believes lack of attendance is partly to blame.

DISD has student outcome goals set to be met in 2025.

Little says it may take a full four years to get the entire district back on track to meet those goals.

The district has implemented several initiatives including allowing 46 schools to participate in an extended school year, offering students who failed or did not take state exams 30+ hours of tutoring and allowing teachers to quickly insert lessons from last year into their current instruction.

“We are not in a place where we’re going to go back and re-teach entire grade levels from years past,” said Little. “That is not what works for students.”

Little describes DISD students as ‘resilient.’ He urges parents to enroll students not already in school and to be increasingly involved in their child’s education.

“As I walk schools right now, I am very inspired and excited about how hungry and energetic our students are to be back in school, to be engaged in learning and how committed teachers are to meeting them,” he said.

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