Optional Beginning-of-Year Assessments Data Help Quantify Initial Impact of COVID-19 on Texas Students


Assessment results were used by schools to help inform curriculum and instruction in the fall to maximize support for students
AUSTIN, Texas – January 14, 2021 – After the cancellation of the end of school year 2019-20 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) offered optional beginning-of-year (BOY) assessments so schools across the state could measure how well students learned the prior grade-level’s knowledge and skills. With that information, schools and teachers could make adjustments to curriculum and instruction for the fall of the 2020-21 school year, adjustments that would be necessary to help maximize student learning given the disruptions caused by COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. 
Students were able to access the assessments as a printable PDF or by using an online platform either at home or at school. Results cannot be tabulated for those who used the printable PDF version of the assessment. 648,609 students from 334 different school systems took the optional BOY assessments online. 

Researchers were able to use statistical techniques to extrapolate this sample to the entire state, effectively allowing results from the BOY to measure the extent students lost academic knowledge and skills relative to normal years as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns from March through early fall 2020. 

The results of the study indicate students experienced 3.2 months of instructional loss from the closures, in addition to the typical 2.5 months of summer learning loss. To gain greater insight into what the data from these optional assessments revealed and what statistical methods were used to reach this conclusion, visit Assessment Reports and Studies | Texas Education Agency.

BOY assessments were available from July 27, 2020, until October 16, 2020 and were designed to diagnose student understanding of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) from the previous school year. Therefore, the BOY assessments were administered to students based on their prior year enrolled grade level. The BOY assessments covered the same grades, subjects and courses that are provided for STAAR and were constructed from previously released STAAR test items.

Examining changes from 2019 to the 2020 BOY tests is intended to provide a useful starting point to quantify the impact on learning that COVID-19 has had on Texas students as of the beginning of the current school year. 

It adds to the pre-existing research base, including the October 2020 “How Kids Are Performing: Tracking the Impact of COVID-19 on Reading and Mathematics Achievement” report from Renaissance  and NWEA’s “Learning During COVID-19” report issued in November 2020. Results from STAAR tests taken at the end of this year will provide a more complete picture of COVID’s ongoing impact during the 2020-21 school year.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is not using data from the BOY assessments for any accountability purposes. Results for individual students and campuses were used by school systems and teachers to plan and implement any necessary instructional adjustments for the 2020-21 school year. Aggregate results of the data were used in this research study.