PARCC Results Show NJ Students are Below Expectations in English, Math
Many New Jersey students are below where they should be in math and English, according to the statewide PARCC assessment results, which were released Tuesday by the Department of Education.
“This first year’s results show there is still much work to be done in ensuring all of our students are fully prepared for the 21st century demands of college and career,” Education Commissioner David Hespe said in a press release.
According to the results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment, which replaced the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), the majority of students are either "partially meeting" or "approaching" expectations in mathematics and English.
At any grade level, no more than 8 percent of students actually "exceeded expectations" in math. In English, no more than 18 percent exceeded expectations, with Grade 7 outperforming all other grade levels.
The DOE indicates that the scores only "set a baseline" but cannot be compared to previous scores from tests that are no longer being used and "reflected different, lower-level knowledge and skills.
"We expect the scores to give parents a useful assessment of where their children are, and we encourage parents to use the individual score reports to work with teachers to support their children's development," said New Jersey Parent Teacher Association President Rose Acerra in the release. "We all know that our children are much more than a single score, but the assessment results will present an opportunity to help our students reach higher achievement levels than we ever thought possible."
Dr. Lawrence Feinsod,executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, called the 2015 PARCC data "an important starting point for an ongoing discussion about improving instruction."
The PARCC tests are aligned to the Common Core curriculum standards. The NJ Department of Education began administering the standardized tests last spring, and have been met with a great deal of contention by parents, students, educators and some lawmakers.
When the PARCC assessment was introduced and testing began, many students chose to opt out of the test. New Jersey does not have a statewide regulation for how to handle students who opt out of taking standardized tests.
Following the release of the PARCC results, NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer issued a statement calling on the Department of Education to remove the "high stakes impact" of the PARCC test.
“Over the past year, NJEA and its partners have expressed deep concerns about the invasive nature of standardized testing in our public schools and have questioned the validity of PARCC and the use of such tests for high-stakes decisions regarding students and teachers," Steinhauer said. “Policymakers have responded by eliminating one entire testing window, dramatically reducing the disruption of PARCC in our schools, and by reducing the impact of test scores on teacher evaluations to 10 percent. They have also delayed the use of PARCC tests as a graduation requirement. We call on the Department of Education to go further in each of these areas to reduce the intrusion of the test and to remove its high-stakes impact.
When asked during a Tuesday afternoon press conference if he has confidence in the PARCC test, Commissioner Hespe said the data shows we have a lot of work to do but he believes we’re on the right track.
“We Have to remember though, it’s the first year of an initial test that was delivered in a new format, a computerized format, 99 percent of our students took it on computers, so we should be humble, we should be patient,” Hespe said. “We should take our time to review all of this information and at that point, I think we’re comfortable, I think we’re using the data properly and responsibly.”
Reporter David Matthau contributed to this story.