2014 NJASK Scores Show Mixed Results for South Orange-Maplewood

by
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a comment from BOE member Jeffrey Bennett that clarifies his position on science NJASK scores.)

The results in the NJASK scores across the South Orange-Maplewood School District were mixed for 2013-2014.

In elementary school language arts, the percentage of students in grades 3-5 scoring proficient or higher increased from 74% in 2008-2009 to 82% in 2013-2014. 82% percent of students scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 Language Arts exams as compared to 80% in the prior year. 60% of black students scored proficient or higher in 2013-2014 as compared to 59% in the prior year. The achievement gap remained flat.

In elementary school math, the percentage of students in grades 3-5 scoring proficient or higher on the math increased from 81% in 2008-2009 to 84% in 2013-2014. 84% percent of students scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 math exams as compared to 86% in the prior year.  65% of black students scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 math exam as compared to 69% in the prior year. The achievement gap increased by 1 percentage point.

“Math did not do well in our elementary schools,” said Paul Roth, Chief Information Officer for the school district. Roth said that the trend in math should serve as a “sign of caution” in that math scores have decreased for more than two years.

In middle school, language arts gaps increased, while math scores improved.

In middle school language arts,  the percentage of students in grades 6-8 scoring proficient or higher increased from 79% in 2008-2009 to 83% in 2013-2014. 83% percent of students scored proficient or higher in the 2013-2014 as compared to 83% in the prior year. 64% of black students scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 Language Arts exams as compared to 67% in the prior year. The achievement gap increased by 3 percentage points.

In middle school math, the percentage of students scoring proficient or higher on the math standardized exams increased from 73% in 2008-2009 to 82% in 2013-2014. 82% percent of students scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 math exams as compared to 80% in the prior year. 66% of black students in grades 6-8 scored proficient or higher on the 2013-2014 Math exams as compared to 63% in the prior year. The achievement gap decreased by 1 percentage point.

Roth noted that the NJ Department of Education has not yet released the School
Accountability Reports. Roth said that the district would “cover individual school results later in the year when this information is made available.”

Susan Grierson, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said that the district leadership was “proud of the results” considering that in 2013 NJASK was aligned with Common Core curriculum, increasing the difficulty of the tests, particularly in math. A lot of content had to be filled in, particularly in 4th and 5th grade.

Grierson said that the district had put “a lot of eggs in that basket” to improve language arts skills in the elementary schools and that now needed to be put into math, including “math intervention for struggling students.” She said that the Chrome books would help including continued individualized math instruction.  She said that ST Math had helped — that those students who completed it score proficient or above.

In the middle schools, Grierson said that the district is currently aligning 6-8 grade math with PARCC (PARCC is the test that is replacing NJASK this year). Grierson said that math units are being replaced by modules, that can be taught at any time per teacher’s choice. Grierson said that administration is looking at the gaps that are persistent and are looking at multiple ways to narrow that gap.

Board of Education member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad said she was concerned by the difference in scores between elementary and middle school, saying it was “very disturbing” especially with the achievement gap growing. “There is some not so great news everywhere.” Lawson-Muhammad said that the board and the district need to understand the problem and fix it.

Grierson, who is in her first year as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, replied, “We take it very seriously and we dig into the data.”  She said that the curriculum administration is “equally concerned about the ‘non growth’ of these areas.” She mentioned concern about the rigor of the middle school language arts texts and said she is aware that it “needs to step up.” Grierson said that English Language Arts Supervisor from 6-12 Janine Gregory is “very on top of that” and that the Grierson and her supervisors  are looking currently at “ways to improve” and at “which strategies are working well in which classrooms” that can be replicated.

Board member Bill Gaudelli wanted a “more pinpoint analysis of scores so we can look at scores in fine grain detail, so we can see individual student growth year over year.”

Board member Madhu Pai said that the deficits in 5th grade were particularly troubling, especially in light of the International Baccalaureate — or IB Middle Years Programme — implementation as those students enter 6th grade. She asked Grierson if she was planning for more professional development.

Grierson responded, “Yes, we have a plan going forward. Each of our supervisors have submitted a professional development program for their department and we do have ongoing professional development.” She noted that a data collection tool had recently been created by Kimberly Beane, the math supervisor for K-5.

Board member Johanna Wright said, “Clearly we are not doing well as a district,” calling the achievement gap “a canyon.” Wright said that the board needed to listen to teachers. “We have not brought teachers to the table…. instead we have people coming in. It’s just not working…. We have cast them aside as if they don’t even exist.”

Wright then asserted that the district “didn’t have a gap until we started changing things” — a statement later challenged by Board member Sandra Karriem. Said Karriem, “I’ve been here 20 something years and the gap has existed…. my concern is that we have hit a wall and that for the past couple of years the rate of decrease of the gap has been flat … leveled off.”

She wanted to know what “we need to do to rebuild that momentum” to close the achievement gap.

Grierson said she agreed, noting this is a national problem. “We’re disappointed as well that the data is flat and we are not making those gains…. We are kind of in a vortex now, with PARCC, the new curriculum… but I do believe that by focusing on our strengths and addressing those areas where students need to improve, we can make those improvements.”

On a brighter note, Board member Jeff Bennett noted that the science results were very good.

However, said Bennett in an email to HistoryNusantara, “while our NJASK Science scores were apparently very high, we shouldn’t take that to mean that really all (or almost all) of our students were being superbly well educated in Science. Despite the apparently high scores, we should really continue to improve our science curriculum and get ready for the Next Generation Science Standards.”

Bennett also pointed out that the proficient and advanced proficient cut-off scores on science are very low compared to the cutoffs for math and verbal. “Because the Science NJASKs are (relatively) easy, we have to really review to make sure we are challenging our students and giving them an up-to-date science curriculum,” he said.

Watch the discussion on video here.

See Roth’s presentation of the results below:

Download (PDF, 705KB)

Related Articles

CLOSE
CLOSE