WARETOWN, NJ - Like anything even slightly touched by bureaucracy, education has its fair share of acronyms.  Last year, Ocean Township students joined other New Jersey students in transitioning from the PARCC test to the NJSLA.  Test results were announced at the most recent Board of Education meeting.

Previously, New Jersey students took tests commonly referred to as the PARCC, which stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Last year, the name for standardized testing became a bit more matter of fact.  The New Jersey Student Learning Assessments, or NJSLA, represent a new generation of statewide assessment.

“We are looking at the scores from this year’s testing as a baseline,” shared Dr. Christopher S. Lommerin, Superintendent of Schools. “The NJSLA is about forty percent shorter than the PARCC. They are two different tests, even though they are similar.”

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Sarah Reinhold, Waretown Elementary School Principal and Arian Phillips, Principal of Frederic A. Priff School, presented the 2019 NJSLA results for children in grades 3-6 in English Language Arts and Math.  For the second year in a row, students took the NJSLA for Science. However, those test results are not yet available.

The goal is for students to either meet expectations or exceed them. On a state level 50.3% of all third graders fell into this category for Language Arts. In Ocean Township, the number was 33.3%.

An average of 57% of fourth, fifth and sixth graders across the state that met expectations or exceeded them. In comparison, approximately 45% of Ocean Township students of the same grade level met or exceeded the same standard.

Third graders did better on the math assessments on both the state and local level. The statewide average for students meeting or exceeding expectation was 55.1%. In Ocean Township, 41.7% of students met either criteria.

As far as mathematics assessments statewide for grades 4-6, the state average for meeting or exceeding expectations was under 50%. Meanwhile, in Ocean Township, less than 35% of students in fourth to sixth grade essentially “passed the test.”

Socioeconomics is said to play a role in learning assessments. Therefore, educators also look at number as far as students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. “It’s our biggest subgroup and includes between 38-40% of our students,” Lommerin estimated. “We also have a number of special education students.”

According to the reports sixth graders in both subgroups scored higher than younger grades as far as proficiency.

Student Had a Perfect Score

The NJSLA may be a new means of assessment, but it didn’t stop one student from getting a perfect score of 850 in Math. Fourth grader Keira Minetta’s test scores earned her that distinction and recognition by the Superintendent and Board of Education.  On the Language Arts portion of the test, Kiera was only three points away from a perfect score at 847.

Keira brought along a fan club of family members, who clapped loudly while she was honored by the district. With the exception of one other person, they were the only ones at the Board of Education meeting who were not associated with the school.

In acknowledging Keira, Lommerin said, “Education is the school system for six hours a day. More importantly, it’s the family structure and support, which is all the rest of that time.”

Internal Assessments

Notably, Ocean Township Schools also assess students internally within the district. “We have a Renaissance Math and Reading program where we measure proficiency,” said Lommerin.

Renaissance Testing is utilized at least four times a year to assess students in grades Kindergarten through sixth grade. Additionally, the Ocean Township School District encourages students to read through an Accelerated Reader Program.

“Our teachers utilize this data to drive their instruction and designate small groups,” Phillips said. “It’s also used to provide students with intervention services as needed.”

From Fall of 2018 until Spring of 2019, all grade levels showed triple digit average scaled score increases. The most remarkable increase was for kindergarten students who went up over 200 points in combined Reading and Math.

While there were also increases in Mathematics, they weren’t as high. In fact, three grade levels only experienced double-digit increases. The fifth and sixth graders showed the least scaled score increases.

 Word Challenges and ARP Quizzes

Since the 2016-2017 inception of the Million Word Challenge at the Frederic A, Priff School, students have increased the number of words read by millions and millions. They’ve gone from over 24M to in excess of 97M words in just three school years.

“Each time a student takes out a book in the library, there’s a corresponding quiz that they take on the computer,” explained Phillips. “The number of ARP quizzes passed has more than doubled since the 2016-2017 school year.”

In the 2017-2018, Waretown Elementary School developed the Accelerated Reader Challenge for younger students.

“It’s a little different than the Million Word Challenge,” Reinhold shared. “Every month, classes compete against one another and the class that wins gets some of a prize.”

Once again, the numbers speak for themselves. The increase in words from one school year to the next was over 10M. Additionally, there was a two-thirds increase in the number of ARP classes.

According to both principals, it’s not unusual to see children reading books during all times of the day. Looking forward, the goal is to continue the reading challenges, as well as introduce other programs designed to encourage learning and proficiencies.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.