BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The results of PARCC testing are now in. Assistant Superintendent Scott McKinney and the school administrators presented the results at last week's board meeting to share information to help parents understand what an individual score report looks like and how to interpret the results. McKinney further explained how the district plans to use the data -- to help support the students, to improve the schools and the instruction the students receive. 

PARCC is an abbreviation for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It is a consortium of states that collaboratively developed a common set of assessments to measure student achievement in math and English up to 12th grade, and preparedness for college and careers, according to the state of New Jersey Department of Education.The other states involved are Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Rhode Island, plus the District of Columbia.

The PARCC testing replaced NJASK and HSPA, and McKinney explained the tests are different and can not be compared. 

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He also stressed that the presentation is of preliminary results and the district does not have all the information. Further presentations will be scheduled when comparative results of neighboring towns are received. "When those results come in, we can plan to present to the board when we create the data dash board," said McKinney.

The tests are taken in two sections -- a Performance Base Assessment and an End of Year Assessment. The scores were combined for one grade in Math and English Language Arts.

The PARCC questions required students to use a higher level of critical thinking, explained McKinney. "We expect greater information and should be able to support our students with that information," he said. The test is graded in a five level system --  level one being not meeting grade level expectations to level five is exceeding grade level expectations. [Level four and five are considered "proficient."] 

The state has been clear on how districts should be using this data. The PARCC assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and were created to measure students' ability to apply their knowledge of concepts rather than memorizing facts, according to the state Department of Education.

"It is important for us to be using multiple measures to evaluate, assess and determine the needs of our students," said McKinney, adding, "a test doesn't define our students. It is important to use this in combination with all the other measures and all the other  assessments  and classwork and teacher input -- So we know what our students need and how we can best support them going forward." 

Reporting on the "most basic information," McKinney explained, "we feel it's important to show parents how we did and to show in comparing Berkeley Heights' results to schools across the state. --- The overall scores were relatively good for the district. These results were not indicative of individual student results, but averages compiled from students' scores."

Berkeley Heights' testing results in English Language Arts/Literacy for Grades 3 to 11 showed that the district's scores exceeded the average scores across the state of New Jersey, and in most cases by double digits. About 78-percent of Grade 4 students who took PARCC met or exceeded expectations, while only 51-percent met or exceeded expectations statewide and 42-percent of the PARCC Consortium. 72-percent of the district Grade 4 students met or exceeded expectation in math compared to 40-percent statewide and 32-percent of the PARCC Consortium.

The presentation shows that each elementary school performed consistently with slight variations that are similar to the year to year fluctuations that occurred on previous assessments. 

English/Language arts is tested by grade level, math is assessed from grades 3 to 8 but students are assessed in Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra II in the year in which they take the course regardless of their grade level. Columbia students are taking higher lever math classes at a much higher rate than their peers throughout the state.

"Additional reports are expected to show more detailed results," said McKinney. The comparison to other similar districts in NJ will be available in January, and the district will then have a better idea of how the district did against like communities. 

Changes to expect for 2016 testing:  

  • There will be one testing window between April into May. 
  • The test time will be reduced by approximately 90 minutes. 
  • District anticipates receiving the results by end of June or early July.

The Berkeley Heights Board of Education will next meet on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at Columbia Middle School for their Reorganization and Regular meeting at 8 p.m.