Education

Students Continuing to Perform at High Levels on Standardized Tests, District Says

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BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In comparing the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District to others locally, statewide and nationally, students are continuing to perform at high levels with regard to PARCC, advanced placements and NJASK – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

According to assistant superintendent Daniel Silvia, the district continues to outperform other states and New Jersey on assessment scores for PARCC tests, and, on AP assessments, students continue to perform at a high level.

Silvia recently gave his annual presentation to the board of education regarding district testing scores.

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Silvia said that when analyzing the data, the district looks at proficiency to see how many students performed at or above proficiency levels, as well as progress to see how students are doing over time.

In terms of participation rates for PARCC, Silvia said, that is an area where most districts continue to struggle.

“We are not uncommon,” he said. “A lot is impacted by alternate assessments students can use for graduation, as per state requirements. They can use the ACT and other tests.”

“In the lower levels, participation increased in all areas,” he added. “We expect everything will change in the coming years with the graduation requirements.”

In doing comparisons of the data, Silvia said, one thing the district has noticed is that, with the PARCC exams, students at Adamsville Primary School performed on par with schools like Hamilton Primary and Crim Primary, which are usually the highest performing schools.

In past years, Silvia said, Adamsville students did not perform as well.

‘We are on par or better with districts across the state in terms of students earning a 4 or better on PARCC,” he said. “We are on par with New Jersey this year in terms of math. Usually we exceed the state, and this year we are on par.”

“Adamsville performances significantly increased, so we are looking at students to see why there is such a performance increase,” he added.

Silvia said they have to look at contributing factors from the school to see what might have caused changes in student performance.

In addition, Silvia said, they are also noticing that students at Bradley Gardens and John F. Kennedy are not performing on as high a level as the other schools.

Silvia said they also noticed a drop in scores for grade four science last year, but one of the contributing factors to that is that the district was piloting a next generation science curriculum, and the test was not aligned with that.

“As we move forward into next year, we won’t be able to see how that impacts scores because the state has changed the testing for science,” he said. “The state has changed it to computer based and technology enhanced science questions, probably similar to PARCC. And it will be given in grades five, eight and 11.”

Silvia said they are also putting a focus on looking at scores of different subgroups in the district, including students who disabilities, namely those who receive services for IEPs. 

“For the most part, we outpace the state in terms of the percentages of proficiency and above,” he said. “But we want these percentages to be higher.”

“Students with disabilities are exceeding the state scores, and as we get further on to grades 10 and 11, that span is higher,” he added, “so students are really outperforming the state.”

Silvia said these investigations are part of the mission statement for meeting the needs of all students.

“There are differences in terms of how the students are performing on PARCC assessments,” he said. “Asian students are performing better around the state. This allows us to look in a way that if we are talking about our mission statement and meeting one and all of our students’ needs, we can look at this and think of growth.”

Silvia said the district is looking to investigate performance from a growth mindset.

“We can have students in some of the most gifted and talented classes who have the lowest growth,” he said. “We’re comparing students to others around the state who performed like them in the previous years’ assessments.”

For example, Silvia said, if a student scores a 5 on the PARCC in the first year, and then doesn’t perform as well the following year, he would still be compared to those who scored a 5 in the previous year.

“Those who I’m being compared to, if they got a 5 last year and now didn’t do so great, they could still show great growth,” he said, “because I’m still being compared to those from last year. If everyone else in my group also didn’t do as well, it’s the same situation.”

Silvia said they have noticed that students who were not meeting expectations in language arts did not do well as compared to the standard and also had very low growth. Those who are exceeding expectations, he said, had mostly high and typical growth.

“The students who are not performing well are also not growing as quickly as others, and that’s an issue,” he said. “With the idea of teaching one and all, we have to see if we are meeting all needs.”

Superintendent Russell Lazovick said the data is meaningful when looking at the programs and evaluating them to determine trends.
“Students that get it get it really well,” he said. “If you look at that as a program, it’s incredibly meaningful.”

“Students who get to math earlier do better, and do better than age-appropriate performing peers,” he added. “Those who take algebra earlier than high school do better.”

Lazovick said that in looking at the data, it shows that those who are high performing stay high performing and show growth, and those who are average don’t show dramatic growth. Those who are low performing, he said, continue to fall into the low performing category.

“The data follows the progression of our programs if we look student to student,” he said.

Lazovick said the growth conversation is more complicated and important in trying to see the needs of all.

“We need to show we are meeting the individual needs, and not just programmatic needs,” he said.

As for the next steps, Silvia said, they begin with examining the data, and looking at specific students along with how they are performing in certain areas of the assessment.

“We’re examining the data and groups of students with the idea of teaching one and all,” he said.

Silvia said they are looking at different points of data and how to use the tools that the district has to drill down specifically.

“If we can get to the smallest level and focus on that, performance should increase,” he said. “We are examining our instructional practices, and what we are doing to help every single student in the classroom, as well as how we are differentiating instruction.”

Silvia said it is all part of the strategic plan, determining how students are doing in all subjects, as well as in technology, and how they are transferring the skills they need.

It will take some time, Silvia said, to make it all work.

“We have to be cognizant of people who are working, when they are working with administrators,” he said. “We have to give support.”

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