BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District is striving for even greater improvement on student testing scores, according to a public presentation delivered last month.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Daniel Silvia delivered the presentation, part one of the Annual Report on Student Achievement, at the Oct. 29 meeting of the Bridgewater-Raritan board of education. Information from the presentation is available online on the district’s website at brrrsd.org.
The presentation at John F. Kennedy Primary School included information about standardized assessments, primarily the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA) for grades three through 10, primarily in the areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). It also discussed how the district’s students performed on those assessments.
“The district is constantly assessing student learning,” said Silvia.
He added there have been statewide assessments in New Jersey since the 1970s, leading to the No Child Left Behind Act that is now nearly 20 years old.
In grades one through five, local students were said to be increasing or meeting expectations. Data for 11th grade in ELA was not said to be truly reflective, as most students (about 11 percent in all) reportedly did not take that test unless they needed it in order to graduate.
Results were displayed for both NJLSLA English Language Arts and Mathematics from the 2019 tests.
“For the most part, we’re exceeding the state,” said Silvia.
That included the NJ Math grade four assessment, from 2016 to 2019.
Concerning mathematics, grades seven to eight mark the years that students begin to take algebra, starting with Algebra I.
“The middle school is carrying the day,” said Silvia of the assessment results, although not all tests utilize the same groups of students.
“We have faith in what we’re doing,” said Silvia.
Lower-performing students and groups are being coupled in back-to-back classes with the same teacher, to help improve performance. There are also changes being made at the high school level, with regard to Algebra.
“It has to be the right instruction,” said Silvia, “not just the amount.”
He also said that local students taking the Algebra II assessment are “significantly outpacing the state,” as are sixth grade students in ELA.
Also discussed were students with disabilities who took the 2019 NJSLA Mathematics assessment, which included students from Bridgewater and Raritan who are being schooled out of district.
“We’re not where we want to be (with scores),” said Silvia, “but we’re outperforming the state.”
Regarding the 2019 performance standard, Silvia said that many of the district’s students are doing well.
The assessments also ranked students on six standards of proficiency. “One” marked the lowest score in proficiency, while “six” was the highest, and students ultimately exited out after attaining a certain level of proficiency.
Port-of-entry students, or those who were coming to the U.S. for the first time, tended to have gaps in their educations, with many of them trying to speak English for the first time, and this was reflected in some of their scores, Silvia said.
Board member Ann Marie Mead asked if changes made this year in Algebra I will have an impact on students. Milltown Primary School students were said to be performing well, but not their counterparts at JFK Primary School.
“I think most students are responding to our curriculum and instruction,” said Mead.
She added that others are not doing as well, and that the district needs to do a better job to increase their academic performance. She also said she wants to do a better job in program evaluations and leverage intervention specialists better, while giving students additional support.
“For me, it’s critical,” said Mead, who was also told it is the second year the district is employing the new Algebra I textbook.
Board president Jill Gladstone called Silvia’s presentation highly informative, and said she was looking forward to the second part. Part two of the student achievement report will be delivered at a future date and is expected to include information on Advanced Placement test scores, other assessments and graduation rates.