NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The Board of Education meeting on October 17 celebrated the success of city students who have done well on the PARCC standardized testing.
About 450 students and their families packed the auditorium at New Brunswick High School to celebrate achievement, as the school district works to continually improve the overall performance on the annual testing. Each child, in grades 3-11 when they took the test, was called up and recognized by applauding school officials.
In front of a standing-room crowd, there was special recognition of a senior at New Brunswick High School who received a perfect score on the English section of the PARCC. In addition, the teachers she had through her 12-year journey in the district were also honored.
Three other students were also applauded for exceeding expectations in various subjects.
School officials were elated with the progress, but acknowledged more work is needed.
The city’s public school district will be updating its curriculum to better prepare students for PARCC standardized testing, amidst state data showing a majority of students in each grade have not met expectations.
While the New Brunswick Public School District made gains in overall test scores since 2015, a majority of students still did not meet expectations in each grade according to state data released in early October.
The PARCC grading score is broken down into five categories. A score of four of five means the student met or exceeded expectations. A score of three means the student is “approaching expectations." Scores of two or one show a need for improvement.
The lowest score was in Grade 10 Geometry, in which only 4.9 percent of test takers met or exceeded expectations. The largest passing rate was in Grade 11 English and Language Arts (ELA), in which 39.4 percent of students met or exceeded expectations.
In response, the district has started updating its new curriculum for the 2017-18 school year, Assistant Superintendent Keira Scussa said at the October 17 Board of Education meeting.
Revisions are being made to the curriculum on humanities, mathematics, sciences, the arts, bilingual education, physical education and health, instructional technology and intervention, Scussa said in a presentation to parents and students.
In mathematics for example, students are now using a “conceptual-based model,” Scussa said.
“Students are now modeling and reasoning their way through math and they’re being provided real-world problems,” Scussa told the audience. “So when you learn something in math, you have to be able to apply it in the real world.”
With bilingual education, the district has rolled out a dual-language program at the Redshaw Elementary School.
Last year, 49 seniors at New Brunswick High School attained the "Seal of Biliteracy," Scussa said, a statewide program in which students must be able to demonstrate high-level proficiency in speaking, reading and listening in two or more languages.
With physical education classes, students have been able to score themselves on their participation in their PE classes and take part in small group instruction to optimize their time in instruction, Scussa said.
The district has also been making upgrades to instructional technology. School officials gave out 300 devices to students through a grant from Sprint One Million this year to high school freshmen so they can access the Internet at home. School officials hope the grant can continue.
School officials are also following cohorts of students who were in the third grade when the test was first rolled out in 2015. The district looked at those students’ scores when they were 4th graders in 2016 and 5th graders in 2017.
In ELA, 13 percent of those students passed in 2015, followed by 25 percent in 2016 and 30 percent in 2017. For that same cohort in mathematics, 20 percent passed in 2015, followed by 27 percent in 2016 and 2017.
“Now that we have three years of data, we can look at the same students as they travel from one grade to the next in New Brunswick,” Scussa said. “This is about focusing on student success and where we need to go.”