Test Scores: Few Peaks and Many Valleys

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Board of Education offices
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PATERSON, NJ – Last year’s third graders at Roberto Clemente School have something to be proud about. In state testing last spring, 97.4 percent of them – or 74 of the school’s 76 third graders - reached the proficiency level in the math test. That was highest math percentage citywide, compared to all grade levels at all Paterson elementary schools.

Roberto Clemente also had the city’s best third-grade language arts score, with 72.4 percent making proficiency levels.

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At School No. 15, the numbers were not nearly as good. There, in language arts, just nine of the 43 third graders reached proficiency, or 20.9 percent of them. In math, School No. 15 had 60.5 percent of its third graders attain proficiency levels.

“Those schools are just a few blocks away from each other,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner. “They have the same demographics.’’

The school-by-school breakdown of students’ test scores, which was recently disseminated to Board of Education members, shows that not all Paterson children are struggling academically. Students at several schools repeatedly outperformed their counterparts from the rest of the city, the preliminary test results show.

But those schools stand as the glaring exceptions. Citywide, less than half of Paterson’s students managed to meet state proficiency levels in math and language arts. In the fifth grade language arts test, for example, only one school out of 27 – Alexander Hamilton Academy - had more than 50 percent of its students reach the proficiency level. In short, thousands of city students are being left behind.

Three schools – No. 6, No. 10 and No. 28 – did not have a single grade level for which even 40 percent of the students achieved proficiency on either the language arts or math test. In fact, there were 15 instances at those three schools for which the percentage of students in a particular grade who reached proficiency in a subject was less than 20.

“I’m not satisfied,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges. “I’m going to be looking for a plan that directly addresses what these test scores show us.’’

State-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans plans to present the school board with a proposal to improve academic problems at the city’s 17 most-troubled school on Wednesday. Evans, who makes $205,000, is under the gun. The state is revising his contract to include standards for student performance and says that if Evans fails to produce results he will be let go next summer.

In making that announcement, acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf pointed out that 25 of 39 Paterson schools are deemed “in need of improvement” under the federal No Child Left Behind guidelines. Cerf called the district’s graduation rate of 50.4 percent “unacceptably low.’’

The preliminary 2011 results from the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) tests showed 49.1 percent of Paterson students in grades 3 through 8 achieved proficiency levels in math, a slight increase compared to the 45.9 percent from 2010.

In language arts, 35.6 percent of Paterson children in third through eighth grades reached state proficiency levels on NJ ASK, a decline from the 36.6 percent in 2010.

Here is what PatersonPress.com found in its review of the scores for individual schools:

·        At Roberto Clemente School, which has kindergarten through fourth grade, students performed as well as their counterparts did at the city’s two magnet schools. The 5th Ward school had the best third grade scores in both math and language arts.

·        Norman S. Weir, a magnet school which had between 20 and 27 students in each grade last year, easily surpassed all other city schools. In math, it had the highest proficiency percentages in every grade from fourth through eighth. In language arts, it had the highest numbers for fourth and eighth grades and the second highest in the fifth through seventh grades.

·        Among the city’s neighborhood schools, School No. 9 in the 6th Ward and Martin Luther King in the 5th Ward had the best performance, with their students’ scores among the city’s top five percentages eight and seven times respectively.

·        School No. 10, which is undergoing a major, three-year reorganization with a $6 million federal grant, was one of the two lowest performing schools in the city. In two instances, School No. 10’s proficiency rates were the lowest in the city, and three times it was the second lowest. School 4, which also is getting an overhaul under the same grant program, actually achieved numbers that were better six other city schools.

·        School No. 6 – which was denied federal funding under the same grant awarded to School 10 and School 4 – had the worst overall proficiency rates in the district. In five instances, its numbers were at the bottom of the rankings, including fourth grade language arts in which just one student out of 61 scored at the proficiency level.

·        School No. 28’s third graders had the city’s worst proficiency levels in both language arts and math, with seven out of 77 meeting the standard in language arts and 15 out of 77 in math.

Paterson Public Schools officials declined to comment on those results, as well as on the school-by-school data, until the state education department releases final numbers in the fall.

Irene Sterling, director of the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy group, said the final numbers provide better insight because they include comparable data for the whole state as well as for other urban districts. For example, Sterling said, Paterson’s small decline in language arts scores might be seen in a better light if students statewide had their scores drop even more dramatically.

Also, Sterling said, comparing the preliminary numbers among schools is not always fair because some schools have higher percentages of student in special education or English as a Second Language programs. The final numbers include breakdowns that make those distinctions.

Hodges said the city’s “education community” – including school administrators, principals, teachers and parents – needed to make a “collaborative effort” to improve Paterson students’ scores. Hodges said the “leadership” at individual schools was important, but he also emphasized the role of parents.

“If you have high expectations for your child, you can produce a better education result for your children even at a less successful school,’’ Hodges said. “There are things that can be done by parents to improve these test scores.’’

“The first thing you do is tell your child that school is not over at 3 o’clock,’’ Hodges added, saying parents need to emphasize learning at home.

The following is a listing of the schools whose proficiency percentages put them at the top or bottom of the city rankings in each grade level and in each subject. Students start taking the NJ ASK test in third grade.  The test is only given to elementary school students.

THIRD GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Roberto Clemente, with 72.4 percent proficient; Martin Luther King, with 60.5 percent; Norman S. Weir with 60 percent; No. 9, with 59.5 percent; and No. 1, with 59.3 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 28, with 9.1 percent; No. 4, with 12.1 percent; New Roberto Clemente, with 14.3 percent; No. 12, at 14.7 percent; and No. 8, at 15.1 percent.

The top five in math were Roberto Clemente at 97.4 percent, Norman S. Weir at 95 percent, No. 1 at 88.9 percent, No. 25 at 88.5 percent and Alexander Hamilton Academy at 78 percent.

The bottom five in math were No. 28 at 19.5 percent, No. 11 at 27.8 percent, No. 6 at 28.6 percent, No. 21 at 31.9 percent, and No. 13 at 34.6 percent.

FOURTH GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Norman S. Weir, with 95.2 percent; No. 11, with 85.7 percent, Alexander Hamilton Academy, with 71.7; Roberto Clemente, with 68.2 percent; and No. 1, with 58.8 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 6, with 1.6 percent; Edward Kilpatrick, with 16.7 percent; No. 28, with 16.9 percent; New Roberto Clemente, with 18.3 percent; and No. 20, with 18.4 percent.

The top five schools in math were Norman S. Weir at 95.2 percent, Roberto Clemente at 93.2 percent, No. 1 at 88.2 percent, Alexander Hamilton at 87 percent, and No. 3 at 76.8 percent.

The bottom five schools in math were No. 6 at 14.8 percent, No. 28 at 19.5 percent, No. 20 at 24.5 percent, No. 26 at 31.8 percent and No. 13 at 32.8 percent.

The top five schools in science, a test only given to fourth and eighth graders, were Norman S. Weir at 100 percent, Roberto Clemente at 97.7 percent, No.1 at 88.2 percent, No. 9 at 85.8 percent, and Martin Luther King at 82.9 percent.

The bottom five schools in science were No. 6 at 27.6 percent, No. 28 at 44.2 percent, No. 13 at 52.2 percent, Edward Kilpatrick at 53 percent, and No. 10 at 54.8 percent.

FIFTH GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Alexander Hamilton Academy, with 63.6 percent; Norman S. Weir, with 44.4 percent; No. 9, with 43 percent; No. 27, with 42.2 percent; and Martin Luther King, with 35.9 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 11, with 8.3 percent; No. 10, with 9.7 percent; No. 6, with 10 percent; No. 28, with 12.7 percent; and No. 21, with 13.3 percent.  

The top five schools in math were Norman S. Weir at 85.2 percent, No. 1 at 82.8 percent, No. 9 at 81.3 percent, No. 27 at 78.9 percent and No. 25 at 65.5 percent.

The bottom five schools in math were No. 28 at 14.1 percent, No. 6 at 32.1 percent, No. 10 at 37.5 percent, No. 21 at 37.8 percent and No. 4 at 39.1 percent.

SIXTH GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Alexander Hamilton Academy at 65.2 percent, Norman S. Weir at 55.6 percent, No. 2 at 51.9 percent, No. 25 at 50.8 percent and No. 9 at 49.2 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 6 at 15.7 percent, No. 10 at 20 percent, No. 11 at 22.6 percent, No. 13 at 23.8 percent, No. 15 at 24.1 percent.

The top five schools in math were Norman S. Weir at 88.9 percent, No. 9 at 78.6 percent, Alexander Hamilton Academy at 70.8 percent, and No. 27 and Martin Luther King at 69.9 percent.

The bottom five schools in math were No. 10 at 15 percent, No. 6 at 34.3 percent, No. 13 at 34.9 percent, No. 15 at 36.8 percent, and No. 4 at 38.2 percent.

SEVENTH GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Alexander Hamilton Academy at 77.1 percent, No. 25 at 53.1 percent, Norman S. Weir at 52.4 percent, No. 9 at 43.2 percent and Martin Luther King at 37.7 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 11 at 6.3 percent, No. 15 at 10.8 percent, No. 6 at 14.5 percent, No. 4 at 18.6 percent, and No. 8 at 21.3 percent.

The top five schools in math were Norman S. Weir at 85.7 percent, Alexander Hamilton Academy at 82.9 percent, No. 9 at 64.7 percent, No. 27 at 53 percent and No. 5 at 45.2 percent.

The bottom five schools in math were No. 15 at 15.1 percent, No. 10 at 16.4 percent, No. 13 at 17.2 percent, No. 6 at 21.4 percent, and No. 11 at 21.9 percent.

EIGHTH GRADE

The top five schools in language arts were Norman S. Weir at 84 percent, Martin Luther King at 73.6 percent, No. 25 at 73.3 percent, Alexander Hamilton Academy at 73.2 percent and No. 27 at 71.4 percent.

The bottom five schools in language arts were No. 13 at 31.7 percent, No. 11 at 33.3 percent, No. 10 at 35.8 percent, No. 15 at 35.9 percent, and No. 6 at 38.6 percent.

The top five schools in math were Norman S. Weir at 92 percent, Alexander Hamilton Academy at 85.4 percent, No. 25 at 60.7 percent, No. 9 at 57.3 percent, and No. 7 at 56.1 percent.

The bottom five schools in math were No. 10 at 16.4 percent, No. 13 at 21.3 percent, No. 2 at 21.7 percent, No. 15 at 27.5 percent, No. 4 29.4 percent.

The top five schools in science were Norman S. Weir at 76 percent, No. 27 at 69.2 percent, Martin Luther King at 68.1 percent, New Roberto Clemente at 65.8 percent, and No. 9 at 65.7 percent.

The bottom five schools in science were No. 6 at 24.7 percent, No. 13 at 25.4 percent, No. 10 at 26.9 percent, No. 11 at 28.6 percent, and No. 8 at 29.5 percent.

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