SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – At the South Plainfield Board of Education meeting on Oct. 16, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Mary Flora Malyska,presented the data results of standardized tests given during the 2018-2019 school year. 

Last year, students in grades 3 – 10 took the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the New Jersey State Learning Standards Assessment (NJSLA) – formerly PARCC – and students in grades 3 – 8 took the Mathematics portion of the NJSLA followed by subject areas tests for those students in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2; high school students took nearly two dozen Advanced Placement (AP) exams; students with cognitive disabilities took the Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) Assessment; and ESL students district-wide took the ACCESS for English Language Learners’ (ELLs) exam. 

NJSLA Results 

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NJSLA math and ELA exams, said Malyska, are aligned to the New Jersey State Student Learning Standards and ‘were created to measure students’ ability to apply their knowledge of concepts rather than memorizing facts.’ 

“The NJSLA requires students to solve problems using mathematical reasoning and to respond to writing prompts by analyzing various reading passages.” Malyska said. “It’s not a straightforward display of what students learn. The NJSLA shows whether students can create something through synthesis of information.” 

She added, “The state provides performance averages of all the schools participating in the NJSLA, and we strive to always surpass that expectation level.”

For the NJSLA, students are scored Level 1 through Level 5, with Level 4 signifying students ‘met expectations’ and Level 5 signifying ‘exceeded expectations.’ Of South Plainfield’s total population, which is a combination of both general and special education students, 59.5-percent of third graders; 74-percent of fourth graders; 70.5-percent of fifth graders; 65.9-percent of sixth graders; 67.1-percent of seventh graders; 62.8-percent of eighth graders; 55.1-percent of ninth graders; and 59.9-percent of tenth graders scored in Level 4 or Level 5 in ELA. 

While South Plainfield scored above both the state and district average on the ELA component in all grades, the assistant superintendent stated that the district is working to strengthen scores in grades seven and eight ELA since that is where the district is the smallest majority ahead of comparative averages by ‘incorporating the skills students need into their daily reading practice.’ 

In terms of the math component of NJSLA, South Plainfield’s total population, also combination of both general and special education students, 71-percent of third graders; 64.5-percent of fourth graders; 54-percent of fifth graders; 55.4-percent of sixth graders; 43-percent of seventh graders; and 18.7-percent of eighth graders scored in Level 4 or Level 5 in mathematics. Additionally, 44.5-percent of students achieved passing scores in Algebra I with 70.3-percent in Geometry and 85.2-percent in Algebra 2.

“Grades 3 and 4 were well above the curve…we are far above the state average, more so than we could have hoped. Our elementary [schools] are really doing a wonderful job,” said Malyska.

While Grade 8 Math scores dip not just in South Plainfield but throughout the state with scores of only 29.3-percent passing, scores locally did increase from the previous year. The district, said the assistant superintendent, still needs to ‘focus on the transition from Grant School into the Middle School to keep scores on the rise.’

“We are on an upward trend, but we need to continue addressing skill deficits through tailored instruction,” said Malyska, who outlined the district’s action plan for Grades 7 and 8 math, explaining that ‘new pacing guides will increase rigor’ and set standardized curriculum coverage in each class.  

Advanced Placement Results

Advance Placement (AP) exams are designed by the College Board and scoring is based on a scale of 1 to 5 and, depending on university and college guidelines, students may use successful AP scores (ranging from 3 to 5) to replace college courses. Locally, district students came in above both the state and global average in 18 of the 21 AP exams taken during the 2018-2019 school year. 

“South Plainfield students are performing well on AP exams. Generally, our AP scores are off the charts compared to the state and global performance averages… our teachers are doing an excellent job,” said Malyska, noting that the US Government and Politics, Music Theory, and Computer Science courses are the only ones that ‘fell short of the state and/or global performance averages.’ 

According to the assistant superintendent, efforts are in place to ‘ensure classroom expectations and rigor align with the AP exams and College Board standards.’ Administrators and teachers will collaboratively review student performance and assessment materials through the year to benchmark progress. Additionally, in terms of the AP Computer Science course, which was based on a new course syllabus and curriculum in 2018-2019, will ‘need some fine tuning to ensure it is being matched appropriately with the test.’

Dynamic Learning Assessment Results  

The Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) assessments are designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities for whom general state assessment are not appropriate even with accommodations. DLM assessments offer these students a way to show what they know and can do in math, ELA, and Science. Scoring is as follows: emerging, approaching the target; at target; and advanced. 

A total of 37 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, some who are out of district, took the DLM, with a majority falling within the emerging category in ELA, math, and science. To help this group of students, the assistant superintendent said the special services department is working with teachers to review students’ individual score reports and adjust classroom support systems as needed and that child study teams will review the data to ensure IEPs appropriately and effectively match with program implementation. 

“That’s really what it comes down to…are we supporting the students in the best way that they need, are we accommodating and modifying the curriculum in the ways that ensure their success,” she said. 

ACCESS for ELLs Results 

The ACCESS for English Language Learners (ELLs) measures English Language Learners’ English proficiency levels on a yearly basis. The results are used to determine student growth and progress with language development. Based upon their performance, students are placed into different academic levels for their English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum program. The ACCESS for ELLs scores students on a scale of 1 (entering) to 6 (reaching) on listening, speaking, reading, and writing as well as oral language, literacy, and comprehension. 

“South Plainfield shows great progress and improvement in our state standardized assessment results. The efforts of district level and school administration, working in partnership with classroom teachers make this growth and all future gains attainable,” said Malyska. 

Overall, added Malyska, “ “When looking at comparable performance averages, South Plainfield comes in above the expected performance levels, and that is a testament to the commitment of our educators and students.”

“...It is very encouraging to see what is going on in South Plainfield,” said SPBOE member John Farinella. “To see the kids perform at this level, whether you agree with some of these tests or not…tells us the entire district is moving carefully, thoughtfully, and in a cohesive manner…That doesn’t happen unless you have strong programs throughout the district.” 

The complete ‘2019 Data Presentation’ is posted on the South Plainfield School District website (http://www.spboe.org) under the right side shortcuts bar. 

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