SPARTA, NJ – Dennis Tobin, Superintendent and Dr Melissa Varley, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Staff Development made a presentation to the board of education and the public at the December meeting at the Mohawk Avenue School.  The presentation was the first of an anticipated four on the topic of how the district is progressing toward achieveing the annual district goals.  

The first and second goals are related in that they deal with providing curriculum and academic programs, professional development, implementing Achieve NJ and student achievement as measured by PARCC.  The first goal deals with all students.  The second goal specifically targets special education student. 

PARCC is the state mandated standardized test that will be implemented by all districts in NJ this year.  The PARCC will replace the NJASK test, though certain secondary level classes such as Algebra I and II and Biology, will continue to take a standardized End of Course exams.

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In presenting the district’s progress toward achieving these goals, Varley reported on the English Language Arts and Math scores on common assessments given to all students in grades Kindergarten through High School.  The common assessments evaluated the students’ acquisition of skills and knowledge of the common core standards covered in the first marking period and benchmark evaluations for standards expected to be acquired by the end of the year.

Varley presented a chart for each grade in each subject, including Algebra I and II and Geometry at the middle and high schools.  She presented scores for general education and special education.  The scores were broken down into three categories; Approaching Standards, Meeting Standards and Exceeding Standards. 

In addition to the test scores Varley discussed the Major Activities used to achieve the first and second goals.  These include;

  • Expanding the before and after school remediation programs,
  • Brain Camp,
  • Professional Development for Staff,
  • Alignment of curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards,
  • Implementing Readers’ and Writers’ workshops and
  • Development of Student Growth Objectives. 

In addition, for the second goal the Major Activities include focus on Special Education Parent Advisory Group and the ongoing process of having Child Study Teams evaluate and update Individualized Education Plans.

Tobin took over the discussion for the remaining goals.

The third goal deals with facilities;

  • Doing a needs assessment, 
  • Prioritization of capital projects and
  • Submitting the Long Range Facilities Plan, as required by the state. 

Tobin gave a timeline for the anticipated completion of the various parts of this goal.

The Long Range Strategic Plan was a holdover from the previous year.  It was mutually agreed that this fourth goal be carried over and has been substantially satisfied.  The district sponsored three widely publicized and well attended meetings open to the community this fall.  The goals were created.  The NJSBA representative Annunziata will be synthesizing them and presenting the final language for board approval.  The expectation is that this will happen in February. 

Finally, the fifth goal is to expand the professional development for staff.  The Professional Development Academy has begun and has even been opened to other districts seeking to have their staff receive additional training.  Sparta has received payment from other districts who have taken advantage of this opportunity. 

There were only a few questions posed by board members after the presentation.  Brenda Beebe wanted to know the “source of the assessments” used for the first two goals.  Varley responded that many were used including DRA, STAR reading assessment, CMI and others.

Kim Yoemans wanted to know how the data from the various assessments were merged and what percentages were used to determine on which level the students were performing.  Varley explained that each assessment already determines a level of proficiency and that the levels from those assessments were used.

Another question from Yoemans was how the reports differed for honors and AP student.  Varley’s response was that the standards being assessed are the same for all students.  Those in an advanced class are getting a more in depth exposure to those standards.  Yoemans also wanted to know how these scores indicated the students would perform on the PARCC.  Varley said “We don’t know what the PARCC looks like so we don’t know.”  She went on to say the curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and the students are performing better this year than last on the common assessments. 

There will be similar presentations at the conculusion of each marking period.  

The district goals were set at a special meeting in August at the Sparta High School Media Center.  It was a contentious meeting that lasted more than four hours.  It was moderated by Al Annunziata Field Service Representative from the New Jersey School Boards Association.