CALDWELL, NJ — At the regular public meeting of the Caldwell/West Caldwell Board of Education (CWC BOE) on Feb. 8, a review of the district’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores, had been sent to parents a few weeks prior to this meeting, were discussed and reviewed.
According to the CWC BOE, the PARCC tests replace the old state standardized tests (HSPA or NJASK). Leading the presentation and discussion alongside Director of Instruction and Curriculum Scott Klepesch, Superintendent James Heinegg stressed that the district maintains a balanced approach to state testing. "
It should always be taken as one part of the larger picture of student achievement," said Heinegg. "That's always been our approach for a long, long time."
A presentation was used in the meeting elaborate on the statistics and the district’s review of the PARCC scores, which is available for public viewing on the district’s website by clicking HERE. In the presentation, the report states that PARCC scores "should always be considered along with other indicators of achievement, e.g.: classroom assessments, teacher/parent observations, report card grades, student work products, etc., in order to get a more complete picture of a student's academic accomplishments."
The district presentation also states that PARCC assessments “are scored differently and are based on new standards that were not necessarily addressed on previous exams."
Heinegg said these first-year scores are setting a new baseline for evaluating students.
In reviewing the district's results, Heinegg also noted that in Grades 3-8, students scored higher than the average in English Language Arts (ELA) compared to other states that participate in the PARCC testing system, including the District of Columbia, as well as compared to the average of other districts in New Jersey.
The math scores showed a different outcome, in that some grades scored higher in meeting or exceeding expectations than the other averages, while some grades scored lower.
High school numbers showed a mixed bag of results, with both higher-and lower-than-average scores in both ELA and math. It was noted that 84 percent of the eighth-grade students that took the Algebra I test met or exceeded expectations. Heinegg explained the Algebra I test (an advanced class for that grade) is considered end-of-course for eighth-graders, meaning that they must pass it in order to graduate.
Reactions to the report addressed both the positive and the negative.
"It is hard to believe the scores are so low," said a participating parent.
"We don't score below state averages as a whole and never have," said board member John King in comparing the PARCC to other tests.
When CWC BOE President Marie Lanfrank asked if the results helped the district "determine where kids need improvement," Heinegg replied that the results will be studied, but that there will be no immediate changes to the curriculum.
One of the stated goals of PARCC according to the presentation was to “help districts measure the effectiveness of their curriculum, interventions and programs.”
"It's the first year of trying to glean insights into curriculum and instruction and how you validate that against the other measures we have," said Klepesch, who also stressed this wasn't an instant process, saying the review is a "time-intensive, multi-step process."
The board also received a compliment from Judith Dias, a graduate of Caldwell University, as well a member of the West Essex Board of Education who was seated in the audience.
"Bravo to you for your accomplishments, no matter how the media is skewing this,” she said. “One of the challenges that we have is this public tendency to want to group everything together—to want to explain it.”
The WEBOE member also noted that the test is very much about individual student and intended to determine his or her achievements as well as where help might be needed.
In another element related to reviewing the results, Heinegg added that state requirements for graduation do not require students to take the PARCC yet, and was in fact pushed back a year. He said that some students, especially at the high-school level, may not have taken the test seriously, or at all, because it is still not required.
The district presentation concluded with the following statement:
“The PARCC tests are only one of several measures, including report cards and in-class performance, that are used to determine growth. It will take time. As is always the case with standardized tests, scores will start to improve as teachers and students become more familiar with the standards and skills and knowledge to meet them.”
The full presentation can be viewed at http://www.cwcboe.org/Page/8670.