WEST ORANGE, NJ – With 38 percent of West Orange High School students reportedly not meeting expectations (or achieving Level 1) on the Algebra 2 PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam, several members of the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) expressed concern at Monday’s meeting about how algebra is being taught in the district.

This discussion followed district testing coordinator Stephanie Diegmann’s testing presentation. Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky said he was concerned that 11th graders are taking the Algebra 2 PARCC at a time when they are concentrating on passing their advanced proficiency (AP) exams.

“Our focus has always been on making sure that students do well on their AP exams, and PARCC has been secondary,” said Rutzky, who also noted that PARCC is not a required test. “When something becomes a requirement, you will see a difference in math scores (on PARCC).”

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Board member Mark Robertson asserted his view that the district has a math problem and recommended more emphasis on pre-algebra in the fifth grade.

“There is only a little bit of algebra taught in the fifth grade, and only the honors students in the sixth grade learn algebra throughout the year,” said Robertson. “Students in regular classes only learn it at the end of the year.”

With the PARCC geometry scores also seeing a downward trend, Rutzky said the entire was concerned about the math numbers.

“We need time to evaluate this issue,” he said. “We will be looking into how algebra is being taught, and we will be doing a comprehensive evaluation of the math curriculum.”

In addition, Rutzky said that the district is looking into launching a summer math program that will give students an opportunity to improve their math skills during the summer break.

WOBOE President Sandra Mordecai recommended that there should be more after-school algebra help for students at the high school.

Board member Laura Lab said that the WOBOE should not read too much into the PARCC results because “25 percent of students don’t take the test.” She said this invalidates the results.

In 2017, 366 students opted out of the test, which is an improvement over the 422 that opted out in 2016.

On a positive note, the presentation revealed that overall ELA (Engllish Language Arts) & Literacy Assesment scores were trending up for the students that took PARCC from grades three to 11.

PARCC results, which include data on how West Orange students generally compare favorably to students in New Jersey and nationwide, can be found at www.woboe.org.

The next WOBOE meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20.