At the October 16th Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) Board of Education meeting, Dr. Rosetta Treece, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented the 2016-2017 school year Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) results. Overall, students scored high marks across the District. However, troubling data was shown for kids that come from economically disadvantaged households, identified as black (non-hispanic), and have Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and receive special education services. Additionally, it was shown that low percentages of students scored passing grades for the 7 and 8 math assessments.
The PARCC, composed of a Language Arts and Math test, was first launched at HVRSD in 2015 and has been lauded by the administration as providing a wealth of information that is used to improve curriculum and overall student learning. At its core, the assessments judge how well students have learned New Jersey’s Student Learning Standards by year’s end.
According to Dr. Treece, “HVRSD uses multiple measures to glean our students’ achievement and college and career readiness. However, we also value and learn from the data provided through the state assessment as a piece of the bigger picture. We strongly encourage students to take the PARCC as it provides another lens to determine how well our students are mastering the New Jersey Learning Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.”
Results for Grades 7 and 8
Across the District, non-passing grades of 1 (Not yet meeting expectations) and 2 (Partially meeting expectations) decreased, while passing scores of 4 (Meeting Expectations) and 5 (Exceeding Expectations) in both Language Arts and Math (see slides 5 and 6 of presentation) increased. A positive step forward for the high achieving District.
The low percentages of students that showed passing grades for the 7 and 8 math assessments were somewhat misleading as the tests only capture students in the ‘Introduction to Data Analysis and Algebraic Concepts’ (7th grade), ‘Algebra A’ (7th grade), and ‘Foundations of Algebra’ (8th grade) classes. For perspective, only 25% of the student body in both 7th and 8th grades take the grade 7 and grade 8 tests.
Students in the ‘Algebra 7 Honors’ class take the test labeled “ALG1” test (slide 6), in the ‘Honors Geometry’ class take the test labeled ‘GEO,’ and those in ‘Algebra B’ take the test labeled ‘ALG1’.
That aside, the low scores for grades 7 and 8 were attributed to a curriculum misalignment to the state learning standards in the ‘Introduction to Data Analysis and Algebraic Concepts’ (7th grade), ‘Algebra A’ (7th grade), and ‘Foundations of Algebra’ (8th grade) classes. Dr. Treece reported that the District is in consultation with the Princeton Public School and West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Districts, whose students passed both assessments for the grade-level math tests. An effort is underway to revise the classes’ curriculum to be better aligned with the state standards.
Problematic Results for Subgroups
Among students taking the Language Arts test, data (slide 27) showed that only 3.3% students receiving special education services, 0% students coming from economically disadvantaged households, and 5.4% identified as black (non-hispanic) had scores of 5 (Exceeding Expectations). Additionally, it was found that girls outperformed the boys across subgroups.
Results of the Math assessment (slide 28) showed a similar trend where only 1% students receiving special education services, 4.1 % students coming from economically disadvantaged households, and 0% identified as black (non-hispanic) had scores of 5 (Exceeding Expectations). In this test, boys scored better than the girls across all subgroups. Increasing scores across subgroups is a priority for the District and ways in which to do so are currently being evaluated.
The PARCC has caused controversy over the past couple of years among parents and educators across the state. When first launched, the numbers of students opting out of the test was high but have since declined in the District, except for in the high school where this year saw an increase (slide 29).
Students who opt out of taking the PARCC assessment, complete only one of the two tests, and those who take it, but do not work to the best of their ability, appear to be not only hurting themselves, but are affecting their peers. Administrators see the test as a tool to identify areas of student and class weaknesses. Such data is then used to change curriculum, if needed, and to determine the level of help needed for individual students.
Also, starting for students in the Class of 2021, passing the Algebra 1 PARCC test is a mandatory requirement for graduation. Students who opt out of that test will eventually have to take it if they want to graduate. If they fail it, assuming they passed the Algebra 1 class, they will have to take a semester-long refresher course during the school year or in the summer, before repeating the test.
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