The New Jersey Department of Education provided the State Board with several key presentations related to last year’s administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, including comparatives to New Jersey student performance on other national assessments such as the NAEP, a timeline on release of information and an updated graduation requirement matrix, allowing the Board to officially approve the PARCC cut scores.
Year 1: Getting There & Lessons Learned
Assistant Commissioner Bari Erlichson provided the Board with an overview of Year 1 data, which began with the evolutionary steps the State has taken over the last several years to implement the new assessment.
Erlichson, who will be stepping down from her role as Chief Performance Officer to lead a new office on Data Literacy, was joined by soon to be Acting Performance Officer Jeffrey Hauger who walked the Board through the performance level setting process that occurred over the summer and into the fall, leading to the establishment of the following performance levels:
The conversation continued with an update on the timeline for release of data to districts and parents:
What the data showed was a study of students and schools transitioning to a new assessment, with some areas of concern for schools and some areas requiring additional analysis:
For comparison purposes, the Department also provided scores on the NAEP, SAT and ACT.
Also included was an analysis by race and ethnicity as well as economic disadvantage that continued to show that New Jersey’s achievement gap exists. The breakdown based on income levels showed that while 44 percent of the state’s third-grade students met PARCC’s expectations on that grade’s language arts test – the rate for low-income students was just 25 percent.
The disparities in the older grades were even starker. Just 22 percent of students categorized as low-income met the mark on the new PARCC sixth-grade math exam, compared to 53 percent of those not considered low-income – a gap of more than 30 percent. The numbers broken down by race are equally stark. While 80 percent of Asian students and 61 percent of white students “met expectations” for the seventh-grade language arts test, the numbers for African-American and Hispanic students were 30 and 35 percent, respectively.
Adopting the Cuts
As expected, the state board, in a resolution vote, adopted the PARCC scoring of the results and the consortium’s five categories for achievement, ranging from “not meeting expectations” (Level 1) to “approaching expectations” (Level 3) to “exceeding expectations” (Level 5).
Using the Scores
The board also heard a presentation from the administration on how those marks would be applied – at least for now – to the state’s high school graduation requirement.
The Administration has said it would not set a hard-and-fast bar for graduating until the Class of 2020 – next year’s ninth-graders – instead providing options for meeting the graduation requirements in lieu of the PARCC test scores. While one option includes minimum scores on one or more PARCC tests, students can also meet graduation requirements by achieving a specified minimum score on the SAT and ACT college entrance tests or other college placement assessments. The back-up option is a long existing portfolio appeals process in which students must show their proficiency by submitting graded school work or other specified samples.
The Governor’s Commission on Use of Assessments will be providing a recommendation to the Department and State Board with regard to requirements beginning with the Class of 2020. That Commission, convened last year to examine New Jersey’s use of assessment in schools is due to imminently release a report on their findings.
Some Harrowing Stats
One harrowing part of the presentation was a comparison to course passage rates in high school algebra 1 in particular versus performance on the assessment. These stats will require districts to examine what curriculum is being covered so that they are consistent with standards by grade.
Support for the Field
FEA’s CEO Jay Doolan was on hand to report on NJSPA/FEA’s assistance to the Department in their support of the field in understanding and utilizing the new breadth of data available to educators. Joined by ASCD’s Maria Adair, the duo provided an overview of upcoming professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders alike.