Pinelands PARCC Scores Still the Best Among Area High Schools

Nov 28, 2018

Members of the Pinelands Regional Board of Education spent much of the board forum segment of their Nov. 14 meeting praising the performances of the high school athletic teams and drama department this fall.

But one member, Steven Kubricki, chose to spend his time spotlighting the district’s academic performance.

Back in April Kubricki had extolled the district’s performances in the Spring 2017 PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests.

He compared Pinelands’ performance to eight area districts – Absegami and Cedar Creek to the south, Southern Regional, Barnegat, Lacey, Central and Manchester to the north and New Egypt to the west. He had discovered that four of those nine high schools in the area had ranked in the top 50 percent of 402 high schools in the state as far as total PARCC scores, with rankings of 175, 180, 186 and 194.

“Can you guess who has the highest rank out of those nine schools?“ Kubricki asked at the time. “Pinelands. Not Southern, not Absegami, not Barnegat – Pinelands.”

On Nov. 14 Kubricki returned to PARCC scores, once again comparing Pinelands to other area schools.

“I’d like to build on Dr. (Cheryl) Stevenson’s (the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction) PARCC report last month,” said Kubricki. “Last year I brought up the fact of eight schools in our area and how we compare against them ... Last year when I presented our comparison on the PARCC test, we were in the top 50 percent of the state. Four (of the nine) schools were in the top 50 percent, the top half. Us, we were at the top, ranked in our PARCC scores, followed by New Egypt, then Southern and Absegami. The other schools that I had mentioned were in the bottom half in terms of the ranking in the state.

“This year I looked at the data again for our rankings (for spring 2018 PARCC test results), and I know last year was an extremely difficult year with what transpired at the school (construction and asbestos-related closings) and the half-days (split sessions), but I’m pleased to announce that Pinelands is still in the top half of the state in terms of its rankings. In fact, there are only two schools now in our area which are in the top half, New Egypt and Pinelands. Southern has dropped to the bottom half, as has Absegami.

“Another good aspect of a comparative nature in terms of the statewide scores is our ELA (English and Language Arts) program. Our ELA program, when you look at our 11th grade performance, we’re 14 percent higher than the state average in terms of our English Language Arts program, so that’s a very, very significant achievement in terms of a state comparison.

“The one area we have to work at, and I’m sure the administration is working on it or discussing it, is our mathematics compared to the state. We are not above the state average in our mathematics performance and I’m not sure if it is a function of structure, how our mathematics courses are structured, of if it is a case of instructional delivery.

“But again, I think there’s a lot of positive things. You know, we recognize the athletic program, but we also have to recognize the academic program, and not just once every year. We gotta make it known that we are good academically. We are good academically, we’re in the top half. We can be even better than that, we can be in the top third, we can be in the top 100, you know. Why not us? There is no reason why we can’t be even up further. But I am pleased where we are now and I want to congratulate our administration.”

Stevenson’s report, which can be found on the PRSD website, shows the district has made significant improvement in its PARCC scores in the past three years.

PARCC scores are broken down in five categories. Level One, “Not Yet Meeting Expectations,” is the politically correct equivalent of the F of olden days. Level Two, “Partially Meeting Expectations,” isn’t much better. Level Three, “Approaching Expectations,” is a sign of hope. Level Four, “Meeting Expectations,” and Level Five, “Exceeding Expectations,” the PARCC equivalent of an A, are the most important levels because a) it is showing a district is succeeding and b), starting with the Class of 2021, students must reach at least the Level Four mark in Algebra One and 10th-grade English to graduate (or have to go through a portfolio appeal process). Only Levels Four and Five are considered passing.

From 2016 to 2018 Pinelands students in the Levels One and Two in ELA testing decreased by 13.1 percent in Grade 7, 4.5 percent in Grade 8, 33.9 percent in Grade 10 and 22.5 percent in Grade 11. The number of students in Grade 9 who scored at the Level One or Two levels increased by 2.6 percent but still recorded the smallest percentage of kids of any grade level who didn’t or only partially met expectations.

Meanwhile, Pinelands has increased – sometimes dramatically – its percentage of students who reached Level Four or Level Five in ELA tests since 2016. In Grade 7 21.5 percent more students reached the “passing“ level, while the increase was 10.5 percent in Grade 8, 6.5 percent in Grade 9, 19.1 percent in Grade 10 and 30.5 percent in Grade 11.

As Kubricki mentioned, the road hasn’t been as smooth in mathematics.

The decreases in the percentage of students who were classified Levels One and Two – and remember, a decrease in these levels is a good thing – were not as marked as in ELA. There was, for example, just a 2.1 percent decrease in Grade 7 and only a 1.1 percent decrease in Grade 8 from 2016 to 2018. The situation looked better from there on out, with a 16 percent decrease in Algebra 1, a whopping 39.3 percent decrease in Geometry and a 9 percent decrease in Algebra 2.

However, it was at Levels Four and Five that showed the largest discrepancy between ELA and mathematics. The increase of the percentage of students reaching those passing levels was 9.5 percent in Grade 7 between 2016 and 2018. There was actually a 3.6 percent drop in grade 8 – and a decrease is not a good thing here. There was a three-year 8.8 percent increase in Algebra 1 and an 11.9 percent increase in Geometry. But 7.9 percent fewer students reached Level Four or Five in Algebra 2.

Rick Mellerup


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