Pinelands Regional Students Improving on PARCC Test

Language Arts Gain Is Especially Impressive
Oct 18, 2017

Pinelands Regional School District students posted significant gains in their Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers tests in the spring of 2017.

The two most important tests are in Algebra 1 and 10th-grade language arts (what older folks once knew as English). That’s because “passing” those tests is a graduation requirement starting with the Class of 2021 (today’s freshmen), thanks to a 2016 decision by the New Jersey Board of Education.

Phil Murphy, the Democrat candidate for governor in this November’s election, has said he would do away with the PARCC tests if elected, while Republican candidate Kim Guadagno has said she would review the state’s testing requirements. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so it’s better for a district to see scores tick up rather than remain level or sink. And the Pinelands scores did indeed head up, some in a major way.

PARCC tests are scored in five categories, from what used to be, in a less politically correct time, F through A. Today’s categories are Level 1, “not yet meeting expectations”; Level 2, “partially meeting expectations”; Level 3, “approaching expectations”; Level 4, “meeting expectations”; and Level 5, “exceeding expectations.”

At Pinelands, 16.8 percent of students scored at Level 1 in 2016 while 20.6 percent reached Level 2 and another 27.9 percent managed Level 3. Only 34.7 would have “passed,” with 33.7 percent checking in at Level 4 while 1 percent excelled at Level 5.

In the spring of 2017, a mere 11.1 percent of students taking the test scored at Level 1. Scores showed 24.6 percent reached Level 2 and 26.6 percent Level 3, while 36.5 percent reached Level 4 and 2.4 percent cracked the Level 5 hurdle.

Put simply, 38.9 percent of those taking the test this spring would have “passed” the Algebra 1 PARCC exam, up from 34.7 percent in 2016.

If 38.9 percent doesn’t sound fantastic, some perspective is in order. According to the New Jersey Department of Education, only 41.4 percent of students statewide managed to “pass” the Algebra 1 exam this spring, which means Pinelands is approaching the state average.

The gains at Pinelands were more dramatic in the 10th-grade language arts test, where 36 percent reached Level 4 and 12.9 percent cracked the Level 5 plateau this spring. That’s up from 17.9 percent at Level 4 and 7.7 percent at Level 5 in 2016.

In other words, 48.9 percent of students taking the test qualified for graduation as far as language arts are concerned in 2017, compared to a mere 25.6 the year before. The state average of students “passing” the test in the spring of 2017 was 46.3 percent.

The gains were even more impressive at the bottom level of the chart. Just 15.8 percent were stuck at Level 1 in 2017. In 2016, that percentage was 42.3 percent.

The above two tests are the ones that must be passed in order to graduate starting in 2021. But PARCC tests are administered each year for every middle, junior and high school grade except seniors. The results can be used to assess the performance of both students and teachers.

Of Pinelands kids taking the seventh-grade math test last spring, 33.5 percent met or exceeded expectations – up from 26.6 from the year before.

Among eighth-graders, 24.9 percent reached Level 4 or 5 in math. In 2016, that figure was only 18.9, without a single student reaching Level 5.

In the geometry test, 30.3 percent scored at Level 4 and an additional 1.1 percent hit the Level 5 mark. In 2016, those figures were 25 and 1.3.

Finally, 19.7 percent of Pinelands students were proficient or above in Algebra 2, up from 6.1 percent the previous year. That percent of students hitting the “passing” mark might still sound weak, yet the state average was just 26.6.

The only blot on the 2017 Pinelands PARCC score sheet was that only 39.4 percent taking the seventh-grade language arts test had “passing” grades, down from 45.2 percent in 2016. But 53.8 percent “passed” the eighth-grade test, up from 43.5 the year before.

Among students taking the ninth-grade test, 51.3 were proficient or above, compared to the 2016 figure of 49.2.

Among Wildcat students taking the 11th-grade language arts exam, 56.1 reached Level 4 or above, more than doubling the 22.9 percent result in 2016.

— Rick Mellerup

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.