Southern and Barnegat PARCC Scores Fall Short of Coming Mandate

Passing Algebra 1, 10th-Grade English Is 2021 Graduation Requirement
Feb 22, 2017

We’re not picking on Pinelands; it isn’t the only area school district with a PARCC challenge.

The SandPaper recently printed a story about the challenges facing the Pinelands Regional School District in the wake of the New Jersey State Board of Education’s decision in August 2016 to make passing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Algebra 1 and 10th-grade English tests a requirement for graduation starting in 2021 (“NJBOE Now Requires Passing PARCC Test for 2021 Graduates,” 2/8).

That means the new requirement would apply to students now in eighth grade.

The resulting task facing the Pinelands district is daunting. PARCC tests are scored at five levels, from Level 1, “Not Yet Meeting Expectations,” through Level 5, “Exceeding Expectations.” Starting in 2021, students would have to reach at least Level 4, “Meeting Expectations,” in the two highlighted tests (PARCC tests in English language arts and math are given to students in grades three through 11) to meet graduation requirements. In 2016, the second year of PARCC testing in the state, just 34.7 percent of the Pinelands students taking the Algebra 1 test reached the top two levels while only 25.6 percent of the kids taking the 10th grade English tests made the passing cut.

But the situation is not unique to Pinelands. Less than half of the students at Southern Regional High School and Barnegat High School taking the two tests in the 2015-16 school year would have met graduation requirements.

Just 28.3 percent of the Southern Regional sophomores taking the 10th-grade English test reached Level 4. Add in the 6.2 percent who reached Level 5 and you have a mere 34.5 percent of the students eligible for graduation, leaving 65.5 percent falling short.

The numbers were better at Southern in Algebra 1, with 41.4 percent of tested students posting Level 4 scores while an additional 1.5 percent exceeded expectations. Still, that would have left 57.1 percent of the students who took the test unable to graduate.

Barnegat High School sophomores also struggled with English; 26.2 percent of the 10th-graders taking the test met expectations and 4.6 exceeded them, meaning 69.2 percent wouldn’t have met the graduation requirement if it were in place last year.

The situation was even more dire in Algebra 1, with only 24.3 percent of the freshmen reaching Level 4 and none cracking the Level 5 plateau. That would leave an astounding 75.7 percent of the students not meeting the graduation requirement if the 2021 rules were in effect.

There’s another problem with the PARCC tests. Many students opt out of the test with their parents’ permission or miss testing day due to illness or other excused absences. That can currently be worked around because SAT or ACT scores can be used to prove proficiency in lieu of the PARCC tests. But that detour won’t be available starting in 2021, when the only way to bypass the new graduation requirement will be to seek “portfolio approval” from the state. Considering less than 50 percent of all of New Jersey students pass Algebra 1 and 10th-grade English, it is easy to imagine a severe backlog of portfolio approval submissions in Trenton.

Last year, 258 Pinelands sophomores were registered to take the 10th-grade English test. A dozen were not tested. Of 239 students registered to take the Algebra 1 test at Pinelands, 11 didn’t take it.

At Southern, 47 students out of the 481 registered for the 10th-grade English exam didn’t actually take it while 74 of the 525 registered students for the Algebra 1 test didn’t show up.

Of the 222 Barnegat High School students registered for the 10th-grade English test, 27 didn’t sit down to take it; 189 were registered for the Algebra 1 exam with 16 missing it.

— Rick Mellerup

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