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10-21-15 Statewide Data re PARRC Scores Released

Press of Atlantic City - PARRC Tests Show Low Passing Rate

Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 5:00 am  by DIANE D’AMICO, Staff Writer

TRENTON — State results of the new PARCC state tests were released by the state Department of Education on Tuesday, and as expected, passing rates were low.

Only about half of all K-8 students in New Jersey are meeting new language arts state standards.

Only about a third of high school students who took the Algebra I test in high school met or exceeded new standards.Almost a third of all high school students who took the geometry test failed it.

The results were released at a briefing at New Jersey Manufacturer’s Insurance Co. headquarters that included panels of college presidents, business leaders and educators talking about the controversial new test’s value for today’s students.

The only education group not included was the New Jersey Education Association, which later issued a press release calling the test flawed and saying parents and policy makers should carefully review the results. A teacher on the panel said the new test would help teachers.

Education Commissioner David Hespe stressed that this is first-year baseline data, it is not perfect, and he does expect criticism.

“Teachers want to know how this test will affect classroom instruction,” he said. “That is what we will be doing, showing them how to use the test results to improve.”

The new test has five levels of performance, rather than three used in the old tests. Students who achieved level 4 or 5 are considered to meet or exceed standards. The exact scores for meeting standards are not yet available.

Assistant Commissioner Bari Erlichson compared the PARCC results with national data from the SAT, ACT and National Assessment of Educational Progress to show that the new test is a more accurate measure of whether students are ready for college.

“We believe PARCC is a reliable and honest measure of college and career readiness,” she said.

College presidents and business representatives said higher standards are needed.

Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman said that for the first time, teachers, students, higher education and business are aligned toward the same goals.

“Assessment is important to improve the teaching and learning process,” he said. “It is not to be punitive or political in any way. It is to improve the teaching process.”

He said Stockton has never used the old state test for placement because it was not good enough. He hopes PARCC can eliminate the need for placement and other testing in the future.

Only statewide data was released Tuesday. School districts will get local student data in mid-November, and parents also will get reports for their children. Hespe said in future years they hope to have results back to schools by the end of the school year in which they were taken.

Hespe said the state has been assessing students since 1980, and the one singular purpose is to guide efforts to continually improve the education system.

“That is our only intent.” he said.

“Scores will show that we have great challenges ahead,” he said, saying students are not prepared for post-secondary success in fields such as engineering or medicine.

Hespe said the results are not a criticism of schools.

“We should be proud of what our educators are doing in the schools,” he said. He said the test results must have value in the classroom.

Hespe said the new test represented a shared commitment of parents, educators, higher education and the business world, and the state also will work to develop programs to help students who are struggling.

“We must not retreat from this commitment as we begin to see more clearly the work that remains before us,” he said. “Ultimately PARCC is just a test. It is a tool to provide the most accurate reflection toward academic standards than we have had.”

New Jersey Institute of Technology President Joel Bloom said jobs in science, technology and engineering are going unfilled because applicants don’t have the skills, even for basic jobs as installers and repair workers.

Dana Egreczky, senior workforce specialist at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said students should get used to testing because they will have to take employment tests, and too many high school graduates fail them.

Education representatives say the new results will provide more individualized data to help individual students. Lianne Markus, a teacher in Hope Township, said the results will allow parents, students and teachers to work together toward goals.

“Parents always want to know how their children are doing,” said Rose Acerra, president-elect of the New Jersey PTA. “This will show them.”

Contact: 609-272-7241  DDamico@pressofac.com  Twitter @ACPressDamico





Not Yet Meeting: Level 1

Partially Meeting: Level 2

Approaching Expectations: Level 3

Meeting Expectations: Level 4

Exceeding Expectations: Level 5



Grade 3 15% 18% 24% 39% 5%

Grade 4 8% 15% 27% 39% 12%

Grade 5 7% 15% 26% 45% 6%

Grade 6 8% 16% 28% 40% 9%

Grade 7 11% 15% 23% 34% 18%

Grade 8 12% 15% 22% 39% 13%

Grade 9 18% 19% 24% 30% 9%

Grade 10 26% 18% 20% 25% 11%

Grade 11 17% 19% 4% 30% 11%



Grade 3 8% 19% 28% 37% 8%

Grade 4 7% 22% 30% 36% 4%

Grade 5 6% 21% 32% 35% 6%

Grade 6 8% 21% 30% 35% 6%

Grade 7 8% 22% 33% 33% 4%

Grade 8* 22% 26% 28% 23% 1%

Algebra I 14% 25% 25% 33% 3%

Geometry 32% 25% 20% 22% 2%

Algebra II 12% 36% 30% 20% 3%

Numbers for charts may not total 100% due to rounding.

* About 30,000 New Jersey students participated in the PARCC Algebra I assessment while in middle school. Thus, PARCC Math 8 outcomes are not representative of grade 8 performance as a whole.

Source: New Jersey Department of Education




NJ Spotlight - First Release of PARRC Scores Shows Fewer Students Make The Grade…State education officials caution that controversial new test’s results can’t be compared with previous standardized exam results


The wait finally over, the Christie administration yesterday started rolling out the sobering results of the new PARCC testing.

It was an exercise that seemed as much political as informational.

The administration, in an elaborate presentation held at the headquarters of New Jersey Manufacturing Insurance in West Trenton, released the statewide scores on the new online testing that showed – as expected – a sharp drop-off in the percentage of New Jersey students meeting the new “expectations” for achievement.

The numbers were stark: Just 44 percent of third-graders and 36 percent of 10th-graders reached or exceeded PARCC’s grade-level marks in language arts.

And those were among the better results.

Math results aren't good

Just 24 percent of high schoolers met the PARCC mark in geometry test, and 23 percent achieved the standard in Algebra II. No math numbers at any grade level topped 50 percent meeting “expectations” in the math tests.

It will be an autumn of reckoning in the state’s new era of testing, as officials and education leaders will try to put the best face on the results as a new starting point for New Jersey’s public schools.

Over and over, officials yesterday stressed these results couldn’t be compared to previous testing, where passing rates had been as high as 80 percent.

“We have to be very careful in comparing one test to another,” said state Education Commissioner David Hespe. “They are really not comparable.”

The results released yesterday did, in fact, provide an incomplete picture, with no details provided to show how different groups of students fared. The district-by-district and school-by-school results are still awaiting release, likely in early November, when individual students and families will also get their scores.

State leaders and a host of education and business groups allied to the new testing stressed that the results, once disseminated, will provide valuable information that hasn’t been available before.


“I’m able to take specific piece of information where I can draw back children who need to work on a specific area and can really hone in those skills,” said Lianne Markus, a Hope Township teacher who was part of the representation.

Indeed, it was an impressive show of support for the controversial new testing, with virtually all of the state’s major education groups represented yesterday, as well as all the major higher education sectors.

“I think it’s great just to have all the sectors of higher education on the same page,” said Eugene Cornacchia, president of St. Peter’s University.

NJEA warns testing was flawed

Nevertheless, there were some notable absences, too, led by the state’s teachers unions -- especially the New Jersey Education Association. NJEA leaders, who were not invited to yesterday’s event, said the results should be treated with caution.

“Parents and policymakers alike should be very careful about drawing any conclusions from the data released today, or from the more detailed data that will be released in the coming weeks,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer in a statement.

“As we have said from the beginning, the PARCC test is a deeply flawed assessment tool that was further compromised last year by widespread problems with technology and other issues associated with administering a new, unproven test statewide for the very first time.”

Nonetheless, there appears little going back now, with even the nomenclature taking a significant turn with the new tests.

Cut-off scores to be decided

Instead of the three tiers of the previous testing – which ranged from “partially proficient” to “advanced proficient” – the new exams have five separate categories that run from “not yet meeting” expectations to “exceeding” expectations.

In between are various gradations, with the top two of the five levels considered at or above grade level as determined by educators and other experts enlisted by the dozen-state PARCC consortium.

There is some wiggle room for each of the states when it comes to adhering to those designations, but Hespe said yesterday that he would recommend New Jersey follow PARCC’s guidelines in setting its own passing or “cut” scores.

That’s an especially important designation for high schools, where the PARCC cut-off could ultimately be the threshold for graduating or not.

The state Board of Education is expected to meet and decide on the “cut” scores next month.

“I will recommend that we rely on PARCC’s process, it was a very good process,” Hespe said afterward. “This is that promised comparability between states, and we are comfortable with that.”

Dana Egreczky has been a veteran of these debates as a senior official at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. She worked with the state a decade ago in trying to raise high school standards and again five years ago.

Egreczky was on hand yesterday for the latest iteration, and said she sees this chapter as more hopeful given what she termed the high quality of the latest test. But she said the politics hasn’t much changed, and the state will have a process to work through.


Star Ledger - What do N.J.'s PARCC results mean? 5 lessons learned

By Kelly Heyboer | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on October 21, 2015 at 7:38 AM, updated October 21, 2015 at 7:42 AM

TRENTON — After months of controversy over the new PARCC exams, New Jersey got its first glimpse Tuesday of how public school students performed on the tests.

State officials admitted some of the statewide numbers were not pretty. More than half of students in grades 3 through 11 failed to meet expectations for their grade level in math and English.

"This first year's results show there is still much work to be done in ensuring all of our students are fully prepared for the 21st century demands of college and career," said state Education Commissioner David Hespe.

Individual scores for the PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, are expected to be released to students and schools next month.

RELATED: PARCC scores say most N.J. students below grade level in math, English

Here are some of the lessons learned from the statewide results:

Younger students did better than high school students.

About half of students in grades 3 through 8 met or exceeded expectations (scoring a 4 or a 5) on the English exams, according to PARCC's scoring standards. But the statewide scores dropped in grades 9 through 11.

The percentage of students doing well on the math exam also dropped as kids got older.

The results are not too surprising, said Soundaram Ramaswami, an assistant professor at Kean University and an expert in testing and assessment.

Many students in younger grades have been taught under the Common Core, the set of national standards PARCC is testing, since they entered school. So, it is logical they would do better on the exam.

"You can shape them, mold them much better," Ramaswami said.

New Jersey students did better in English than math.

In most grades, the statewide scores on the PARCC math exam were lower than the English test. New Jersey's previous standardized tests, including the NJ ASK exams,  showed a similar pattern.

The PARCC exam contains more complex problem-solving math questions and a new computerized format, experts said. So, students were expected to struggle.

"This first year's results show there is still much work to be done," said Education Commissioner David Hespe.

A significant number of New Jersey students are on the borderline.

The number of students scoring a 3 on the PARCC exam was high.

In nearly every grade, between 20 and 30 percent of students scored a 3 on the math or English exams. That means the students were not quite up to grade level — but they were "approaching expectations."

Ramaswami, the Kean professor and testing expert, said the large number of borderline students can be viewed as good news for New Jersey. In theory, these students could rise up to a 4 or 5 if they get help in a few weak areas.

"This is what the schools should be doing when the scores come back to them," Ramaswami said. "Maybe there is one area they didn't do well in."

Opt-out students did not appear to skew the test results.

Some families chose to have their students boycott the PARCC tests for various reasons, including objections to the time and expense schools were devoting to the exams.

State officials have not released the exact number of students who sat out the exam. But, they said the opt-outs did not significantly affected New Jersey's overall results.

CHARTS: Grade-by-grade N.J. PARCC results

PARCC critics, including the state's largest teachers union, continue to question whether the test results are a valid measure of what students are learning.

We'll know more next month.

Hespe and other state education officials said the PARCC exams should be viewed as a tool, not a sign New Jersey's schools are failing.

Statewide scores on new tests are traditionally low and should serve as a baseline for future comparisons.

For families, the more telling numbers will come next month when individual students and schools get more detailed results.

"For local boards of education, the 2015 PARCC data can serve as an important starting point for an ongoing discussion about improving instruction," said Lawrence Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

“Any change process is going to result in those outcomes, even in a multi-million dollar business, any time there are massive changes, there will be a cliff,” she said.

“It is part of the cycle of change, and we have to deal with it and get past it,” she said. “Politics always matters, but we need to forge through that.”

The Record - Most N.J. students don't meet grade-level expectations on PARCC tests  ‘…Responding to concerns, PARCC has said that it would shorten the tests for the current school year… officials urged caution in looking at scores because the tests, they said, are based on new and tougher standards compared with those of previous years…’


Most New Jersey students failed to meet grade-level expectations in math and English language arts on new state tests, according to results released Tuesday, seven months after exams were given amid controversy and a boycott.

But officials urged caution in looking at scores because the tests, they said, are based on new and tougher standards compared with those of previous years. While the scores cannot be used to measure growth, officials said, they can provide a wake-up call for schools to see where instruction is failing and where students need help.

“This is from spring of 2015,” said Education Commissioner David Hespe. “We need to consider that is not a lot of time. So our expectation is not that we’re going to have every child on track for career and college. That is not going to happen in a short amount of time. Our goal is to remain committed to a continuum of improvement over time.”

Related:  New Jersey Department of Education: Assessments - PARCC

State education officials announced the results at a press event in West Trenton, alongside supporters from colleges, businesses and K-12 schools, where they continued to tout the tests as a tool to ensure students are getting the skills they need to succeed in college and careers. Their efforts come as the state prepares to release students’ results next month to schools and families, some that remain skeptical about the merits of the new tests and are considering a repeat of last year’s small, but vocal, boycott.

The tests, given in Grades 3 to 11, were developed by a group of states called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and are called PARCC. They measure students’ knowledge of Common Core academic standards that officials say are more rigorous and focus more on critical thinking skills.

But many students fell short of the benchmarks. More than half of New Jersey students in all grade levels failed to meet expectations in math, with the lowest scores appearing in high school grades, according to state results. Meanwhile, no more than 52 percent of students in any grade level met expectations in English.

In the lowest tested grade, third grade, 33 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, while 45 percent did in math. Among high school juniors, 52 percent met expectations in English, but just 23 percent of those taking Algebra 2 met the mark.

State officials said that this year sets a new baseline, and that scores are expected to rise as teachers and students adjust to the standards and tests. “This first year’s results show there is still much work to be done in ensuring all of our students are fully prepared,” Hespe said.

The tests are also scored differently than in the past, Hespe noted. Students are scored on levels 1 to 5, and those at the third level are near proficiency.

The tests provide more detailed results, showing how students performed on specific skills, which can help families and educators identify strengths and weaknesses and fill instruction gaps, officials said.

Lianne Markus, who teaches fourth and fifth grades in Hope Township, said at the event that it could be “empowering” for students to learn where they have strengths and where they have “opportunities for growth.”

But some educators say they did not need testing to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses. Educators and parents also contend that there is too much testing in schools, pushing some teachers to “teach to the test.” Critics also say that the tests are confusing or overly difficult. Last year, refusal rates ranged from 4 percent in elementary school to 15 percent of juniors.

The New Jersey Education Association, which has been a vocal PARCC critic, issued a statement Tuesday calling for the public to “be very careful about drawing any conclusions from the data.”

“It is time for a serious discussion at both the state and national levels about the overuse of high-stakes standardized testing,” said Wendell Steinhauer, the union president. “We test children far too often, for far too many days each year, to obtain questionable data that is used for inappropriate purposes.”

At the press conference, held at the private headquarters of an insurance company, state officials and school and business leaders offered a defense of the tests.

College presidents said the tests could help schools ensure students were getting the skills they need to succeed and graduate, and to follow through with challenging academic majors, especially in the fields of science, engineering, math and technology.

Peter Mercer, president of Ramapo College, said 30 percent of incoming students needed remedial help at the college because they lacked necessary math and writing skills. That can hurt their confidence and drive up the cost of college, he said.

“These numbers are not a surprise, but they are a concern,” Mercer said, adding: “We all have a lot of work to do to make sure students are reaching standards.”

Business leaders said that employers have complained about skill deficits among their staff and job candidates and that schools need to make sure kids are ready for the jobs in today’s labor market.

But some parents say their schools were already excelling without the burden of extra testing, while others say there is simply too much emphasis on tests. In a statement, parents from Save Our Schools New Jersey noted that other states have dropped PARCC and argue that New Jersey should follow suit.

“PARCC results mean absolutely nothing because the PARCC tests have not been validated as useful or predictive of anything,” they said. The group also expressed concern about the time diverted from the classroom.

Responding to concerns, PARCC has said that it would shorten the tests for the current school year. Governor Christie also appointed a commission to review the scope and usefulness of testing in schools and another to review the quality of the Common Core standards.