By Kayla J. Marsh
MIDDLETOWN – As local school districts prepare for another year of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, officials are providing a look into the data received regarding how students fared in the inaugural year of the new academic assessment.
“In 2015 New Jersey adopted the PARCC assessment to replace the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) … and the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) in elementary and middle schools for language arts and mathematics data,” Jill Takacs, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
At the Board of Education’s January 19 meeting, Takacs said students in grades three through 11 took PARCC English and Language Arts and Literacy assessments, while students in grades three through eight took PARCC Mathematics assessments and end of course assessments were also administered to students taking Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II.
“PARCC performance levels are very different than HSPA and NJ ASK,” Takacs said. “There are five performance levels.”
The five different performance levels range from not yet meeting, partially meeting, approaching, meeting and exceeding grade-level expectations, and Takacs said she is proud how well district students did reaching the meeting and exceeding grade-level expectations criteria.
“It is really important to note that New Jersey is one of the states that recognizes level four and level five as what is consider passing,” Takacs said. “Other states, for instance Ohio, also include level three as passing … so our district did very, very well.”
For the PARCC English and Language Arts and Literacy assessments, approximately 55 percent received a level four or higher in third grade, 66 percent in fourth grade, 63 percent in fifth grade, 51 percent in sixth grade, 61 percent in seventh grade, 53 percent in eighth, 45 percent in ninth, 42 percent in tenth and 39 percent in eleventh grade.
“Our district fared very well in every single grade-level with the exception of grade 11,” Takacs said. “We were above the state average for level four and level five as well as above he PARCC average for PARCC states for level four and level five.”
According to Takacs, approximately 85 percent of ninth graders, 72 percent of tenth graders and 31 percent of eleventh graders at Middletown High School South and 69 percent, 74 percent and 37 percent of ninth, tenth and eleventh graders respectively at Middletown High School North tested for the PARCC English and Language Arts and Literacy assessments.
“The state department came out with graduation requirements at the same time PARCC was being administered and basically said that there were other ways that students can meet graduation requirements,” she said. “In the past HSPA was the test that was required and students had to pass it in order to graduate … however now and for the next couple years, students can meet graduation requirements using other methods; they do not have to take PARCC at all.”
Designing portfolios, getting a passing score on the PSAT’s or the SAT’s, taking the ACT exam could now be taken to measure proficiency.
“That announcement hurt a lot of districts,” Takacs said. “A lot of students met the graduation requirement with PSAT’s or SAT’s.”
For the PARCC Mathematics assessments, Takacs said district students also fared well.
“Mathematics numbers fared very well in all of our grade levels and Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry — which consists of students in various grade levels,” she said. “We were above the state average for four and above and above the PARCC average for four and above.
“When you look at the Mathematics outcomes and English and Language Arts outcomes, it is really important to note that our data is very good on a district level and … I just think it is interesting to see how many of our students would have passed if the state counted the level three as passing too as some other states do.”
While Takacs said the hope for the coming year is to make percentages for the high schools for both English and Language Arts and Mathematics higher, the state is working to provide any assistance necessary.
“The state is recognizing that districts are struggling to really get all of their students to take PARCC because they can meet their graduation requirements in other ways and they are putting steps in place to make PARCC a mandatory graduation requirement for students in the next few years,” she said.
“In all of this data, in all the conversations that we’re having, there is a large emphasis on standards-based instruction and standards-based assessment so everything really is aligned to the standards it is extremely important that we continue to teach according to the standards and we continue to assess according to the standards.”
To see more on the PARCC, year one, results, visit the district’s website at www.middletownk12.org.