No one ‘cheated’ on state test scores

Dear Editor:
We write this letter to put an end to speculation, character attacks, and misinformation. Over the past few months an old issue concerning mandated state testing (HSPA- New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment) in Hoboken High School has been brought to our attention. Apparently, the recent ranking of Hoboken High School among New Jersey High Schools in New Jersey Monthly prompted a forensic explanation and rationalization for various political groups– each placing blame and taking credit for exposing and ending certain remediation practices and policies at Hoboken High. Late in the 2007-2008 school year, our first year in the district, we became aware of a practice in which students were identified for intense remediation and identified to receive extra instruction in order to help improve performance on the HSPA test. Data indicated that sometimes this intense remediation and course taking resulted in students not attaining the proper number of Carnegie units in a particular subject (usually in Mathematics or English as these were the subjects often in need of improvement) leading to being officially classified as a freshman or sophomore for two successive years—yet remaining with their initial cohort for all their other classes. In other words, no one was “left back” and all were eligible to graduate after 4 years and all either eventually took the HSPA test or the Special Review Assessment (SRA) now known as the Alternative High School Assessment required by the State of New Jersey.
What differed is when the test was taken, not if or whether the test was taken. This program existed only in the high school. Upon being made aware of this practice- and wanting to implement a new approach to remediation, we began a 12 month process to phase this practice out. Therefore, in March 2008 the top 50 percent of the identified remedial students were tested along with their junior year cohort and by the March 2009 test administration a year later, the so called “10r” remediation program was eliminated entirely. Like any remediation program, the policy had its advocates and critics as well as its successes and its challenges. Our decision to explain, discuss and ultimately end the remediation program and replace it with a more comprehensive full faculty instructional practices approach- including collaborative study groups and professional learning communities- was supported by the Board of Education and the district administration in March 2009. No one on the Board complained of the remediation program in place nor of the faculty program to replace it. That this remediation program apparently is being used as a political football (irresponsibly referred to as “cheating” at a recent public debate), years after its termination is unfortunate. It is our opinion that the children of the district would be best served by effectively and systemically addressing the current and ongoing challenges of high stakes testing, rankings, graduation rates, and critiques from state and federal reports in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner rather than combing the past for scapegoats and excuses. To that end, we wish them all the best.

Dr. Lorraine Cella
Hoboken High School Principal 2007-2010
Dr. Anthony Petrosino
Assistant to the Superintendent 2007-2009

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