The road traveled by local students taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam has been a rocky one thus far. Some parents of children in the public schools have protested the new state test and had their children opt out. For the majority who took it, they will have to wait another month for the results.
New Jersey’s new standardized test regime, intended to bring the district in line with the federally-sponsored Common Core standards for English and mathematics, was fully implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. In Hoboken, the test took the place of Hoboken’s two former levels of assessment for K-8 and high school students: the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).
School officials expected to report district-wide PARCC scores to the public at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19. But a number of factors will stall that report until the next meeting on Feb. 9.
According to Superintendent Christine Johnson, when the district received the scores from the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE), over 160 scores – or 12 percent – were missing from the report. Hoboken is not alone in this error, Johnson said, since the same mistake was made in other school districts.
“The [scores the district has so far] are definitely reflective of the kids having a challenge taking the assessment for the first time on computers.” – Christine Johnson
School Choice students live in neighboring towns but attend Hoboken public schools through the DOE’s School Choice Program. Statewide, Johnson said the DOE mistakenly omitted the school choice student’s test scores – instead jumbling them in with the individual student’s resident districts. A Secaucus child in Hoboken would have their PARCC test scores tallied up with the rest of the Secaucus school district.
“We have 166 School Choice kids, so if you think about it, in a district with 1,300 students, that’s a pretty high percentage,” said Johnson.
Hoboken school officials have been hard at work tracking down and processing the scores of School Choice kids by reaching out to nearby school districts that include Jersey City, Bayonne, West New York, Guttenberg, Secaucus and Newark.
As of last week, Johnson said, the district was still waiting for the Newark scores to come in before trying to reach an accurate baseline and reporting it out to parents, teachers, and students.
Although she hasn’t acquired all the scores and can’t currently say how the district did overall, Johnson told the Reporter she was able to determine the main hardship the students faced during the test: the format.
Students must take the PARCC on computers.
In 2014, the district ordered new Chromebook laptops to accommodate the test and supplement the approximate 200 laptops from a previous program. 150 Chromebooks arrived for the 2015-2016 school year, as well as 256 new Dell Desktops for computer labs and library media centers in the district.
“The [scores the district has so far] are definitely reflective of the kids having a challenge taking the assessment for the first time on computers,” said Johnson.
Although the scores would help the district determine its standing, especially compared to other districts, the district is largely still working toward familiarizing the students with the technology.
“We’re following the same thing as last year: kids utilizing Chromebooks as much as they can,” added Johnson. “They had a hard time with that last year because the district had a huge push to purchase all these chromebooks for the PARCC and the students hadn’t really ever used them. The frustration level was clear.”
Some students, Johnson explained, were comfortable with the material but not the Chromebooks.
With the next PARCC fast-approaching in the spring, the district has made efforts to prepare students. But ultimately the test is designed to assess their progress in certain areas, making preparatory courses on the material itself superfluous.
Two former unsuccessful school board candidates spoke about this at the meeting.
During his allotted five minutes of public comment, Brian Murray questioned why the approval of a PARCC tutor at Wallace School was on the agenda given the nature of the test. Patricia Waiters asked if the tutor was only allocated for the Wallace School and not the other elementary schools.
Johnson clarified later to the Reporter that the tutor, Jack Hamlin, was there to instruct students on improving on any subjects they may be struggling with academically, including language arts, math or arts literacy – not solely for PARCC preparation.
Hamlin, Johnson added, is part of a pool of teachers doing similar instruction available at all the other public schools.
However, the other teachers were not previously approved on the agenda as “staff for tutoring after school for PARCC.”
The PARCC (which tests for English and math) is described on the test’s website as “a snapshot of how [a] child is progressing and shows where he or she excels or needs more support,” which, “along with grades, teacher feedback and scores on other tests, will help give a more complete picture of how well your child is performing academically.”
“It’ll take the district probably this year as the second year going through it to really get a better sense of what the expectations are on the test and how we can best raise the level of rigor in the classrooms so that kids are prepared moving forward,” said Johnson.
Assist. Superintendent to take higher post in Haledon
After four and a half years at his post, Hoboken Assistant Superintendent Miguel Hernandez will leave the Hoboken school district for a position as the superintendent of the Manchester Regional High School district.
Bittersweet goodbyes and congratulations were doled out during the meeting with Hernandez’ last day being Feb. 29 before heading off to Haledon, NJ.
When asked why he decided to leave, Hernandez said after the meeting, “because I’ve always had aspirations to be superintendent and this opportunity was there.”
Hernandez was one of four finalists considered for the superintendent of the Hoboken school district, before Dr. Johnson was ultimately chosen last April. But no friction was detected as Hernandez begins to take his leave.
“I think the school district is in very good hands. There are a lot of positive things on the horizon under the leadership of Dr. Johnson and I feel she has a lot of buy-in and definitely something I’ll keep an eye on in the future,” he said. “I believe the progress being made here is going in the right direction.”
Students of the Month
Hernandez added that he will miss the students, teachers, and administrators that he’s worked close with and will miss handing out Student’s Of The Month certificates at every Board of Education meeting.
During Tuesday’s meeting he presented to the following students: Bulgari Kancheva (kindergartener from Brandt Primary School), I’Yonna Ladson (5th grader from Calabro Elementary School), Jhonas Eckhardt (3rd grader from Connors Elementary School), Dylan Nassau (6th grader from Wallace Elementary School), and Steven Schmidt (8th grader) and Ivelisse Lorenzo (10th grader) of Hoboken High School.
Steven Rodas can be reached at email@example.com.