Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson believes Hoboken’s schools will be on a par with or above the states average PARCC scores within the next two to three years. Johnson presented the test scores and her action plan for improvement to the Board of Education on Oct. 11.
PARCC stands for “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.” The exam tests students on English language arts/literacy and mathematics and is meant to show whether a child meets grade level expectations.
Johnson pointed to programs instituted this year and last year to increase student achievement in both sections of the assessment. She said last year was spent helping teachers better understand what the test specifications were all about and recommending courses of action such as a greater variety of reading and writing tasks.
Last year the district began to integrate more reading and writing into middle school, giving students nightly assignments to read and analyze different types of text and write responses to the material. Johnson said the district is in the process of rolling this program down to the third grade.
The district is also introducing students to core novels to read at the middle school level.
Johnson said that she has spoken to higher performing districts and was told that they are reading about eight novels a year.
“If those districts are reading eight novels year, than our kids should be reading eight novels a year,” said Johnson.
She said she also believes that core novels should be implemented in all the schools and that teachers are being trained to start that process. Teacher job stability is also important to the process, she said. Last year the eighth grade went through three math teachers, which could be why scores were not as good as expected.
“We had a middle school math teacher leave in the fall to go back into the business field, and then we had to bring in a substitute until a new teacher was hired,” said Johnson.
Last summer the district also implemented an intensive math program for middle school students. The district got a new RTI math teacher for the first time, which should help students who are struggling.
This year the district has also added a challenge and support period which will allow students to refocus on difficult material or relearn material that hasn’t been fully grasped. If a student understands the material, they can move at a faster pace by getting more challenging material.
“This assessment really challenges both our faculty and our students to raise the bar and push a lot harder.” – Christine Johnson
“We find that our little ones are engaged all the time,” said Johnson. “They are constantly working in groups collaboratively, but the older they get the work tends to come out of their hands and they tend to be more passive participants in classrooms.”
Johnson said that through curriculum initiatives and general overhaul of increased rigor, engagement, and expectation, the students will be more challenged and the educational experience will be more rewarding.
Johnson said that the district will not be teaching to pass the test but rather teaching to ensure the success of the students both in future job markets and college programs which require the literacy skills tested in the PARCC assessment.
What is the PARCC?
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).
The PARCC scores are ranked on five levels. Level 1 contains scores 650-700 and is titled “did not yet meet expectations. Level 2 scores are between 700 and 725 and titled “partially met expectations.” Level 3 or “approached expectations” scores range from a 725 to 750. “Met Expectations” or Level 4 scores range from a 750 to an 810 and Level 5 or “exceeded expectations” ranged from an 810 to the perfect score of an 850.
Students who score on Levels 4 and 5 are considered on track for the next grade level where students who are place on Levels 1,2, or 3 may need additional support in the coming year.
“There’s more writing on the PARCC assessment,” Johnson said. “There is a lot of reading on the PARCC assessment and this assessment really challenges both our faculty and our students to raise the bar and push a lot harder.”
She explained the first year the students took the exam it was challenging. It was the first time students had to take a set of assessments on computers. This year they were much more comfortable doing so.
This year Johnson warned the information may be skewed. She believes there may have been a reporting error in Callabro Elementry’s test scores.
This is because in the unofficial preliminary report the district received students were missing. She is concerned that the inclusion of the missing students test scores were not reported to the district in the final report.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.