Seven-percent of city high school students were deemed college ready by the SAT in the June administration of the college entrance exams, according to statistics made public on Wednesday night.
394 high school students took the SAT in June 2016. 7-percent of those or about 28 students were deemed prepared to take on college level mathematics and English.
A student is deemed college ready by the SAT when the pupil scores 480 or higher on the English section and 530 in the mathematics portion.
In New Jersey, 48-percent of students were deemed college ready and in the United States 54-percent, according to data.
This places the district’s high school students at the “absolute bottom,” said Jeron Campbell, chief data, accountability, and technology officer at the Paterson Public Schools.
“You cannot have scores like this. We have poured a lot of money into this. This type of return is unacceptable,” said school board member Jonathan Hodges. He was shocked by the low biology exam scores.
1,533 students took the New Jersey Biology Competency Test (NJBCT) and 15.6-percent were ranked proficient or above in 2015-16 school year, according to district data. This is a drop from 17.4-percent the previous academic year.
“This speaks to some fundamental lack of education. This is scary. We’re not talking calculus – we’re talking biology,” said Hodges.
Campbell explained the nearly 2-percent drop likely resulted from 157 more students having taken the biology exam in 2015-16 school year.
School board president Christopher Irving wanted to know what the district can do to improve the SAT scores.
Campbell said there’s two parts to improving scores. There’s subject knowledge and strategy, he said. Most people would prefer jumping to strategy, he said.
“If you can’t add fractions, you will never get to the tricks,” he said. “We have to work on both. If your core and your basics are strong, you will do well on the test, then you’re talking going from good to great instead of going from the absolute bottom to decent which is where many of our students are.”
Campbell said schools need to integrate concepts that appear on the SAT into their curriculums.
“There’s no question we can do better than we have been,” said state-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans. He complained as many as 1,700 of the district’s “brightest” students are lured by the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) in Wayne.
“What this says to me is, we’re in some serious trouble here. It’s a grave situation right now,” said board member Errol Kerr. He said while on a tour of a high school he found students who could not read beyond second grade level. He urged the district to hire reading specialists to get students to start reading at grade level.
“There’s more reading in math. If you can’t read, you can’t do math,” said Kerr. Hiring reading specialists will require money for a district in financial straits.
Irving suggested taking the scores to the state and demand more funds. Hodges said the state cares very little for these numbers and the statistics will be used to push for more charter schools in the city creating bigger budget shortfalls for a district that is severely underfunded, according to board members and advocates.
“I don’t expect any money from the state,” said Hodges. “You have kids in less developed countries doing better than this.”
Board member Lilisa Mimms wanted data from other urban districts to compare where Paterson stands. Board member Flavio Rivera said he would like to see five years’ worth of data to gauge whether there is a general trend.
The changes in state exams may not allow for a comparison, said district officials.