City students saw their state test scores decline in the 2016-17 school year, according to a report presented to the school board on Wednesday night.
Fewer students met and exceeded expectations in the spring 2017 administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. Math scores for students in grades 3-8 dropped to 18.4-percent from 20.4-percent in 2015-16 school year.
Students in 9-11 grades, who take Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry exams, saw their scores drop by half-percent to 8.3 from 8.8-percent in 2015-16. Some eighth grade students also take Algebra I.
There was a big, 2.5-percent drop, in the students’ Algebra I scores to 14.1-percent from 16.8-percent. Algebra II scores saw an increase of 2.1-percent. 4.2-percent met or exceeded expectations in Algebra II up from 2.1-percent in 2015-16.
In Geometry students saw a half-percent drop to 3.7-percent from 4.2-percent.
The only bright spot for the Paterson Public Schools was in grades 3-8 English. Students in those grades pushed up their scores by 1.4-percent in 2016-17.
28.2-percent of students in grades 3-8 met or exceeded expectations in the English section of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in 2016-17. That marks a 1.4-percent increase from the 26.8-percent in 2015-16.
Students in grades 9-11 saw their English scores drop by 1.2-percent. 15.3-percent of students met or exceeded expectations in the last school year. That’s down from 16.5-percent in 2015-16.
Jeron Campbell, chief data, accountability, and technology officer at the district, said this year’s scores fluctuated a great deal from the two previous administrations of the exams.
“It’s not a significant change in any of the areas, but still trending in the wrong direction,” said Campbell referring to the math portion.
Acting superintendent Eileen Shafer recognized the district’s shortcomings while vowing to put in place programs to address it. “Our math scores at the high schools are horrific,” she said on Wednesday night.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in the English section is twice that of math. She said this is due to the emphasis that was placed on language arts when the district broke up the larger high schools into smaller academies.
District officials presented strategies to improve the scores. Each of the district’s schools will have an individual plan to take steps to address their shortcomings. In the high schools, the district has put in place an intervention program for math.
The better English scores in the high schools — albeit still low compared to state average – was attributed to the language arts intervention put in place years ago. The district is also implementing a K-3 reading program, a K-12 vocabulary program.
“This is a shotgun approach,” remarked school board member Jonathan Hodges after hearing of the slew of new programs intended to improve instruction.
“This is not a shotgun approach,” replied Shafer.
“It seems to me,” retorted Hodges.
School board member Emanuel Capers wanted to know whether there will be a 5-percent or 10-percent improvement in the scores next year after all of the new programs are put in place. District officials told him they will have a percentage for him at a later time.
In K-8, the top scoring schools were School 28, the Alexander Hamilton Academy, and the Norman S. Weir School.
The top scoring high school was Harp Academy.
“We have a long way to go,” said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, an education advocacy. Indeed, the district’s overall score severely lags behind the state average.
For example, 56.1-percent students in grades 3-8 in New Jersey scored a four or above — there are five levels in the PARCC (4 and 5 are considered passing) — while only 28.2-percent of Paterson students met and exceeded expectations in the English portion. State average for the same students in math is 43.8-percent; Paterson average is 18.4-percent.
In high school English, state average is 33.6-percent. Paterson average is 8.5-percent. In high school math, state average is 45.5 and Paterson average is 15.9-percent.