State assessments scores for the last school year show 41.6-percent of city students proficient in language arts and 52.2-percent proficient in mathematics. In 2013, 42.4-percent of third through eleventh graders were proficient in language arts while 51.9-percent were proficient in mathematics.
The proficiency percentages are calculated by combining New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) scores for elementary school students and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) scores for high school students.
“It’s somewhat of a mixture in what we’re seeing,” said Laurienne Newell, chief reform and innovation officer, during a presentation on Wednesday evening. “For math, except for grade four, every grade level went up,” said Newell.
Fourth graders’ math score stood at 58.2-percent in 2013, that number has declined to 56-percent in 2014, according to Newell’s report. On the other hand, fifth graders made the largest gains in math: in 2013, 57.6-percent were proficient; in 2014, 61.5-percent are proficient.
In language arts eight graders suffered the biggest decline: in 2013, 61.6-percent were proficient; in 2014, only 54.4-percent. On the other hand, seventh graders managed the biggest gain: in 2013, 35.2-percent were proficient; in 2014, 38-percent.
Standardized test scores for eleventh graders increased in language arts from 71.8-percent in 2013 to 74.6-percent in 2014; however in math the score decreased from 49.7-percent in 2013 to 43.2-percent in 2014.
“When we look at New Jersey ASK basically what we see for math and ELA (English Language Arts), even though one went up slightly and another went down slightly, is that they were relatively flat,” said Donnie Evans, state-appointed district superintendent.
Evans said the percentages up and down is not statistically significant. Evans attributes the flat scores to the introduction of the new Common Core Standards.
In 2012-13 school year 3,854 students took the practice SAT with only 70 found college ready; in 2013-14 school year 3,950 students took the practice SAT with only 74 found college ready.
In the actual SAT, 598 underwent examination with 26 found prepared – scored over 1550 — for college in 2013; that number declined in 2014: 594 students took the exam, 19 were college ready. Average SAT score for a city student stands at 1,120; state-wide average stands at 1,526.
Highest score possible on the SAT is 2400.
“With regards to SAT, we continue to struggle,” said Evans. The superintendent added that there’s a trend in higher education of colleges moving away from the SAT. A number of universities have publicly announced they will no longer require SAT scores for admittance.
Chrystal Cleaves, school board member, asked whether students were doing poorly in the PSAT and SAT due to a less than challenging school curriculum.
“We’ve been teaching them to do well on the HSPA,” answered Evans. The superintended stated that the district has been teaching to ensure students pass HSPA so that they can graduate with a high school diploma.
“I see the graduation rate trending up – good direction,” commented Errol Kerr, school board member. Kerr said the graduation rate, which stands at 73.3-percent, stands in contrast to the SAT score.
“We’re not graduating kids that are college ready,” added Kerr seeking an explanation from Evans.
“We’ve prepared them to pass HSPA. Those are standards that are different from what the SAT tests,” said Evans. “So if we do one and not the other we get what we have.”
“I’m a little alarmed by your response,” chimed in Jonathan Hodges, school board member. Hodges said the district trains students for both. “If you’re suggesting New Jersey, which is an educational leader in the country, has a curriculum which is radically different from what colleges are expecting, then I’m troubled by it.”
“The same emphasis has not been placed in getting them to do as well on SAT,” said Evans. “And that’s a problem.”
Evans said starting next year the HSPA will no longer be used to determine whether a student graduates or not; instead the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be used, which said Evans, is more aligned with SAT standards.
“I’m disappointed in the scores,” said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, commenting on the SAT scores. Grant added additional perspective to the poor scores stating that for over 30 years the city’s schools have been deprived of needed resources.
“We’re struggling with inadequate facilities,” said Grant. “We’ve been promoting the kids: social promotion for kids who could not perform at grade level for many many years. And these and other barriers have to be considered when we’re thinking about student achievement.”