The scores on the latest round of statewide tests–the so-called PARCC tests–were bad everywhere, but Newark’s fell far behind New Jersey’s statewide averages, according to the state-operated school district’s release of the first round of results Tuesday night.
The high school math scores were especially low–something the district attributes to “lower levels of participation.” In her long and often meandering presentation, Newark’s new testing guru Bari Anhalt Ehrlichson–apparently on loan from the state education department (like Cerf)–said everyone will have to wait to determine why lower levels of participation resulted in only five percent of Newark students meeting or exceeding the standards in second-year algebra and geometry.
“We’ll be digging deeper into that,” said Ehrlichson the former state director of testing, who, last spring, presided over New Jersey’s debacle of allowing Pearson, the publisher of the PARCC test, to spy on students on the days they took the exam and fingered children for possible discipline.
Here’s the breakdown. The figure that follows the test is the percentage of students who met or exceeded “expectations,” a new word for standards. First, the Newark score, followed by the state score, followed by the difference:
Third grade math: Newark, 22 percent; State, 45 percent. 23 points.
Fourth grade math: Newark, 17 percent; State, 40 percent. 23 points.
Fifth grade math: Newark, 19 percent; State, 41 percent. 22 points.
Sixth grade math: Newark, 17 percent; State, 41 percent. 24 points.
Seventh grade math: Newark, 17 percent; State, 37 percent. 20 points.
Eighth grade math: Newark, 19 percent; State, 24 percent. 5 points.
Algebra 1: Newark, 18 percent; State, 36 percent. 18 points.
Geometry: Newark, 5 percent; State, 24 percent. 19 points.
Algebra 2: Newark, 5 percent; State, 23 percent. 18 points.
The scores for the English Language Arts test:
Third grade: Newark, 17 percent; State, 44 percent, 27 points.
Fourth grade: Newark: 21 percent; State, 51 percent, 30 points.
Fifth grade: Newark, 23 percent; State, 51 percent, 28 points.
Sixth grade: Newark, 23 percent; State, 49 percent. 26 points.
Seventh grade: Newark, 28 percent; State, 52 percent. 24 points.
Eighth grade: Newark, 24 percent; State, 51 percent. 27 points.
Ninth grade: Newark, 23 percent; State, 39 percent. 26 points.
Tenth grade: Newark, 19 percent; State, 36 percent. 17 points.
Eleventh grade: Newark, 28 percent; State, 41 percent. 13 points.
School and student scores are scheduled for release after the end of the year.
The scores were released Tuesday night at a sparsely attended school board meeting. Wilhelmina Holder, a parent activist who heads the Secondary School Council, shook her head and said, “The scores are bad–they are really bad.”
State-appointed superintendent Christopher Cerf didn’t characterize the scores at all. Cerf, who knows how to talk around every disaster he meets, came up with this statement while introducing the results:
“No district did a better job than Newark did in getting this job done,” Cerf said, who called the work of his staff “tremendous.”
He was not talking about the results, but rather the test administration. He praised the central office staff for the rapid deployment of enough expensive computers so they could be used for the test. This is typical Cerf spin, trying to find a bright side to a disaster–never conceding that one of the reasons for Newark’s low scores was the unfamiliarity of students with the technology used to take the tests.
But even that sunniness was belied a few moments later by the discussion of the low levels of participation in the high schools–could that, too, be a function of the lack of preparedness for the test? Still, Cerf should learn how to calibrate his self-congratulation when the results are clearly dismal.