State test results for 2012 show passing rates for elementary and middle schools students remain flat, but more high school students are passing.
In some grades, almost a third of all students are not meeting current state standards, according to the results released by the state Department of Education in December.
The results come as the state transitions to a new testing system as part of the national Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, which is working to develop new tests to be introduced in the 2014-15 school year. Those tests may be given multiple times during a year to provide teachers with more feedback, and remove the stress of having one “high stakes” annual test.
Statewide in 2012, achievement gaps based on race and socioeconomic status, while shrinking in some areas, remain large, reflecting to some extent the income gap in the state.
This is evident in South Jersey, where Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties struggle with high poverty and unemployment rates. Areas with the highest rates of poverty and unemployment also have the lowest passing rates on state tests. This includes Atlantic City, Pleasantville and Bridgeton.
There are some bright spots. Chelsea Heights School in Atlantic City continues to perform above the state average and as well as neighboring suburban schools. The Dane Barse School in Vineland also scored above state average. Smaller lower-income districts, including Mullica Township School, Margaret Mace School in North Wildwood, Crest Memorial in Wildwood Crest also perform well.
The Vineland Community Charter School out-performed the public schools in the city, though it is much smaller and has a somewhat less diverse population.
The charter school reports 4.5 percent of students with disabilities, no students with limited English and 46 percent of students as socio-economically disadvantaged. The Pauline Petway Elementary School next door has a lower passing rate, but 17 percent of students have a disability, 5 percent have limited English and almost 60 percent are considered socio-economically disadvantaged based on eligibility for the federal free or reduced-fee meal program.
The state tests students annually in grades 3 through 8 and again as juniors in high school. Students must pass the high school test, or an alternate test, to graduate.
A few area schools had 100 percent of their students pass at least one test in the fourth, eighth or 11th grades reviewed by The Press of Atlantic City. Most were smaller schools.
In fourth-grade science, 100 percent of the students passed the test at the Chelsea Heights School in Atlantic City, Estell Manor, Port Republic, Cape May City, Margaret Mace School in North Wildwood, the Galloway Community Charter School, the Vineland Public Charter School, Morris Goodwin School in Greenwich, Eagleswood Elementary School, Lanoka Harbor School in Lacey Township and the Cecil Collins and Joseph Donahue schools in Barnegat Township.
The Eagleswood School and Port Republic School also had 100 percent of fourth-graders pass the math test.
The Avalon School had 100 percent of eight-graders pass the language arts test. Just 13 students took the test.
At the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science at the Ocean County Vocational School, students not only passed the high school science test, but 100 percent scored at the Advanced Proficient level. At the school’s Performing Arts Academy, 100 percent of the students passed both the language arts and math tests.
Statewide in 2012, 92 percent of high school juniors who took the test passed the language arts section and 79 percent passed math. While the achievement gap remains, and Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has bemoaned the size of the gap, minority students have made the most gains in the last decade, with black and Hispanic passing rates improving by as much as 20 percent on both the language arts and math portions of the test.
Overall, students with disabilities and students with limited English continue to have the lowest passing rates on state tests. Education advocates are concerned that proposals by the state Department of Education to modify additional funding allocated for those students could reverse those gains.
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