The standardized test results for individual students and schools released early this month show the expected continued improvement in line with the earlier statewide scores.
Steadily improving scores on the PARCC, or Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, were also expected simply because it’s a new test and everyone — students, teachers and parents — adapt to it and use it better over time. Spring’s test was only the second since it replaced the deficient High School Proficiency Assessment as the state’s (eventual) requirement for graduation.
Many South Jersey school districts did pretty well for year two. In four of them, more than half the students taking the Algebra I and English Language Arts grade 10 test achieved score levels that will be a graduation requirement for the class of 2021. In three districts, more than three-quarters of fourth-graders scored that well on their English test.
Also as expected, other districts with more low-income families are seeing much lower scores, with fewer than 20 percent of fourth-graders at passing levels. State officials said they’re seeing a performance gap of 20 to 30 percentage points between students not economically disadvantaged and those from low-income families.
That such differences exist has been known generally for decades. One advantage of a well-crafted statewide test is that it provides a tool for determining where district programs are insufficient and how to help them improve.
The success not only of the new test but the state’s educational system will depend on education officials, teachers and parents working toward those improvements.
Parents should look at the tests the same way for their children. The results they’re getting from the spring tests are a guide to where their kids could use some help. As we’ve said before, that’s the best use of this or any other standardized test.
The other use, as an independent assessment of each student’s readiness for the world after high school, isn’t as valuable but is still quite valid. Without an independent measure, some districts might keep their graduation rates up by advancing students who aren’t prepared, and that’s terribly unfair to those students.
Frankly, the world is pretty competitive, and South Jersey educators need to give students their best chance at thriving in it. Note that in Passaic and Bergen counties, 83 percent of public schools showed gains in PARCC scores.
We’re glad to see resistance to this more realistic test declining further. Statewide, about half as many students skipped the test as in the first year — down to 5 percent at the elementary level and 13 percent at the high school level.
We think it’s unfortunate that a group of civil-rights and parent-advocacy groups have sued the state on a claim that the test will illegally make graduation too difficult for low-income and minority students. That’s very premature, considering it’s only the second year of the program and the test’s potential for helping students has only started to be realized.
Indeed, the first students who will have to pass PARCC to graduate aren’t even in high school yet.