Recently the state Department of Education released the results for districts and schools of last spring’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers test, or PARCC. In this third year of New Jersey’s new standardized test, students excelled at several local schools and did poorly at a few others.
For the second year, every Margate and Upper Township student taking the Algebra 1 portion met or exceeded expectations, hitting the two top scoring levels (of five) that are considered passing grades. All Margate eighth-graders passed the English portion.
Results for Port Republic third- and fourth-graders improved dramatically, with 95 percent of third-graders passing the math and English sections, and all fourth-graders meeting the math requirement.
The state looked at three years of PARCC 10th-grade English scores and found the greatest improvement locally in the Egg Harbor Township, Lower Cape May Regional and Ocean City school districts. That test this year resulted in low passing percentages at Pleasantville, Bridgeton, Middle Township and Wildwood schools.
The best thing about PARCC is the detailed results given to teachers and parents, which identify where each student needs more work and allows their education to target those areas. The success of many local districts in improving students’ scores shows the test is working for them the way it should.
But districts, teachers and parents must put the resources into addressing areas of deficiency. The test helpfully reveals when that isn’t happening or isn’t even possible, the first step in bringing programs up to speed.
Statewide, 88,000 more students met competency levels for language arts and 70,000 more for math this year. But overall, only about half of all students are consistently proficient, and with passing the test scheduled to be a requirement for high school graduation in 2021, much more improvement is needed in the next three years.
Or maybe not. Gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, who is leading in the polls, promised a teachers conference that he would not only free teachers from having PARCC results count as a small part of their evaluations, he would eliminate the graduation requirement and scrap the test entirely.
He hasn’t said what, if anything, he would seek to replace it with. Previously, the state used a weak test that was 50 percent more likely to rate students proficient than the gold-standard National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Giving students less demanding tests may be a favor to the teachers union, but it’s unfair to the bright and hardworking students of New Jersey. They need an accepted and readily understood way to demonstrate their proficiency and competitiveness with fellow students from states such as Massachusetts and New York that require tough testing.
PARCC clearly is one form. If it’s thrown out, there better be another similarly effective test, and there better be good reasons it is worth everyone’s time and money to make the switch.