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Final PARCC Results Reveal How New Jersey's Scores Compare with Other States

Despite some outbreaks of PARCC panic, Garden State finishes well ahead of most other states and their students

One of the original intentions when New Jersey joined PARCC five years ago was to give its schools a way to see how they and their students compared to peers in other PARCC states.

It didn’t quite work out that way. New Jersey last year was one of just a dozen states to participate in the Partnership to Assess Readiness for College and Careers test. Only six states are expected to be part of the online tests this year.

Still, New Jersey students -- for all the PARCC-related angst and agita sweeping the state -- did pretty well last year on a number of fronts, according to the latest data to come from the Christie administration.

For example, even with the state’s middling results overall, New Jersey students surpassed the averages for the 10 PARCC states last spring in most grades and subjects, according to the state.

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Overall, only about half of New Jersey students met the expectations as set by PARCC for the first year, and the rate was down to as low as a quarter in some high school math results.

The comparisons with other states were not quite as strong in the high school results, officials said in a presentation to the State Board of Education yesterday. Still, it overall lagged only Massachusetts, a frequent test-score leader, in the percentage of students meeting the PARCC “expectations” in both language arts and math.

Others well below New Jersey in the state’s presentations were Rhode Island, Arkansas and Colorado, they said.

New Jersey also compared well on its technological acumen, officials said. A whopping 99.5 of participating New Jersey students took the test online last year, well more than the 80 percent average for PARCC.

Officials said that’s a pretty striking turnaround from the pencil and paper test that PARCC succeeded in New Jersey.

“That’s a revolution in terms of our classes in the state, and really a tremendous accomplishment,” education commissioner David Hespe told the State Board of Education yesterday in releasing the data.

The Christie administration has been deliberate in releasing data about the first year of PARCC, where more than 800,000 students took the tests in language arts and math. The statewide scores came out last month, demographic breakdowns have followed, and now the comparisons to other states.

Meanwhile, the final district and school scores will be released to the public in January; districts only last month received the results and started sharing them with students and their families.

Among the most closely watched results will be the numbers and percentages of students who refused to take the tests last year, or opted out, a rate expected to be one of the highest in the country. The state has so far left those numbers out of the statewide results.

This school year’s testing has already begun with considerably less fanfare, with 13,000 students in certain high schools with block schedules started the testing last month. The bulk of the testing Grades 3 to 11 will continue to be in the spring.

Jeffrey Hauger, the New Jersey’s director of assessment, told the state board that so far this fall, there have been few if any glitches of note. “It has been very quiet,” he said. “Things are going extremely well.”

The discussion yesterday also included a presentation from afar from a former New Jersey Teacher of the Year who headed up a study of the PARCC testing and how it compared pedagogically with the state’s previous elementary and middle school test, the NJASK.

Katherine Bassett in 2000 was named New Jersey’s top teacher; now she heads the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). This fall, she embarked with a dozen other celebrated teachers to review the PARCC exam against NJASK as part of a study called “The Right Trajectory,” looking at its different emphases for certain math and language skills.

In a presentation made online from Georgia and routed into the board’s Trenton conference room, Bassett said the NJASK actually rated pretty highly in the study itself, but PARCC had exceeded it in testing for analytic, critical thinking, and research skills.

“You went from a good test to a better test,” she said.

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