For all the changes that the state’s new PARCC testing has wrought for New Jersey’s public schools, one constant has prevailed: a wide and deep achievement gap.
The Christie administration yesterday released the school-by-school test scores from the second year of the new online testing last spring, and like the statewide scores released this summer, they should be mostly good news for schools.
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Statewide, there were gains in passing rates in virtually every grade and most of the subgroups. Yesterday, state officials said nearly half of the students in many grades moved up a full tier in performance.
Nonetheless, the gaps in performance between students from families with different incomes or of different races have clearly persisted and even may have even widened in some cases under PARCC.
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To quote one example, 60 percent of students not economically disadvantaged met expectations in the fifth grade math test, while just 28 percent of those from low-income families did.
Among individual schools and districts, the differences could be even starker. Essex Fells saw 96 percent of its fifth graders pass the language arts test, while only a few miles away, the passing rate in the City of Orange was 29 percent.
The pervasive differences were enough to bring alarm from the state’s deputy commissioner Peter Shulman yesterday as he presented the scores to the State Board of Education.
“I can’t stress enough the vast achievement gaps,” Shulman said. “As we think about raising the bar, and as we think about the achievement gaps … we should all go to bed at night thinking about this.
“This is why we come to work every day,” he said “This is a civil rights issue. This is an ethical issue, not just an academic one. The data is meant to be nothing short of shocking.”