PARCC changes
A sign opposing the PARCC tests is seen outside of a Montclair Cares About Schools meeting at the Montclair Fire Department headquarters in 2017.
STAFF PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey will be phasing out two PARCC tests this year.

The announcement came just as the Montclair schools released some preliminary data on the spring 2018 PARCC test results on Oct. 3.

The State Board of Education voted to eliminate some of the PARCC requirements for high school students, and to allow students to pursue alternate assessments for graduation. Alternative pathways include assessments other than the PARCC tests, such as the SATs and ACTs, or a portfolio of work turned in at the end of the year.

At the high school level, only freshmen and sophomores will be required to take the English and math PARCC tests.

The revised requirements will be in effect until the Class of 2025 – today’s sixth-graders – graduates from high school.

BOE reactions

Last year, Montclair saw fewer students opt out of taking the tests, with an additional 478 students taking the test.

Gov. Phil Murphy made it a campaign promise to eliminate PARCC tests as a graduation requirement in New Jersey.

Montclair High School tends to see a lower participation rate in the PARCC tests than do the other schools in the district. The district has explained in the past that many juniors and seniors choose not to take the PARCC test because they have nearly met their graduation requirements.

Board member Anne Mernin also wondered if there was a connection between standardized test performance and the under-identification of children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch; she also asked if the achievement gap would be narrowed if more eligible children were identified and sign up. Superintendent Kendra Johnson said she expected that it would.

“Lots of students are just not interested in state assessments,” board member Jessica de Koninck said. Many students, she said, came to the test with the attitude of “What are you bothering me with this test for.”

MCAS reactions

The PARCC tests have been controversial in Montclair, with many families opting their children out of taking the tests.

Regina Tuma, chair of Montclair Cares About Schools, which has pushed for the elimination of PARCC as a graduation requirement said the state BOE’s vote was a good first step, but much more needs to be done.

“I can only imagine that if we in Montclair had not diverted so much money to testing…what we could be doing in our schools,” Tuma said.

Parents are frustrated that PARCC is not completely out yet, she said.

Requiring students in subsequent graduating classes to continue taking a test that was going to eventually be phased out isn’t fair, she said.

Math

The minimum passing grade on the PARCC test is a 3, “approaching expectations.” Students get a grade of 4 if they meet expectations, and 5 if they exceed expectations. It is the district’s goal to have more students get a grade of 4 or better.

At Montclair High School, only 40 percent of students met or exceeded expectations on the Algebra I test. For the Algebra II test, it was 50 percent, and for the high school geometry test, only 33 percent met expectations.

At the middle schools however, students earned high scores on the geometry test, with 100 percent of students at Glenfield and Renaissance meeting expectations, and 93 percent of students at Buzz Aldrin meeting expectations. On the algebra tests, however, roughly half of students met or exceeded expectations.

In the elementary schools, on average, 62 percent of students met or exceeded expectations, ranging from 55 percent at Hillside to 75 percent at Watchung.

Language

On average, 70 percent of elementary school students met or exceeded expectations on the language test. The percentages ranged from 63 percent at Bradford to 83 percent at Watchung.

At the middle school level, 64 percent of students met expectations, while at the high school level, the rate was 60 percent.

Achievement gap

The findings indicated that black and Latino students still lagged behind their white and Asian peers on standardized test performances.

For example, at Montclair High School, 31 percent of black students and 48 percent of Latino students met or exceeded expectations on the PARCC language and literacy test, compared to 77 percent of white students and 75 percent of Asian students.

On the math test, only 16 percent of black students and 28 percent of Latino students met or exceeded expectations, compared to 56 percent of white students and 53 percent of Asian students.

Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds also lagged behind the rest of the student body. At the high school, 21 percent of economically-disadvantaged students met expectations on the language and literacy test, compared to 66 percent of students not economically disadvantaged. On the math test, only 12 percent of economically-disadvantaged students met expectations, compared to 45 percent of students not economically disadvantaged.