Mid-year tests indicate ‘state of emergency’ in education in New Jersey
TRENTON – Some state education officials are sounding the alarm after mid-year assessments showed that three in eight New Jersey public school students were performing below grade in math and in English.
The coronavirus pandemic has turned education upside down, pushing online classes in all schools for three months last spring and still continuing more than a year later in a handful of schools. It also disrupted the New Jersey statewide standardized tests, which were canceled last year and this school year.
All students will take a new “Start Strong” assessment when they return next fall. Districts were also ordered to administer locally selected assessments last winter and report the results to the state, and the results underscore the challenges posed by the pandemic:
- In English, 37% of the 946,000 students tested were below grade level, 38% were at grade level and 25% were above grade level.
- In math, 37% of the 1.02 million students tested were below grade level, 38% were at grade level, and 24% were above grade level.
- In science, 21% of the 794,000 students tested were below grade level, 45% were at grade level and 33% were above grade level.
The results cannot be compared to typical standardized tests, but show a similar socio-economic pattern, with black and Hispanic students being twice as likely to score below grade level as white and Asian students. English learners, economically disadvantaged and disabled students also struggled.
“In addition to what we consider regarding the percentages of students who are below grade at mid-grade, we also note the continuing and alarming disproportionate equity gaps between our White students and students of color.” said Assistant Education Commissioner Lisa Gleason, who heads the Studies and Performance Division.
“I am certainly concerned about the outcomes for the most vulnerable students we have, and I look forward to hearing more examples and ways we can provide support – not only through federal funding, but this that we can do from the ministry aside, ”said Kathy Goldenberg, chair of the State Board of Education.
“We are truly in a state of emergency in New Jersey when it comes to our children and our education,” said Andrew Mulvihill, vice chairman of the board. “This pandemic and taking children away from school and distance learning appears to have done enormous damage to our children and their continuing learning.
“We have to recognize that we have received a hard blow, and we all have to work very, very hard to get over it,” he said. “And I think we’re going to have to be very, very careful about how we spend this coming federal money. I know it is not under state control. These will be the neighborhoods. But we really want to make sure we keep an eye on the ball. “
Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan said in-person education was important and that districts and teachers had worked hard to return to school, whether full or hybrid. But, she said, health and safety come first.
“We know that while this is not ideal and although we believe that students learn best in schools, we have also expanded the capacity to provide quality distance education,” said Allen-McMillan.
“It was not a drain for everyone. It was not a failure for everyone, ”she said. “And on the contrary, we have heard over the past six months in particular from many people who have shared opportunities for success.”
Younger elementary school students generally did better than those in older elementary and middle school classes. Gleason noted that younger students are the least independent in a distance learning setting, unfamiliar with technology, and depend on parents and others to partner with their teacher.
“We want to congratulate our parents and caregivers because we believe that without the incredible support they provided during this time, especially during distance learning, this data would have been even more appalling,” said Gleason.
Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].
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