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Newark parents and public still waiting on full release of PARCC scores

New York will release state test scores later this month.
Getty Images/Sathyanarayan

How many Newark students are meeting the state’s reading and math expectations?

It’s a straightforward question based on the state’s annual PARCC exams, which students took this spring. But for families and the public, finding the answer has been a test all its own.

The state education department sent districts preliminary results in June and final reports in August. But the department has still not posted those results online, preventing the public from viewing statewide, district, or school-level scores. Last year, that data was available on Sept. 28.

In Newark, parents have received paper reports with their children’s results, which also include average scores for their school, district, and state. But those reports do not show what percentage of Newark students overall passed the tests, which many families and members of the public are eager to know.

For that information, the public has had to rely on district officials, who are required to publicly share the assessment results within 60 days of receiving them. Newark Public Schools officials gave a detailed PARCC presentation in August, where they described how students in each grade performed compared to the state average and revealed how much each school’s scores grew compared to those last year.

But unlike other districts such as Camden and Jersey City, Newark officials did not say what proportion of all tested students passed the English and math assessments — a common measure of district-wide progress. And, unlike those districts, Newark’s PARCC presentation has not been posted online for all to see.

That has left news organizations, including Chalkbeat, and education advocates such as Wilhelmina Holder to submit public-records requests for the test data.

“Obviously, it’s available,” said Holder, president of Newark’s Secondary Parent Council, adding that she requested both district and school-level data. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

A state education department spokesman said last week that he expected the results to be posted online “soon.” He did not respond to an email Wednesday seeking an update.

Newark officials provided Chalkbeat with the PARCC slide show, which was presented at the Aug. 28 board meeting and is posted below, but the wait continues for the overall proficiency rates. The records request is still pending.

In the meantime, Newarkers can glean some information from the results included in the presentation. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Across all elementary schools, the average proficiency rate — or what share of students met or exceeded the state’s expectations — climbed by 2.3 percentage points on the 2018 PARCC English tests. The rate was essentially flat in math between 2017 and 2018.
  • Among high schools, the average proficiency rate grew 5.2 percentage points in English and 2.5 points in math.
  • Still, eight high schools and 17 elementary schools saw their proficiency rates decline in either English or math this year.
  • On the flipside, three schools made tremendous gains. Oliver Street School grew by nearly 14 percentage points in English, Branch Brook School grew by 14 points in math, and American History High School grew by about 11 points in English and 6 points in math.
  • Huge score gaps continue to separate groups of students. For instance, on the English tests, white students outperformed black students by 26 percentage points, general-education students outperformed special-education students by 29 points, and English-proficient students outperformed those still learning the language by 26 points.

At the August school-board meeting, Superintendent Roger León called the PARCC results “concerning” but said he has a plan to improve them.

“We actually have a strategy on how to reduce the gap and improve achievement,” said León, who took over as schools chief on July 1. “And we’re not going to wait a couple years to make those decisions — we’re actually taking aggressive actions already.”

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