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Incoming Newark high school students may take new entrance test

Students hand holding pencil writing selected choice on answer sheets and Mathematics question sheets. students testing doing examination. school exam

The Newark Board of Education approved a new high school entrance exam called the Stanford Achievement Test in Dec. 2022.

Tevarak Phanduang / EyeEm / Getty Images

Eighth graders seeking admission into Newark’s high schools could take a new entrance exam this year. 

During last month’s Newark Board of Education meeting, the board approved a $52,260 contract to acquire the Stanford Achievement Test, or SAT10, and use it as the Newark Enrollment High School Entrance Exam. This year, incoming high schoolers are required to take their admissions test in early February but the district has not clarified if the new entrance exam will be given to students this year. 

The contract term is for Jan. 12 through Dec. 31, 2023. 

Rochanda Jackson, the district’s executive director of policy, planning, evaluation, and testing, reviewed and approved the contract but did not respond to emails from Chalkbeat Newark asking when the new test will be implemented or how schools will use the exam results in upcoming admissions decisions for the 2023-24 school year. Newark Board of Education members and spokesperson Nancy Deering also did not respond to emails. 

High school admission exams are typically used to assess students in subjects such as math and reading and are often used to determine student placement in private or specialized schools. All Newark eighth graders are set to take an entrance exam next month, whether or not they applied to any magnet schools, but it is unclear if the new entrance exam will also assess placement for students hoping to get into a magnet school. 

In 2020, students looking to get into one of Newark’s six magnet high schools took the PreACT from test maker, ACT Inc. Some of the schools previously administered their own entrance exams, which the district eliminated several years ago.

Superintendent Roger León has shared little about the district’s high school entrance exam, and during board meetings in the fall, only noted the dates for the test next month. 

Current Newark eighth grade students are slated to take a high school admissions test during the school day at their current schools on Feb. 10, with non-Newark students scheduled for testing on Feb. 11, according to the Newark Enrolls website. Additional testing days will be held on Feb. 17 for Newark eighth graders and Feb. 18 for non-Newark students. School match letters will be sent on April 18 to all Newark students. 

But neither the district’s website nor its Newark Enrolls enrollment guidebook show how the high school admission exam will be used to weigh enrollment decisions for students vying for a spot in Newark’s traditional or magnet high schools. 

According to the owner of the test, Canada-based company Multi Health Systems Inc., or MHS, the SAT10 was “independently developed to give schools a tool to measure students’ achievement” in math, reading, environment, science, and social science at different stages throughout the school year. Texas-based company NCS Pearson, Inc. formerly owned the test before transferring ownership to MHS in February 2022. 

“The SAT10 was developed with the intention of providing educators with a tool to assess student progress toward academic standards in kindergarten-12th grade,” Jenni Pitkanen, chief product officer for MHS, wrote in an email to Chalkbeat Newark. “Educators who administer the SAT10 use the results in different ways as suits their particular needs as part of an overall assessment process.”

The SAT10 consists of questions on reading and comprehension, sound and letters, mathematics, language, spelling, listening comprehension, science, and social science. Each test is scored electronically with one point given for each correct answer and students’ raw scores are converted to different scores that provide “equitable comparison” across different groups, Pitkanen said. 

Electronic, booklet, and scantron options are available for the SAT10 test, and results are provided to the school district once testing and review have been completed, Pitkanen said, adding that how the results are used is a local decision.

“More generally, achievement tests are used to identify student strengths and needs in a given grade, leading to the effective placement and instructional planning,” Pitkanen said. 

During the 2021-22 school year, 29%, or roughly 11,100, Newark students were enrolled in district high schools, according to Newark Enrolls data

Jessie Gomez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at jgomez@chalkbeat.org.

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