N.J. raises bar for pupil test scores

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2008 at 4:40 pm

N.J. raises bar for pupil test scores

State Board of Education admits change could surprise parents

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Star-Ledger Staff
New Jersey made it harder yesterday for public school students to prove their proficiency on state exams — a change that could cause more schools to run afoul of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The action by the state Board of Education, which approved raising the scores for reading and math tests in grades 5 through 8, highlights how remarkably low the threshold for the scores had been. Students scoring as low as 33 percent correct had been deemed proficient.

The change raised the so-called “cut scores” for proficiency to at least 50 percent in the four affected grades, and also raised the requirements to be considered “advanced proficient.”

The new cut scores will be used to grade tests given last spring. Officials said similar moves are envisioned in the coming years for other grades’ tests, including the state’s high school exit exam. Some of those tests still have cut scores in the 30s.

“What we don’t want to do is mask our weaknesses,” said state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy. “The incentive may be to have the lowest standard we can, but that doesn’t serve the kids.”

Davy stressed that student performance still appeared to improve last spring in most of the tests. But with the changes, passing rates are likely to drop in a majority of tests, markedly in some cases, she said.

In sixth grade, for example, state estimates show the language arts passing rate would have risen from 76 percent to 80 percent this year using the old cut scores, but instead will drop to 54 percent.

For parents and teachers, it could be a jolt to see a child no longer deemed proficient or advanced, and officials acknowledged that the onus will be on the state and districts to explain the change in the coming months as final scores go out.

“Parents will need to understand we have raised the standards and their children may need more help,” said deputy commissioner Willa Spicer. “There are parents who will be surprised.”

In New Jersey and many other states, cut scores have been set notoriously low with the advent of increased testing, and especially No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to reach proficiency targets in reading and math or face possible sanctions.

To provide districts some short-term protection against the predicted drop in passage rates, state officials plan to reduce the proficiency requirements considered by No Child — but set by the state.

State board members yesterday were largely supportive of the change, but some voiced concern about how schools and teachers will react, noting it may further drive a “test prep” trend over which some educators are agonizing.

The detailed process of setting the cut scores had been quietly churning forward for almost a year with the advent of new, longer tests in grades 5 through 8.

“I know that when you start the year, you have a certain standard … and to change the standard at the very end is not the way to do it,” said member Kathleen Dietz, the lone dissenting vote. “There needs to be some warning.”

But all agreed the benchmark needed to be raised for students and schools, with one member citing his own fifth-grade child who took the tests last year.

“I realize this could impact where he’s placed,” said Arcelio Aponte, the board’s vice president. “But as a parent, I’d want to know if he’s not responding correctly.”

John Mooney may be reached at jmooney@starledger.com or (973) 392-1548

The Fly wants to know what you think Mrs. Botsford (head of testing) will do now that NJ has “raised” its standards. Any suggestions for her?

  1. This is exactly the kind of change that Regina Botsford has been advocating.

    Way to go, Regina! Thanks to her leadership, Ridgewood schools keeps getting better and better.

  2. 1223 maybe you have never heard of TERC math I believe it has been refered to as dumb dumb math ?

  3. Yes I know that we use TERC at Orchard, which consistently posts outstanding scores on standardized tests.

  4. Poor Regina. Just when she thought her “standards” based performance criteria would stick, along comes the state to change those low, low standards.
    With less kids being advanced and proficient, will she continue to advocate bad reform math?


  5. 12:23… you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sadly for our children, Regina has lowered the expectations for our district kids by implementing programs such as TERC, TERC2 and CMP2. These programs are proven to be watered down in content. Don’t see how 12:23 can justify his/her comment when the facts present otherwise?

  6. 12:23 PM,

    Your sarcasm is lost on many.

  7. 12:23

    The line you missed in this story was “remarkably low the threshold for the scores had been. Students scoring as low as 33 percent correct had been deemed proficient”

    So kids getting 66% of the question wrong was deemed Proficient at Orchard and those Proficient numbers were hailed as proof that TERC works.

    A 33% on a test score was always failing to me, but hey, what do I know.

  8. TERC in Orchard School is like open space in Bergen County… it’s there, but very little of it!

  9. What’s wrong with failing 66% of the time and being told you’re proficient? In baseball, if you hit 3 times out of 10 they’ll put you in the Hall of Fame.

    Public school is about feelings and self-esteem. C’mon people. Haven’t you figured that out?

    The question remains, is such a school entitled to $13,500 per year per student from taxpayers?

    No. We can do self-esteem for a lot less. We have a new crises counselor; the next step would be to get rid of those teachers who teach hard subjects like math, science, English, history, Latin, etc. And what about the state tests? On, I think we can get 33% correct on a test on our own, without teachers.

    Those subjects are not good for the self-esteem impaired. And you don’t need to know any of those things to vote for Obama..I mean for “change.”

    Brave new world.

  10. If you think that math is the only substandard curriculum in this town, wait until cooler heads focus on the EL-8 english curriculum. It’s a mishash of neopostmodernistic trendy pile of nothing. If you look real hard you’ll find that it consists of spanglish/ebonics/esperanza and sweet sixteen magazine all rolled into one.

  11. TERC is at Orchard in name only. most teachers I have spoken to do not use it and find it stupid.

    But they give lip service to it for Regina is their boss.

  12. Ditto 8:59 PM. I can attest to that. Teachers at Orchard only gave lip service to that stupid math curriculum. They knew what their jobs were and they did it, very well I might add.

    Bravo to Orchard’s teachers. Thank you for not taking stupid guidance from the stupids who reside at Cottage Place.

    Thankfully, you’ll have a new principal and you won’t have to slink around in the shadows just to teach what you know you must so our kids learn.

  13. Well obviously you don’t have kids in Orchard. I do and they both use TERC and they both excel in math. Maybe your kids go to some other school that’s had problems with teaching math.

  14. 10:00 AM, I have to think, you are not being entirely truthful.

    If I am wrong, please answer:

    Why are you so brief in your defense of the status quo?


    Why are you so quick to suggest that the problem is not curriculum-based, but rather, school based?

  15. 10:00am

    Au contraire, we do have children at Orchard.

    So, that either you are a flack from Cottage Place or a really ill-informed parent.

    Have a candid chat with your teachers there, if they trust you not to rat them out to Cottage Place, and they will tell you that they do not use TERC. That they find it stupid and a waste of time for children.

    So, not only are we wasting money on this crappy math program our teachers think it a waste of time.

    One wonders why Regina doesn’t do an anonymous survey of the teachers to find out if it is really worth paying for TERC at Orchard.

  16. “Au contraire, we do have children at Orchard.”

    Look, I don’t know who you think you are, Mr. French-Speaking Surrender Monkey, but I do have kids in Orchard. I spent a lot of time with Dr. Muller to understand how he brought TERC into Orchard and why it achieved the outstanding math results for all these years. So take your “flack” talk elsewhere, buster!

  17. 10:00 AM said
    “Well obviously you don’t have kids in Orchard. I do and they both use TERC and they both excel in math. Maybe your kids go to some other school that’s had problems with teaching math.”

    Obviously??? How is this “obvious” to you? I have children at Orchard and their teachers do not focus their math on TERC. In fact, they’ve showed me the other books they use to supplement.

    You must obviously be an untrusted parent. Otherwise your information would be other than the party line. You’d get the real deal. Clearly, you don’t.

    I must break it to you, if your kids have TERC, then they are NOT excelled in math. TERC is a dumbing down math program.

    Guess it’s all relative to you.

  18. 10:00am,

    You are a suck-up. You went right to “Dr.” Muller, a paid administrator/ water carrier for the district.

    Your answer is a joke. Why don’t you go ask the teachers. That is if they trust you.

    Otherwise learn for yourself what TERC is before you go on touting its wonders based on a conversation with someone who is vested in what he brought to the school.

    After all how objective could he possibly be on the topic?

  19. I'm sensing a lot of repressed resentment & hostility here.

    All I said is that my kids are doing well with their math program. For that innocent statement, I get labeled a "suck-up", "flack" and "untrusted parent".

    What's with you people and the name-calling? Are you this angry all the time?

  20. 4:29 PM,

    Your answer was typical of someone who lacks critical thinking.

    To go to the guy who brought TERC to Orchard and think that you would get nothing but praise for it is naive at best.

    It would like being going to a used car salesman and believing that the car you are purchasing is as good as new.

    What, he is going to tell you, it’s a lemon? Come on.

    And yes, you got called a flack or suck-up because you are touting the party line (BOE) without a full understanding of the topic, defending a curriculum that has been thoroughly discredited my mathematicians worldwide.

    What else are knowledgeable people to believe about you? No one wants to believe that a parent could be that gullible to believe whatever they (BOE and administrators)tell you.

    And yes, you got called names. We have been fighting dumb dumb math for over two years and you waltz into the conversation claiming TERC is wonderful, what do you expect from us, a pat on the back?

  21. 4:29 Let me try to explain.

    ALL children using TERC are doing well in math. That’s the insidious point of the program. Soon, ALL children in middle school will be doing well in Algebra. Do you get this yet? ALL, not some or most but ALL. When you design a program so that EVERYONE can be said to be a winner, then what do you have?

    Do you get why we are so unhappy with such weak and diluted instruction? Where will this take our kids? It’s one thing to dumb something down, but it’s quite another to then say “everyone’s doing so well with it.” It’s an insult to the parents.

    Your comment that your child is doing well with TERC is so bizarre given the circumstances that I wonder what you know about math instruction at all. TERC is not hard. A slug will do well with TERC.

    That’s the problem. Can’t understand why you don’t see that.

    Think of it this way: In Communist countries EVERYONE was to be average. No one was to be poor; no one was to be rich. Don’t we know better than what they say?

    People on this blog know better than to just believe the party line. Maybe you’re a latecomer and still believe what those administrators say to you. They have a vested interest in making you believe something that serves their interests. We prefer to put our children’s future first. I hope and trust that you will too. Better late than never.

    My suggestion is to hurry up and by some Singapore math books to supplement your child’s math instruction. Do you think your child can do grade level Singapore math? Think again.

  22. Congratulations.
    NJ raised the standard from “Brain Dead” to “Low Grade Moron”.

    Well, I guess it’s a step in the right direction.

    BTW, does anyone have any hard numbers on where NJ standards (the “old” ones and the “new” ones) rank in comparison to the standards in other states?

  23. 4:29 – As you’re discovering, it’s not “politically correct” around here to say something positive about Ridgewood schools

  24. NJ was ranked behind about 35 states (out of 50) for its standards. Going from “Brian Dead” to Low Grade Moron” may move us up a notch or two, but not much more than that.

    Gotta love those standards, yea Regina?

  25. > from "Brian Dead" to Low Grade Moron"

    & the NJ-bashing continues…

  26. 10:24 –

    Re: > from "Brian Dead" to Low Grade Moron"

    & the NJ-bashing continues…

    See 8:51 AM:
    NJ was ranked behind about 35 states (out of 50) for its standards.

    NJ Bashing???

    Are you kidding?

    What are you, proud to chant “We’re Number 36! We’re Number 36! We’re number 36!”

    How about striving to improve the situation in NJ by raising its standards and improving its education rather than being an apologist for an education system that targets success as finishing in (essentially) the bottom third of the country. (and let’s not get started on how the USA compares to the rest of the world)
    This situation is UNACCEPTABLE in a town as educated and wealthy as Ridgewood in a county as educated and rich as Bergen in a state as educated and rich as NJ in a country as educated and rich as the USA.

    Open your eyes to the problems and try to fix them, rather than endorsing third world standards in your own backyard.

  27. 1024 you voted for jim mcgrevey that like saying you married your sister its a shame this state will never recover from noty to mention the massive public suported coruption ,awfull business envirement,high taxes lets face it the state is a dump and you voted for it …

  28. 1024 the problem is you live here

  29. Regina has been touting standards based programs for several years. Every time reliable information surfaces, Regina is shown to be wrong. When will the board realize this? The concerned, educated parents in this town have been right all along.

  30. Regina, are you still here?

    What, can’t wait to see how CMP2 goes over can you?

    Poor judgment all along in picking that program. If you want to teach Algebra, then teach Algebra but don’t pretend to teach it and then sell it to parents as if it is actually what you are doing.

    That is considered fraud in world outside of academia.

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