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The recently released 2012 NJASK test results showed Barrington students generally performing well at math and science, but falling below the state average in language arts.
Barrington School District Superintendent Anthony Arcodia agreed to answer some questions regarding the data.
Question: Are you satisfied with the results?
Arcodia: No. As an educator and administrator, one should never be satisfied. Instead, getting better and striving for continuous improvement should be the goal.
Q: Are there any areas of which you are particularly proud?
A: Yes. I am proud of our math and science scores. But as I pointed out in question No. 1; not satisfied.
Q: What’s the take-home message of the reports?
A: Based on a review and analysis of the results/reports, the take-home message is that a greater focus needs to be placed on language arts literacy and writing.
Q: Are there any areas of particular concern?
A: I am particularly concerned with our language arts literacy and writing scores.
Q: What are you doing to address those concerns?
A: Our efforts to improve in this area are already in motion. We have recently adopted the state’s Model Curriculum for various subjects including math and language arts literacy. This will enable us to stay on track with the new Common Core Standards, instructional benchmarks, formative and summative assessments.
We are also piloting a new reading/ language program this year. This program offers very organized and systematic methods and strategies for delivering classroom instruction. A decision as to whether to adopt this program for the 2014-2015 school year will be made in the spring. This organized reading program has been designed to reflect all state instructional initiatives including state assessments which are strongly correlated to the Common Core Standards.
Another factor which will be considered as we focus on this issue is whether we need to allocate additional time for reading/ language arts classroom instruction. Our data analysis team has been reviewing student test scores to determine the specific areas of the LAL program which students are struggling with. This analysis will enable our teachers to target their daily instruction. An important and necessary part of our efforts to address this concern is to provide meaningful professional development.
Q: What can residents who want to know more do to learn more?
Residents can log onto the NJ Department of Education website or contact my office via e-mail or by telephone (856-547-8467, Ext. 118). I would gladly meet with any individual or group to explain the idiosyncrasies of state testing and how the many variables actually impact our school/district scores.
Q: At Avon, almost one-third of students in third- and fourth-grade scored “partially proficient” in language arts. In third grade, that number was above the state average, in fourth it was very close to (but better than) the state average. What is the district doing to address this?
A: The efforts listed above should help us in addressing this item.
Q: It appears Barrington schools had more “partially proficient” in five of the tests, including both Grade 3 tests. And Barrington was above the state average in “advanced proficient” on two tests. Does this mean Barrington students are lagging behind the rest of the state?
A: Not necessarily. For example, if you compare our fourth grade (total students) language arts score in the proficient area Avon school scored a 52.4. The state wide score was 51.0. In grade 3 at Avon School the total student score for Language Arts was 64.9 compared to the statewide 3rd grade score of 62.4. In analyzing the overall district scores we realize that in some areas we are performing at or above state averages. In some areas we are lagging behind and need to do better.
Q: Scores for language arts are comparatively lower through most of the tests (more partially proficient in grades 3, 5, 6 and 7; very close to more partially proficient in grade 4; bounces back in grade 8). Why do you think this is?
A: The fragmentation of our language arts literacy program from grades K-8 has possibly contributed to this. I mentioned above we are currently examining various strategies to address this.
Q: What can parents do to address this issue?
A: Parents can always contact our schools and their child’s teacher to discuss any concern or issue which they feel is having an impact on their child’s academic performance and or progress. It is a proven fact that when parents spend quality time working with their child at home, they perform at a higher level. Home factors are a crucial part in the educational process.
Q: Any other final comments on the tests?
A: The debate as to validity of high-stake standardized testing will go on forever. I believe if the data obtained from these test is used effectively and for the right purpose they can help in improving instruction and the education of our students. These test results should be predominately used as a guide for both teachers and parents. Standardized testing can play a part in measuring school or district’s success. However, it should not be the sole indicator in determining students’ ability or success.
Note: Thank you to Arcodia for taking the time to answer these questions.
The author of the Barrington Bulletin, Mark Correa, is also a member of the Barrington School District Board of Education as of Jan. 6, 2013. Please be aware that I do not speak for the board in any way. The thoughts, views and opinions contained within the posts on this site are mine and mine alone. And the comments after any given posts are the thoughts, views and opinions of the author of the comment.
If you have any concerns over my objectivity or with the content on this site, please leave a comment or email me at BarringtonBulletin@gmail.com.