PAARC, PSAT and lead testing results spur concern for Haddonfield’s Board of Education

The Haddonfield Board of Education discussed ideas for improving low test scores and provided an update on the district’s lead contamination sources at their Thursday, April 20 meeting.

Haddonfield’s Board of Education had testing results at the forefront of the Thursday, April 20 meeting. With the scores in for Haddonfield’s PARCC, PSAT and lead testing, the board discussed how to proceed.

Curriculum Committee Chair Mary Fagan said Haddonfield Middle School may have to undergo scheduling changes as the result of low sixth-grade PARCC scores in both English language arts and math for the second year in a row.

Michael Wilson, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said not only the scale of the scores is low, but the number of Haddonfield students who scored at the highest level is also small. However at the seventh-grade level, the scores shoot back up.

“Our hunch is that we’re not spending enough time in English language arts and maths,” Wilson said of the scores.

He said moving forward, the middle school may have to switch to a system where sixth-grade students receive double periods of English language arts one day and double periods of math the next day. However, the double periods would take time away from science and social studies courses.

“I think you cannot do science or social studies if you don’t have super strong foundations,” board member Heather Paoli said. “Language arts and maths are more important only because they’re the foundational ones.”

In addition to logging more time on the courses, the district also has a Title II-A grant that would pay for training and preparing teachers to bolster English language arts and math education, Wilson said.

Fagan said PSAT results were also a source of concern for the curriculum committee. This year, Haddonfield Memorial High School did not have as many National Merit Scholarship finalists as in years past.

However, with PSAT tests undergoing scoring changes over the last few years, Fagan said it’s unclear whether this represents a problem just for Haddonfield or if the number of National Merit scholars has declined across the board among PSAT test takers.

John J. Deserable, board secretary and business administrator, discussed the final testing results up for discussion at Thursday night’s meeting. In following up with his April 5 letter in which he outlined the seven points of lead contamination within the district, Deserable said every one of the affected sources was shut down the same day the district received the results.

The seven water sources out of commission have not impeded students or faculty in any way, Deserable said.

“We are working now on our long-range plan, but we are in full compliance,” Deserable said.

Since sending his letter to the school district community, Deserable said parents have reached out to him with questions about lead, and in following the recommendations from the state Department of Environmental Protection, he has informed parents with concerns about lead ingestion that they should seek a medical professional’s advice.

Superintendent Richard Perry said the internal pipes of the district’s buildings were in good shape, indicating the district does not have a problem with lead piping.

The Board of Education’s next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m., at which time it will hold its budget hearing.