Meeting the mark: How Cinnaminson students scored on the 2017 PARCC tests

Across almost all grades, the district’s upward performance trend continued

At Cinnaminson Public Schools, the results of the 2017 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test were, overall, cause for congratulations.

“In the past, the New Jersey Education Association pushed people to refuse to take the test,” said Joseph Miller, interim director of curriculum and instruction. “‘Necessary evil’ is a good definition for the district’s attitude toward PARCC testing. No one likes the stress this places on students and teachers by the state, it’s over-emphasized.”

Much to the delight of district administrators and the state Department of Education, the number of Cinnaminson students tested climbed over the past year. In the language arts and literacy section, 28 more students opted to take the assessment, while the math section gained 40 students.

Scores also tended to follow this positive trend. PARCC, Miller said, has a three-year history, and the state lumps scores into five levels. A student has mastered a subject if they score in the top two levels.

The percentage of level-one language arts scores decreased across almost all grades from 2015 to 2017, and the district saw a marked increase in level-four outcomes. More than half the district’s student body achieved literacy scores equal to or greater than level-four. Female students in all grades outperformed their male peers in language arts by a landslide, with 2 to 36 percent higher instances of level-four and level-five marks.

Level-one math scores decreased or remained constant, except for grade 11, while all grades achieved a boost in level-four marks. Cinnaminson eighth graders took the cake with a 20.5 percent increase in level-four math scores since 2015, but were the only class to not earn any level-five outcomes over the same period.

Compared to the rest of New Jersey, Cinnaminson students’ scores on both sections were above average where it counts, except for one outlier: grade 11.

Grade 11 students are performing the worst out of all grades at Cinnaminson, with level-one literacy scores rising and level-four and level-five scores falling. Level-one math scores also show a small increase compared to previous years.

On the literacy section, 11th graders had 8 percent more level-one scores than the state average, and level-four and five scores were slightly lagging. Math scores for grade 11, however, were significantly better than average.

Miller said the district suspects the cause for these low scores is associated with special exemptions for top-performing 11th-grade students.

“The highest ability students either opted out, knowing that the test had no bearing on their cumulative average or were excused because they enrolled in the Advanced Placement courses. Lower-performing students are the most likely to take the test,” he explained. “Most juniors have already qualified for their diploma before they even take the PARCC in 11th grade, and they know it doesn’t really count.”