Gloucester Township improving in the PARCC during past four years

Most grades in the district outperformed the state in English Language Arts proficiency rates

At the Sept. 24 Gloucester Township Board of Education meeting, Timothy Trow, director of curriculum and instruction, presented the results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

According to Trow, changes with the test are expected to be made in the near future after years of debate nationally and in the state about the test’s length and validity in testing students, although not much has been officially announced.

However, the fourth administration of the test did yield mostly positive results overall for the district. Students took the PARCC English Language Arts and Literacy Assessments in grades three through 11, the PARCC Mathematics Assessments in grades three through eight, while also offering the End of Course Assessment in Algebra I.

The assessment places students in five levels based on their performance, with levels one through three being considered not yet meeting, partially meeting or approaching grade-level expectations. PARCC performance levels that are considered positive are levels four and five, which are meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations.

Four years ago when the tests began, Gloucester Township lagged behind the state average in both ELA and math by a staggering amount. In recent years, however, the district has improved tremendously, mostly in ELA.

“Four years ago — our district average and every single school — was below the state average when you combine their third- to fifth-grade scores,” said Trow, regarding ELA for third to fifth graders. “What you see now is that half our schools are beating the state average, which in some ways is about what you might expect.”

The younger children in the district are most likely to benefit from changes and improvements created over the years by teachers and the district, such as the implementation of interactive technology, Chromebooks and other initiatives.

Of the eight elementary schools in the district, each had at least one grade level surpass the state average proficiency rate in ELA. From the 2018 test, three schools surpassed the state average of a 51.7 percent proficiency rate for third grade. Five schools surpassed the state average in grades four and five, which was 58 percent for both, during this past year’s testing.

However, despite more than half of elementary school performing above the state average, the district average was still behind the state average for the 2018 year.

Over the past few years, the trend has been moving upward in proficiency for the district overall in the ELA assessment, improving by nearly 20 percent in third through eighth grade.

Math in grades three to eight continues to be a sore spot for not only the district but also the state, as less than half of New Jersey students are graded proficient at their respective grade levels. A majority of Gloucester Township schools have proficiency rates below the state average in math.

“I go to meetings around the county, everyone is struggling with the way that math is assessed; very, very challenging,” said Trow. “Less than half of the kids across the state are demonstrating proficiency on the math test.”

Although the future of the test remains questionable, as Trow alluded the test could go under a different name in the future and see changes made such as in time allowed for the test, the lower grade levels across Gloucester Township do offer significant promise.

“Our higher scores tend to be the lower grades and we’ve been making some changes and we’re hoping that’s going to follow and work up through,” said Trow.

Some changes Trow talked about include new materials for ELA for grades six to eight and the implementation of a “Double-Period” of math in some grades of middle school, which could continue the trend of growth in the district since the beginning of PARCC testing in 2015.

Lastly, Trow reminded parents that individual performance scores for their children went out about a week before the Board of Education meeting and parents should review it.

“In terms of performance, I have to give kudos to, first of all, the students that are actually taking the test,” said Superintendent John Bilodeau. “In every trend for all 11 buildings, the trend is going in the right direction over a four-year scope, so it takes a lot of devoted teachers and administrators to break down the data.”