The Haddonfield board of education reviewed the 2023 New Jersey Standard Learning Assessment (NJSLA) test scores at a meeting earlier this month.
The scores were revealed during a presentation by district area content supervisors Matthew DiDonato and Katy Roussos.
For English and language arts, more students met or exceeded the state average across all grades, with less than 3% not meeting those expectations in all grade levels from three through nine.
“Something to point out is that in every grade level except for seventh, our scores returned to pre-pandemic (levels) or greater,” Roussos explained. “If we’re concerned about learning loss from the pandemic, we can see that we’ve recovered in almost every single grade level for those scores.”
Compared with previous years – but excluding 2020 and 2021 due to COVID – this year’s scores for ELA were higher than last year in grades three, five, six, eight and nine. That’s significant, especially in grade six, which had experienced a downward trend.
“Those are comparable socioeconomic communities across New Jersey,” Roussos pointed out. “We are the only J district in South Jersey so all the other J districts are in North Jersey.”
Compared with other J districts (those with similar socio-economic backgrounds), the district performed better or on par with them ELA for grades three, four, five, six and eight. In math, the schools have less than 3% of students not meeting expectations in grades three through six and had about 30% more meeting or exceeding expectations compared with the state average in all grade levels.
Unlike ELA, math students are assessed starting in middle school by which class they are enrolled in rather than grade levels. Even so, the assessments did measure how each grade performed compared with the same grade level in previous years, and showed that three, five, six and eight grades did better than last year.
DiDonato pointed out that there is a consistent drop in grades from five to six, and grade seven continues a downward trend.
“There’s a lot happening in children between fifth and sixth grade, not just in schools,” he pointed out.
Part of DiDonato’s interview for his position included giving a data presentation on the impact of transitions by splitting the J districts into groups, with transitions from fifth to sixth grade (elementary to middle school) and J districts without a change.
“What we saw is that in schools without a transition from fifth to sixth, where students were in the same building, there were literally no changes,” he said. “It was exactly the same, but when children were in a different school for grades five to six, that’s when you saw the decline.”
Unlike ELA and math, science is only tested in grades five, eight and 11. Across the board, the district had a higher percentage of students proficient or advanced than the state district, nearly double in grade five. Though Haddonfield performed better compared with other J district grade five groups, it had fewer students scoring proficient and advanced than other J district schools in grades eight and 11.
Some of the questions to be considered in the future include:
- What factors influenced the trending decline and then improvement in sixth grade ELA scores?
- What factors contribute to the discrepency between Haddonfield’s seventh grade ELA scores and other DFG (J) districts over two consecutive years?
- What factors may contribute to the declining trend in seventh grade math scores?
The district anticipates following up in a few months.
In addition to reviewing the NJSLA data, the board also discussed a policy approved on first reading that focuses on staff privacy. It was updated to prohibit any audio or video recording of school staffers or students while they perform their jobs, unless there is prior written approval or it is stipulated in an IEP or 504 plan. The exception is a school-sponsored event open to families and the public.
Board member and policy committee chair Lynn Hoag also discussed whether or not suspensions are proving to be effective. She noted that Superintendent Chuck Klaus and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Gino Priolo will offer more data and a presentation on the topic in December.
The next board of education meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Haddonfield Memorial High School.