At Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway led a PowerPoint presentation aimed at detailing the passing percentage achievement totals of schools in the district (from various grade levels) over a three-year period, in comparison to both state passing rate totals and those from Manchester’s district factor group (see attached PDF presentation). The tests used to help collect data in the presentation were taken by students in the spring of 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“There’s a big emphasis on test scores and data collection (now),” said Trethaway. “But, I think we all agree it’s an important part, we’re just concerned about the measurement and how you interpret the data. As you know, when you get data, it can be used a lot of different ways.”
Trethaway explained that the state of New Jersey was moving towards a “growth model” for interpreting its scoring data, which will follow a certain grade level as they progress from year to year, instead of examining results from the same grade level each year. “What they’re looking for in New Jersey is being able to track our students’ progress, from third grade to fourth grade, fourth grade to fifth grade, and so on,” said the superintendent.
Trethaway went to discuss the concept of adequate yearly progress (AYP), which is a measurement defined by the “No Child Left Behind” Act and details how schools and school districts across the country perform on standardized tests. “The whole point of No Child Left Behind is that everyone in every state would pass (standardized tests) by 2014. I don’t think that’s actually an achievable goal for every student across the whole United States,” Trethaway remarked, adding that tests and their difficulty vary from state to state as well.
According to page 2 of the PowerPoint presentation, only 59 percent of New Jersey students in third grade through fifth grade would need to pass Language Arts to make adequate yearly progress from 2008 to 2010. However, beginning this year and continuing until 2013, that same group of students would need twenty percent more of the group to pass, at 79 percent, to continue meeting that same standard of achievement.
“Theoretically, you could have had 60 percent last year and meet AYP. This year you could have had 78 percent and improved your score, but not met AYP. They’ve raised the bar that much,” Trethaway stated.
Pages 4 and 5 of the presentation examined the results of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), a test given to students at in March of their junior year.
The slide on the Language Arts portion showed that Manchester Township ranked ahead of both the state and their district factor group in each demographic category, including “General”, “Black”, “Hispanic” and “Economically Disadvantaged”, coming in lower than the state score in only the “Special Education” category.
The slide on the Math portion revealed that Manchester Township also ranked ahead of both the state and their district factor group in each demographic category, with the exception of “General”. “That’s pretty significant that throughout the whole total, we’re higher and in some cases, significantly higher than both the state and our district factor group,” Trethaway stated.
The next series of presentation slides (pages 7-12) were dedicated to measuring performance of students from third grade to fourth grade on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) exam from 2009 to 2010, in both Language Arts and Math.
Last year, the state average in Language Arts was 59.7 percent with passing grades, and third-graders logged below the state average with a total of 53.8. However, this year, the now-fourth graders improved their total to 67.4, above the state total of 62.7. “We moved up by about 14 points. That’s significant, that’s a positive graph,” Trethaway said.
In 2010, Whiting Elementary School third-grade students had 66.7 percent of the students earn passing grades in Math, which was both below the state (78.1) and district factor group (70) totals. However, in 2011, the now-fourth graders brought their Math total up a full seventeen points to 83.7, which now puts them ahead of both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals. “From third to fourth grade, some really positive things happened, in both Language Arts and Math,” Trethaway commented.
At , a similar pattern emerged. In Language Arts, third-grade students had a 58.1 percent passing rate, which put them well ahead of the district factor group total of 48.1, but just under the state average of 59.3. This year, those now-fourth graders improved their Language Arts passing rate percentage to 69.9, putting them above the state average of 62.7, and figurative miles ahead of the district factor group average of 49.7. “Again, a positive graph,” the superintendent said.
In Math, there was a slight decline at Manchester Township Elementary School. In 2010, 87.2 percent of third-grade students passed, well ahead of both the state (78.1) and district factor group (70) totals. In 2011, the now-fourth graders had their Math passing rate average drop nearly six points to 81.7; however, they were still ahead of both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals.
“We dropped, but we still didn’t drop below the state. Obviously we didn’t grow like the state did,” Trethaway advised.
At , third-grade students scored a 49.4 passing rate average in Language Arts, which was between the state (59.7) and district factor group (48.8) totals. However, in 2011, those now-fourth graders brought their Language Arts passing totals up slightly to 50.6, which again puts them between both the state (62.7) and district factor group (49.7) totals.
“We moved up slightly, but not necessarily as much as we wanted to,” the superintendent said of those results.
In 2010, Whiting Elementary School third-grade students scored a 76.3 passing rate average in Math, which was both below the state (78.1) and above the district factor group (70) totals. However, in 2011, the now-fourth graders had their Math passing totals drop significantly to 66.2, which now puts them below both the state (79.3) and district factor group (70.9) totals.
“Of course, you have to go back and see what some of the factors are that led to that, to make sure that we don’t do that again. When you look at the graphs where we’re improving, what are some of the factors that led to those that we want to continue,” Trethaway rhetorically commented.
Pages 13-18 of the PowerPoint presentation took a look at how third grade students progressed to fifth grade in each of the various elementary schools in the district, and how they performed on the NJASK exam in both Language Arts and Math from 2009 to 2011.
Last year, the state passing rate average in Language Arts was a total of 59.7, and Whiting Elementary third-graders logged below the state average with a total of 53.8. However, this year, the now-fourth graders improved their totals to 67.4, above the state average of 62.7. “We moved up by about 14 points. That’s significant, that’s a positive graph,” Trethaway said.
In 2009, Whiting Elementary School students had a poor Language Arts passing rate average of 39.1, which was then improved to 58.7 in 2010, and again to 61.7 in 2011, putting them ahead of both the state and district factor group totals. This improvement also carried through to Math totals at the school. In 2009, Whiting Elementary School students had a Math passing rate average of 71.8, which was then improved to 76.1 in 2010, and again to 77.3 in 2011, eventually putting them in between the state and district factor group totals.
For Manchester Township Elementary School, Language Arts totals for third-graders in 2009-2011 are now above both the state and district factor group totals, where they once lay in between them. In Math, the school ranked below both the state and district factor group with a low average passing rate of 61.9 in 2009, but underwent a near 22-point turnaround to raise that total average up to 83.5 this year.
“These are things that are working for us, that we want to continue,” Trethaway commented.
At Ridgeway Elementary School, Language Arts totals from 2009-2011 were consistent, keeping in between the state and district factor group totals during all three years. In Math, that pattern of keeping in between the state and district factor group totals also held true.
Finally, at , students were tracked from sixth grade through eighth grade in 2009 to 2011, also for the NJASK exam. In Language Arts, Manchester started above both the state and district factor group totals with 70.9 in 2009, had a dip down to 58.7 in 2010, and then scored another huge rebound with an average passing total of 82.9, now putting them above both the state and district factor group totals.
In Math, Manchester Township Middle School has always been above both the state and district factor group totals all three years, with 78.8 in 2009, 72.5 in 2010 and 80.5 this year.
“I think that (these results) put things in some perspective, when myself and Mr. Tom Baxter talk to the principals, literacy coaches, and the supervisors about what are some of the programs that seem to be working, and what are some of the reasons we dropped down in some of those areas,” Trethaway concluded.
Baxter, the District's Director of Curriculum, followed up the superintendent by mentioning that the Core Standards K-12 test has begun implementation throughout the district, with Math currently available and Language Arts coming shortly.
“Assessment committees are meeting and developing a grade-level test where we can start to look at where the standards are; where weak areas and strong areas are, and find out where we have to go from that point,” Mr. Baxter commented.
Baxter added that “anomalies” in the achievement totals highlighted in this presentation would be discussed with school principals in the district in the near future.