The MAP and our Growth Model…

Dear HTS Community:

Students in grades 2-8 recently completed the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) and their Student Progress Report will be mailed home later this week. This report includes RIT (Rasch unIT) Scores in Math, Reading and *Language Usage as well as your child’s Lexile Range. The RIT Scale is an equal interval scale that measures achievement and growth over time; it has the same meaning or value regardless of the grade or age of the student. Accordingly, the MAP provides an accurate measurement of student growth over time. The bar graphs on your child’s Student Progress Report represent his/her RIT (blue), the district mean (orange) and the national mean (yellow). Unless this is your first administration of the MAP, there will be data from last spring (SP13) as well as this fall (FA13). Moreover, in the right hand column you can see your child’s national percentile range in the tested subjects for both SP13 and FA13.

Our teachers will also receive additional, more specific DesCartes Reports reports for their students in each of the tested subject areas. These reports can help determine what a student has learned, is currently learning and needs to learn.  The singular purpose of these assessments is to help all our students grow and reach their fullest potential. This data will not be used to rank or sort our students, nor will it be used to rank or sort our teachers. Rather it is part of an ongoing and collaborative process involving the entire HTS community (parents-teachers-students-administrators) working together to meet the diverse needs of all our students. We hope you will continue to partner with us as we strive to improve in our core mission – to help all students grow and achieve academically.

If you have any questions about this information or if you would like to discuss the potential pedagogical implications in the classroom, please contact your child’s teacher directly.

Sincerely,

Alex Anemone

* The Language Usage assessment is administered in grades 3-8 only.

Up in the mornin’ and out to school…

Dear HTS Community:

At the Board of Education meeting earlier this week, the annual NJASK PowerPoint was presented to the HTS school community. The presentation includes all NJASK scores in tested grades/subjects along with comparisons to “like” districts (District Factor Group – J) as well as to the State average. My executive summary includes the following highlights:

  • HTS outperformed J Districts in Grade 3 Math and Grade 4 Science. The mean scores for those tests were over 250 – Advanced Proficient.
  • Narrowed “gaps” in five grades/subjects when compared to J Districts, in some instances by over 13%.
  • Above the State average in all subjects/grades.
  • Increased number of “Perfect 300” scores in Math from 0 in 2012 to 14 in 2013!
  • 87% of all General Education students scored Proficient/Advanced Proficient in English Language Arts (ELA).
  • 92.9% of all General Education students scored Proficient/Advanced Proficient in Math.
  • 100% of all General Education students scored Proficient/Advanced Proficient in Science.
  • 97.4% of grade 3 students scored Proficient/Advanced Proficient in Math.
  • 13% increase in ELA Advanced Proficient scores for students in grade 4.
  • 2% decrease in Math Partially Proficient scores for students in grade 4.
  • 11% increase in Math Advanced Proficient scores for students in grade 5.
  • 5% decrease in Math Partially Proficient scores for students in grade 5.
  • 16% decrease in ELA Partially Proficient scores for students in grade 6.
  • 3% increase in Math Advanced Proficient scores for students in grade 6.
  • 10% increase in Math Advanced Proficient scores for students in grade 7.
  • 7% decrease in ELA Partially Proficient scores for students in grade 8.
  • 32% increase in Math Advanced Proficient scores for students in grade 8.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, we will continue to focus on creating well-rounded students who score above proficient in core subjects, participate in the Visual and Performing Arts as well as athletics and co-curricular clubs. We hope that by writing rigorous curricula, teaching challenging lessons and using authentic student assessments, our NJASK scores will rise in a more organic fashion; that all our children will be successful, happy and prepared for their future.  In addition, we will continue to look for ways to improve our school in the hopes that all children can flourish in a high-stakes testing environment. Extra special thanks to our teaching and support staff for all their hard work last year; we hope to continue our positive momentum this year.

Lastly, at the BOE meeting on Monday, the Board affirmed it’s singular commitment to student achievement and approved as the sole District Goal for the 2013-2014 school year: To develop a student dashboard and use the data to improve the instructional process.

Sincerely,

Alex Anemone

The NJASK and our transition to PARCC…

Dear HTS Community:

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. – Shakespeare

The *New Jersey Assessment of Skills and  Knowledge (NJASK) is a standardized assessment currently administered in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in grades 3-8 and Science in grades 4 and 8. In past years, this exam has been known by different acronyms (EWT, ESPA, GEPA) and has been administered in different grades, with different types of questions and with different passing scores. The only thing that has remained constant is our efforts to help children who would benefit from our assistance. In short, we are here to help every child learn to the best of his/her ability.

Due to a complex web of state and federal regulations and (unfunded) mandates, the NJASK/PARCC will continue to have an oversized influence on education policy in every school in New Jersey, if not America. On a more practical matter, the NJASK has very specific and important ramifications for all major stakeholders. The purpose of this letter is to communicate these potential effects to the HTS community.

  • Placement in our Academic Intervention Program (AIP) is determined by your child’s score on the NJASK in Math and ELA. This year all students who scored 205 or less have been placed into AIP classes. These classes typically are in lieu of a “special” such as Art or Music and provide the students with fundamental skills that are missing. In addition, we also provide some specific “test prep” strategies that might assist our students. These test prep strategies are similar to what is offered in various SAT-Prep programs such as Kaplan or Princeton Review.
  • After graduating from HTS, most of our students enroll at Madison High School. When adminstrators and guidance personnel from MHS are deciding on placement levels (Honors, Enriched or General) for core subjects, the students’ NJASK scores are factored into those decisions. Similarly, for students who are applying to private high schools, those institutions usually ask us for the full academic profile of the student who is applying. Included in that profile (with parent permission) are the NJASK results.
  • The new School Performance Report (SPR) created by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), sorts and ranks HTS into quintiles with other top flight schools from Millburn, Ridgewood, Westfield, Chatham etc. These rankings are published annually and, although we know the SPR does not factor everything into consideration, it has quickly developed into a critical document for all schools in the state. Many realtors are already quoting the SPRs to potential buyers.
  • For the first time ever, teachers and principals in New Jersey will be assigned a Student Growth Percentile (SGP) based on their students’ most recent NJASK scores. Although the methodology used by the NJDOE is still somewhat unconvincing, the march toward SGP implementation continues unabated. This year, 30% of a teacher’s final evaluation is based on these cumulative SGPs.

In no way does this mean we will ignore teaching the whole child and narrow our focus to tested subjects only. We will continue to focus on creating well-rounded students who score above proficient in core subjects, participate in the Visual and Performing Arts as well as athletics and co-curricular clubs. In summation, we hope that by writing rigorous curricula, teaching challenging lessons and using authentic student assessments, our NJASK scores will rise in a more organic fashion; that all our children will be successful, happy and prepared for their future.  In addition, we will continue to look for ways to improve our school in the hopes that all children can flourish in a high-stakes testing environment.

Sincerely,

Alex Anemone

*The May 2014 NJASK will be the final time this exam is used. Next year, New Jersey (and other states) will transition to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam.