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.

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