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Monday, May 20, 2024

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NJ Education Report Card Shows Mixed Results

Education

By Vince Conti

WASHINGTON – The U. S. Department of Education released the state-level results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Oct. 24. Although New Jersey students lost ground when compared to pre-pandemic test scores from 2019, the state did better than the national average. District-level scores have not yet been made publicly available. 
U. S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called the national results “appalling” and “unacceptable.” The results, particularly in mathematics, were worse than many expected. The road back from Covid must involve strategies to address the learning loss, or as some experts prefer to call it, interrupted learning.
In New Jersey, mathematics test scores for 4th graders dropped 7 points, going from 246 in 2019 to 239 this year. For 8th graders, the decline was even larger with a dip of 11 points from 292 to 281. All scores are on a scale from 1 to 500. The decline in the percentage of New Jersey 8th grade students at or above proficiency levels was among the sharpest in the nation. Only three other states, West Virginia, Delaware and Oklahoma, showed a larger loss. Yet those same 8th grade proficiency scores beat the national score by 7 points. 
Reading scores did not suffer the same declines. Among New Jersey 4th graders the drop was 4 points in test scores and 4% in those at or above proficiency. 8th graders showed no loss in reading assessment, maintaining the same scores achieved in 2019.
Among the most disturbing of the results in New Jersey is the fact that state students at or above proficiency in math for both 4th and 8th graders, and those at or above proficiency levels in reading for 4thgraders are all below 40%, leaving over 60% of students below the proficiency levels set for their class level. 
In recent hearings in Trenton, several school district superintendents from across the state said they would be using remaining federal Covid relief funds to support tutorials, enhanced summer programs and access to teachers for extra help. 
They also said they planned to hire more teachers to drive down class size. How long the federal dollars can support a larger payroll and what happens when the funds are no longer available is unclear. Another potential difficulty with the strategy of hiring more teachers may be the general shortage of teachers in a number of areas around the state and nation. 
Several educators, particularly ones in non-profits that work with districts, have complained that New Jersey has so far failed to release a public report of the results from the spring 2022 administration of the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA). 
The argument is that the NJSLA results should be considered in conjunction with the NAEP scores to get a fuller picture of the problem of pandemic learning loss. The New Jersey Department of Education says it will “publicly release statewide assessment results in late winter 2022. The testing was done in April and May. 
Thoughts? Email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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