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At Tuesday night’s Camden School Board meeting, Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard and Deputy Superintendent Katrina McCombs released school-by-school PARCC scores. The results aren’t pretty but, noted Rouhanifard, the results “will further inform our ongoing efforts to dramatically improve teaching and learning. These results matter, but they’re not all that matters. We view this information as another piece of a broader picture that shows a clear need for improvement. All of the hard-working staff across the District are committed to that improvement, and as we pursue the plan laid out in the Camden Commitment we expect to see progress on this measure and many others.
According to a press release,
Six percent of District students in grades 3-8 are proficient in English language arts and four percent are proficient in math, scores that fall much lower than the grade-level ranges for the State and other New Jersey cities, following historical trends.
Administrators also pointed to some signs of progress:
The District does have relative bright spots. On the English language arts exam, Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy’s middle school students achieved 18 percent proficiency, three times the District’s proficiency rate. On the math exam, Cramer College Preparatory Lab School and Henry C. Sharp Elementary School both achieved nine percent proficiency, more than twice the District’s proficiency rate. Results from Octavius V. Catto Community Family School—the District’s highest-performing family school, based on School Information Cards—were in the top five District schools in both ELA and math.
At the high school level, in terms of achieving the scores necessary on PARCC to meet graduation requirements—Level 4 or above on ELA in 9th or 10th grade, and Level 3 or above in 11th grade—Dr. Charles E. Brimm Medical Arts High School dramatically exceeded the State’s rate in grade 11, with 93 percent of students meeting the Level 3 or above benchmark, compared to the State’s rate of 65 percent.
At 14 percent in ELA, the only renaissance school that had test-taking grades—Mastery North Camden—had the second-highest proficiency among District and renaissance schools. In math, Mastery North Camden had six percent proficient, above the District’s rate of four percent. Mastery North Camden had the highest proficiency levels in the District in 4th and 5th grade reading and 5th grade math.
The district also reported on its recent QSAC scores, the state accountability rubric that rates schools on governance, instruction, assessment, proficiency, fiscal management, and personnel. All New Jersey districts first do a self-evaluation and then the state comes in and does its own. Historically, Camden has artificially inflated its scores. This time, under new leadership, the district did an honest self-reporting:
When the District last went through QSAC in 2012, there was significant variation between the self-evaluation and the State’s reviews. For instance, the District gave itself a 100 percent rating on personnel, and the State initially gave the District a nine percent rating. During the most recent review, however, the scores were much more closely aligned.
“These results tell us where we are, not where we are going or where the limit is on where we can go,” said Deputy Superintendent McCombs. “Through new curriculum, intensive coaching, greater focus on literacy and math skill-building, and a number of other steps, our schools are on the path to improve the quality of education they provide their students.”
“We need to know where we are before we can figure out where we need to go,” said Board President Kathryn Blackshear. “Now we know, and now we can and now we will move forward.”