Inertia in Gloucester CountyOctober 26, 2008
Grant GraftOctober 28, 2008
Brace yourselves. The new scores for the state assessments are coming out and they’re not pretty. Two distinct elements contribute to the lack of glamour: first, the AYP cut-off by the federal legislation of No Child Left Behind jumped up about an average of 12 points. (Translation: the percentage of kids required to make Adequate Yearly Progress spiked because, if you remember, by 2014 all our children will be 100% proficient in everything. Thank you, Garrison Keillor. ) In addition, the NJ Department of Education changed its definition of “proficiency:” previously, some tests only required a score of 33% to pass, and now passing percentage is over 50%.
NJ’s public schools were caught off guard because the DOE”s adjustment came over the summer, after all tests had been taken and schools had made assumptions based on their understanding of “proficiency.” The official word from the DOE, reported by the Star-Ledger yesterday, was
“This is all part of the department’s efforts to raise the rigor in all of the tests, including in high school,” said (Barbara) Gantwerk, the assistant state commissioner. “And you need to start this in the early grades if we are going to move ahead.”
The inside word is that Lucille Davy, Commissioner of Education, had some sort of epiphany about outrageously low proficiency rates and unilaterally adjusted the numbers.
At any rate, most school systems will see their passing rates fall by about 20%. The Star Ledger lists Newark, which will have nearly 1000 additional kids in each grade fail and Paterson, which will have 250 extra kids in each grade fail. Also, Piscataway, which typically boasts a 90% passing rate, will see its number drop to about 79% and Chatham, where all kids usually pass, will see passing rates in the mid-80’s.
It all seems pretty arbitrary, but what else is new? Conspiracy theorists argue that the engine driving this public denigration of government education is a covert plan to bolster charter schools and vouchers. Other like-minded paranoids sense a scheme by Corzine to send multiple local districts into academic descent and thereby justify county-wide districts. What did Woody Allen say? “Paranoia is knowing all the facts.”