Schools / Kids

Board of Ed Members Express Frustration With PARCC Results Re: Achievement Gap

South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education member Susie Adamson, Sept. 18, 2017.

According to results from the PARCC test, the historic achievement gaps in the South Orange-Maplewood School District for African-American students as well as economically disadvantaged students continue.

South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education members discussed the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test results at the monthly Board meeting on Monday, September 18. Dr. Kalisha Morgan, Director of Planning & Assessment, presented the results in a lengthy slideshow which is posted below.

“This is an urgent and pressing and historic need of ours and it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better and it is a great source of frustration for the community,” said Board of Education member Susie Adamson, who criticized the fact “that we don’t have the proper data to analyze what’s working and what’s not.”

Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ficarra said that the lack of data in the District was unacceptable and that he would shortly be making recommendations for new real-time, usable data collection and crunching.

“We don’t have a data warehouse on the district level,” Ficarra reported, saying that currently the district was comparing data that was “apples and oranges” and that the district needed to create a “data warehouse where you could ask it to do anything including cohort group analysis — following students grade to grade.”

“We don’t have access to that data now,” said Ficarra, but he promised that administration would  come forward shortly with recommendations for data tools. “We need multiple measures and more timely measures…. We can get much more targeted information.”

Ficarra spoke about “knowing what children’s needs are and meeting them where they are” and the need to identify skills “in real time.”

“This data here we are looking at was accumulated six months ago…. Six months is a long time ago for a third grader,” said Ficarra.

Board 2nd Vice President Madhu Pai said she wanted to hug Dr. Ficarra for his promise to improve data collection and analysis.

Other board members agreed about the need for better data.

“Every year this question of not having co-hort data has come up,” said Donna Smith.

Chris Sabin said, “We need to do something more than we are doing right now.”

Board President Elizabeth Baker spoke at length about middle school math, and also focused on the gap for economically disadvantaged students, saying, “Many of the students meeting or exceeding expectations are relying on expensive tutors to get there — we have not dealt with the economic disparities.”

Board member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad also spoke of her frustration with the ongoing gap.

“This year it’s even harder because I know all the effort and focus we have done,” said Lawson-Muhammad. She mentioned her meetings with Mr. Thomas Puryear of the NAACP in which Mr. Puryear had said that saying was losing patience.

Lawson-Muhammad harkened back to the recognition portion of the meeting where it was noted that South Orange Middle School and Clinton came off the Focus School list. She said that had happened by “isolating down to individual students.”

“There’s only so much patience that we can have around this,” said Lawson-Muhammad, “and we can’t talk about it enough.”

Maureen Jones and Johanna Wright also expressed their frustrations.

“We need to look at data but we really need to look at the targeted interventions that we are doing in class,” said Jones, picking up a thread from Lawson-Muhammad. She also said that the district needed to look at climate and expectations.

Starting off the conversation, Johanna Wright had stated, “Wow, this is really disheartening,” and asked Susan Grierson, Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum, what was being done.

Grierson spoke of data teams working at the school level to “help inform our practice so that we are paying attention to the students who struggle. We are trying to ensure that our professional development is job-embedded and by that I mean that it is specifically designed to address what is happening or not happening in class so we can give teachers the support they need to plan small group instruction and plan their class periods so that they can be effective.”

“That’s it?” said Wright.

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