Montclair District Misses Performance Goals, Achievement Gaps Persist
'I’m surprised, quite frankly, at the size of the gap that I’m seeing,' said board member Shelly Lombard on Monday. 'I always had the sense we were chipping away at the gap.'
Students in the Montclair School District are missing the mark when it comes to meeting academic proficiency benchmarks.
Superintendent Penny MacCormack said on Monday that data from standardized testing shows Montclair students failed to meet state proficiency standards in both language arts and mathematics.
In addition, large achievement gaps persist between types of students — in some instances more than a 30-percent difference in proficiency.
Preliminary standardized testing data for 2012 showed that 79.5 percent of Montclair students were proficient in language arts, which fell short of the 82.5 percent goal; 82.2 percent of students had a proficient score in math, which missed the target of 85 percent.
“We are seeing large [achievement] gaps that I think that we need to take a good hard look at as we do our strategic plans,” said MacCormack.
White students in the district were the only "subgroup" of students to have met the statewide proficiency goal of 90 percent in both language arts and math, scoring 90.4 percent and 93.7 percent, respectively. Asian students were the only other subgroup of students to meet the state performance goal, scoring 92.2 percent in math.
African American and economically disadvantaged students had some of the lowest scores in language arts, scoring 62.8 percent and 57.3 percent, respectively; and math, scoring 64.3 percent and 57.4 percent, respectively.
Two of Montclair’s schools were also found to have some of the widest achievement gaps in the state during the past three years, and four more did not meet their progress goals last year.
Glenfield Middle School and Bullock Elementary School were labeled as Focus Schools, which means they had some of the widest gaps in achievement between different types of students (white, African American, Asian, Hispanic, etc.) during that time, among other things.
In addition, four schools did not met their progress targets for student proficiency this year. These schools were: Hillside Elementary, Mount Hebron Middle School, Northeast Elementary School and Renaissance at Rand Middle School.
One Montclair school was recognized as a top performing school in the state.
Watchung Elementary School was named a High Performing Reward School due to its high student achievement and growth.
Board members were clearly not expecting the performance shortfalls and the achievement gaps detailed by MacCormack on Monday.
“I’m surprised, quite frankly, at the size of the gap that I’m seeing,” said board member Shelly Lombard. “I always had the sense we were chipping away at the gap.”
“I’m shocked,” said board member Leslie Larson, “because we were very clearly told last year that the gap was narrowing and we were as close as we’ve ever been.”
MacCormack said the district will be compiling strategies for closing the achievement gaps and boosting student performance. These strategies include implementing curriculum and resource aligned with Common Core State Standards and regular assessments.
However, MacCormack added these resources will rely on the work of teachers.
“You’ve got to have time for the teachers to plan together and use that data productively together to inform instruction,” said MacCormack. “You’ve got to have time for staff and instructional time for students to meet, and for that staff to target those student needs.”
The recent release of this data is also inauspicious, said McCormack, because New Jersey will soon be implementing new standardized tests.
Starting in 2014-15, New Jersey and nearly two dozen other states will use new standardized assessments developed by the Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers for students in kindergarten through grade 12.
[March 19, 11:45 a.m.] Correction: In the first posting of this article, Hillside Elementary, Mount Hebron Middle School, Northeast Elementary School and Renaissance at Rand Middle School were incorrectly labeled Priority Schools. The four schools rather have not met their yearly progress for student proficiency.]