Brick District Weighs PARCC Results

Susan McNamara, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, discusses Brick’s test results. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The district’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers results have improved in most categories, but are looking for ways to improve, officials said.

All New Jersey high school students must take the PARCC test in the fall and spring, and grades three through eight take the test in the spring.

The exam, now in its third year, tests in English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics, and is part of the high school graduation assessment requirements set by the state of New Jersey.

During the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction Susan McNamara explained that the state looks for improvements in scores of 4 and 5 (“meeting expectations” and “exceeding expectations,” respectively), and a decrease in scores of 1 and 2 (“not meeting expectations” and “partially meeting expectations,” respectively). Level 3 (“approaching expectations) has a different set of criteria, depending on the subject and the grade level, she explained.

During her presentation, McNamara broke the PARCC results down by subject and grade level and compared the change in scores for Brick students from 2015 to 2017.

She said that the district is consistent with the state of New Jersey in all areas by demonstrating a reduction in level 1 and level 2 and an increase in level 4 and level 5, with the exception of grade 11.

“It’s important to note that grade 11 does not necessarily include the students who took the [Advanced Placement] test, and that has impacted those scores, both at the state level and the district level,” she said. “So you do not have your top students participating in PARCC because they can opt out of it because they take an AP test instead.”

As an example, the PARCC assessment for Algebra 1, offered in 8th-grade and high school, Brick has seen a decrease in the number of students overall in scores of 1 and 2 by six percent, and increased the number of scores of 4 and 5 by six percent.

In ELA, Brick students in grades 3 through 11 are fairly consistent and on par with other New Jersey schools, McNamara said, and there has been a decrease of 1’s and 2’s and an increase of 4’s and 5’s. “Likewise in math, we are on par with the rest of the state,” she said.

“I’m proud of the growth we’ve made on the scores,” she said.

One result, which McNamara called “amazing,” is 95 percent of the district’s 8th-grade students who took Algebra 1 scored a 4 or higher.

“We’re growing consistently over the last three years, and we’re appreciative of that growth,” she said. “Could we do better? I’m sure we could do better, and now we have a good plan in place to analyze the data,” McNamara said after the meeting.

The state prepares an analysis of the data and shows where the township did well and where the district has challenges, she said. The report would also show a breakdown of how the Brick school district compared to other New Jersey school districts of a similar size.

Last year’s state analysis showed that Brick’s middle schools – Lake Riviera and Veterans Memorial – were two of the highest performing middle schools of a similar size in the area, McNamara said.

After the state issues its report in December, the district could focus available resources and begin to look at pacing issues, or how curriculum is presented and how much time is given to each unit, she said.

“I think the district is more than PARCC scores, it’s far more than that,” said acting superintendent Dennis Filippone.

Board of Education president John Lamela agreed, and said he is not a fan of the PARCC testing.

“It is disruptive, it disrupts the school. Yes, I think we need data, but since its implementation I’ve seen parents, I’ve seen kids with nerves in their stomachs, and I’ve seen teachers who worry daily about the productivity of their kids,” he said at the end of the meeting.

“We look at the whole student,” he said. “When I come into the schools and I see what these teachers do, and how hard these kids work, coming from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, some of the things they deal with? I’m proud of them,” Lamela said. “So, the last thing I’m looking at is a test score.”

There are many kinds of intelligence, he added, including mechanical, athletic and more.

“These kids have so much to offer…but somebody, somewhere, sitting in an office who had no concept of education, said we need a measure for everyone across the spectrum. We lost sight of what matters,” Lamela said.

“I’m okay with the progress every kid makes, and the progress they don’t, because when I went to school we all ended up where we belonged,” Lamela said. “A test didn’t indicate the potential of what they wanted to do. I value the whole child, not PARCC,” he said. “Our kids come first, not test scores.”

To view the district PARCC results by grade, visit and click on the first line, “Brick Township Public Schools District PARCC 2017 BOE Presentation.”