Lacey Aims At Improving Test Scores

Tim Dowd, assistant principal at the high school (Photo by Chris Lundy)

LACEY – The school district’s report on student achievement showed recent test scores revealing ways Lacey students have excelled, and what categories need more work.

The report was shown at the most recent board of education meeting. It showed statistics of various standardized test scores such as the PARCC or SATs. In some cases, Lacey students did very well. In other cases, they did not.

“They’re good. They could be better,” Superintendent Craig Wigley said of the test scores.

Generally speaking, elementary school students scored better. Around eighth grade, there was a decline in some groups.

Scoring for the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) is broken down into five levels. Level 1 means that students are not yet meeting grade-level expectations. Level 2 students partially met expectations. Level 3 means they are approaching expectations. Level 4 means they are meeting them. Level 5 means that they are exceeding them.

In Language Arts, by way of example, there were, in most grade levels, an increase in students who were in levels 4 and 5.

In the elementary grades, there were between 40-55 percent of students who either met or exceeded grade level expectations. That dipped as kids got older, to the 30-40 percent. There were more children who were not meeting expectations. There was an average of 31 percent of students who were in Level 1 and 2 combined. The test scores seemed to go down as children got older.

When compared to state averages, Lacey students usually came in within a few percentage points. Either they did slightly better or slightly worse. Again, older students performed worse than younger students.

  The solution to some of this is providing more instructional time for students, assistant superintendent Vanessa Clark said. “We have some work to do and we know that.”

Participation rates for the PARCC increased from 2015 to 2016 across all six schools. Whereas the four elementary schools had participation rates in the 80s, percentage-wise, they increased to the 90s in 2016. Middle school PARCC participation went from 68.3 percent in 2015 to 93.9 percent in 2016. In high school, the change was even greater, increasing from 59.8 percent to 91.2 percent.

The scores were a bit skewed because there were 10 to 25 percent more people taking them. Numbers like that make it hard to compare one year to the next, Clark said.

The presentation also showed NJ ASK (Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) scores, which is still used to test science. In all categories, Lacey students performed better than the state average.

The NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) is an intuitive test, meaning it measures your scores as you take it, Clark said. If too many questions are answered incorrectly, the test stops. One thing the district likes about this test, is that the results are available in 24 hours. It also provides a scale to measure an individual’s growth over time, which really helps to identify strengths and problem areas.

Because of this, it is a good test to show how an individual child is learning, rather than looking at an entire grade’s average scores. Lacey students all showed progress from the beginning of the year to the end, in every grade, and in every subject, except eighth grade math, which fell a fraction of a point.

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) average test score was also part of the presentation. Lacey’s 2016 scores were 15 to 22 points below the national average.

The reason that all of the test data was presented is because it shows a better picture of a student’s progress, Clark said. These tests take place on one day. If the student has something personal going on, illness or an issue at home, then it can affect those scores.

“You can’t build an opinion on one day,” she said.

Further, it makes it difficult to form an opinion on the entire district from one test, she said. For example, some of the high school tests were taken after the students have already met their graduation requirements. Therefore, the test was not important to them so they might not have tried as hard.