By Chanel Shum, Mack Liederman
For WHS, standardized test scores are typically a crowning achievement. However, when the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores from last year were released in December, they showed that a majority of WHS students did not meet grade-level standards for math and English.
While 71 percent of Westfield 8th graders met grade-level expectations for English, only 43 percent of WHS students met grade-level expectations, according to a presentation at the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 5. For mathematics, 40 percent of Algebra II students and 62 percent of geometry students met grade-level expectations. Students in grades 9-11 took the exam last spring.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Intruction and PARCC Testing Coordinator Mr. Paul Pineiro, who gave that presentation, said that the scores were lower than anticipated, but still higher than the state and national average.
“It’s the first year with a test that was unpopular to begin with,” said Pineiro in an interview with Hi’s Eye. “Policy makers have made this test a mess. I don’t know how much stock I can put into these scores.”
Pineiro speculated that the WHS scores are the result of parent concerns and politics. “High school students tend be more independent thinking, and that might have showed in the level of effort that they put in,” said Pineiro. “I fully understand. If I was a student, I don’t know how motivated I would be to take the test.”
WHS Testing Coordinator Dr. Derrick Nelson said the low scores “are not necessarily a tell-tale of WHS. The kid could have a bad day, their parents could have been fighting the night before, maybe they didn’t eat a good breakfast. Those factors have nothing to do with a teacher’s instruction or the running of the school building.”
Senior Jack Ciarrocca said his failing scores were not the result of a bad day: “I rushed through the test. I couldn’t focus on PARCC when I was worried about what I had to make up in the classes I was missing.”
Senior Paige Whitman said the PARCC scores “aren’t a reflection of a failure by WHS teachers or students.” The reason for these failing scores, Whitman said, was simple: “Kids are not trying. It’s what you can expect when students lose valuable lesson time to be tested arbitrarily.”
Social Studies Teacher Mr. James Lane thinks the idea behind the PARCC is sound but acknowledges its execution has not been perfect. “Just digitizing a test does not make a test 21st century [or] empowering for education,” Lane said.
Continued Lane: “We got through the process better than most districts, but ‘getting through’ is not what most educators want to achieve. If PARCC survives, hopefully the exam gets to a point that it helps inform our instruction techniques.”
PARCC tests will be administered again at WHS to current freshmen, sophomores and juniors April 18–May 2. While other states have dropped out of the PARCC, New Jersey has not, but “I think it crosses people’s minds,” Pineiro said.