(This is a guest post by Tish Johnson, the Coalition Manager of We Raise New Jersey and a N.J. public school parent. We Raise New Jersey is a collective of statewide organizations that advocate to ensure every student in New Jersey graduates prepared for college and career. Tish has over 15 years of combined financial, government, legal and corporate knowledge that she brings with her to education advocacy sector.)
A coalition of parents, educators, and business leaders, We Raise NJ elevates the voices, stories, and messages about what’s working for our children today to prepare them for a successful tomorrow. Today, we are pleased to elevate the students and educators of our state who have risen to the challenge of higher expectations and posted impressive gains on our most recent round of state assessments.
During the Department of Education’s PARCC presentation on September 13th, State Board President Arcelio Aponte shared he was “encouraged about the future of New Jersey students” and acknowledged that there was a lot to celebrate. PARCC results show all trends moving in the right direction over the three years the state has been using improved exams aligned to college and career readiness. The numbers of students making gains are increasing while the numbers below proficiency are decreasing. In fact, from 2015 to 2017, 88,000 more New Jersey students have achieved grade level expectations in English Language Arts – a 7 percent increase from the initial year. Equally remarkable, in tracking the progress of 250,000 of the same elementary students over three years, 50% who had scored below grade level in 2015 improved by one or more levels by 2017.
Further highlighting state improvement were representatives from Beverly City, NJ. Beverly City is a small urban town in Burlington County where 70% of the students live below the poverty line and 100% receive free or reduced lunch. Utilizing a variety of strategies with emphasis on PARCC data to adjust instruction, educators helped students achieve a remarkable increase in proficiency of 21% in ELA and 13% in Math over a two-year period. Beverly City is a shining example of what is possible.
Over the past several years, New Jersey has experienced the same shock to the system as every other state across America confronting difficult realities. As data have emerged to reveal significant gaps in achievement between non-minority and their minority peers, substantial college remediation rates, and workforce gaps with filling jobs with qualified applicants – New Jersey has provided changes intended to ensure every child has access to a quality education. The changes range from higher academic standards to more rigorous assessments and availability of data that measure academic readiness as our students prepare for life after high school.
It’s time to support our teachers and administrators who are using improved standards and assessments to help students reach their full potential. It’s time to acknowledge the countless hours dedicated educators have spent to improve instruction based on assessment data. And it’s time to stand with the parents and students who are focused on the creation of their successful futures.
New Jersey’s public education system has long enjoyed a positive reputation among states; and though our academic expectations have been lifted we know our kids are up to the challenge. We have a long way to go to get all our students to the finish line, but we are on the right path. We all have a role to play in supporting our kids along that path – whether as parents, educators, business and community leaders, or anyone else with a stake in our future. Let’s collaborate to continue on the path of ensuring our students GRADUATE READY!