“Significant Reforms” Drive Newark Students’ Steady Academic Gains

We are very encouraged by results that show our students continue to make steady gains, especially when comparing their results to students in other cities. This data shows us that while there remains progress to be made, thousands more Newark students are reading and doing math on grade level today than just a few years ago, and that these students have a better chance at attending college and pursuing a meaningful career when they leave our schools.

That’s Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf commenting on the implications of just-released state test scores of Newark public school students’ proficiency in math and English Language Arts (ELA).  For decades the academic achievement of Newark students has lagged behind others,  including children with similar socio-economic backgrounds. But based on this year’s most recent PARCC data (Newark students participate at a rate of 94%, which enables educators “to draw more meaningful conclusions about student learning”),  the district reports that “Newark’s results have not only improved, but compare more favorably than ever before with other districts across the state.” In particular, over the last two years PARCC scores have gone up almost 9 points in ELA and over 5 points in math. Once you include Newark’s public charter schools, student academic growth is even more impressive. 

Here are some highlights.

  • NPS PARCC Scores Continue to Improve: The percentage of NPS students meeting or exceeding expectations across all grades increased more quickly than the state average in both ELA and Math. NPS is up 2.7 points in ELA 3-11 [up nearly 8.7 points over 2 years]. NPS is up 2.8 points in Math 3-11 [up 5.3 points over 2 years]
  • Citywide PARCC Scores Continue to Improve: Focusing specifically on grades 3-8, scores increase further when looking at citywide results that include all public school models in Newark. Both NPS schools and Newark as a city have improved more quickly than the rest of NJ. Citywide in grades 3-8 Newark is up 11 points in ELA and 7 points in Math, while the state is up approximately 6 and 5 points respectively
  • Citywide Proficiency Rates Show More Progress Over Time: Newark’s improvement becomes even more apparent when comparing proficiency rates across all school models in Newark with those similar cities from across New Jersey. This ranking methodology also allows us to go back to the NJASK in 2011. Compared to the 37 most demographically similar districts in the state, Newark has risen from the 42nd percentile in 2011, to the 83rd percentile in Math, and from the 44th to the 81st percentile in English
  •  NPS Outpaces Large PARCC Districts in Other States: When looking at other large districts in PARCC states, NPS also compares favorably. At DC Public Schools (another district that has taken on significant reforms in recent years) while overall results are slightly higher than NPS, students at NPS who qualify for free or reduced lunch (FRL) drastically outperform those at DCPS
  • The City of Newark Compares Favorably with Other PARCC States: We can compare Newark students across school models with other PARCC states. This comparison shows that Newark compares favorably with PARCC states where data is available, outperforming DC citywide, New Mexico, and Illinois (in ELA). Newark is competitive with other states despite large differences in the average socio-economic backgrounds of students being served
  • The City of Newark is Narrowing the Gap with NJ: In just the two years since the start of the PARCC exam, Newark Students have begun to narrow the gap with the rest of NJ – closing the gap by 5 points in reading and 3.5 points in Math
  • African American Students are at Better Schools: The percentage of African American students in Newark who attend schools that beat the state average has tripled since 2009, and now a higher percentage of African American students in Newark attend these schools than the state average.
  • There is improvement across nearly all grade levels. 8 out of 9 grades improved in both ELA and Math from 15-16 to 16-17. Two-year gains are nearly universally positive, with double-digit gains in several grade levels
  •  Improvements are even stronger for students who have attended NPS for the last 3 years. Students who have been continuously enrolled in NPS schools have made even greater growth than the district average
  • The vast majority of schools are improving. 41 out of 56 schools improved in ELA. 43 out of 56 schools improved in Math
  • Participation is up. 94% of eligible students participated in the PARCC exam in 16-17. With more complete data we are able to draw more meaningful conclusions about student learning.

If you want more detail about the district’s blueprint for continuing this upward swing, see Newark’s 2016-2019 strategic plan.

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