NJ’s School Report Cards, the state data base for student achievement based on standardized tests, is still under embargo. But here’s a few data points. (I’ll provide links once the embargo is lifted.)
Let’s look at 11th graders, who are tested in language arts and math with the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). Across the state, 49.9% of kids received a score good enough to be marked “proficient” and 25.3% scored “advanced proficient.” In language arts the scores were better: 68.8% of all students tested achieved proficiency and 20.8% were rated “advanced proficient.”
The HSPA is usually regarded as an 8th-grade level test, but those are good scores, higher than last year’s.
The Report Cards are also, of course, broken down demographically. This is from the Executive Summary.
“Partially Proficient” means the student didn’t make the cut-off for proficiency. Of the students who attempted the Mathematics section, the percentage of Partially Proficient students ranged from 51.3% for Black or African American students to 8.3% for Asian students. In Language Arts Literacy, the span was much narrower, ranging from 23.7% of Other students scoring Partially Proficient to 5.2% for Asian students.
In Mathematics, 8.1% of Economically Disadvantaged students scored Advanced Proficientand 48.2% scored Proficient compared to 31.0% and 50.5% of Non-Economically Disadvantaged students scoring Advanced Proficient and Proficient, respectively. In Language Arts Literacy, 6.1% of Economically Disadvantaged students scored Advanced Proficient and 72.6% scored Proficient compared to 25.7% and 67.5% of Non-Economically Disadvantaged students scoring Advanced Proficient and Proficient, respectively.
Nothing new, right? Poor kids show significantly lower test scores than wealthier kids, and we have a very wide achievement gap – 43 points – between black kids and Asian kids in math. But how about if we look at educationally-disadvantaged kids, who historically score lower than wealthier kids? Even more to the point, what if we look at poor kids who get to attend schools in wealthy districts due to vagaries of zip codes or family circumstances compared with poor kids who attend school in districts where almost everyone is impoverished?
School districts in NJ are rated on socio-economics by DFG’s or District Factor Groups. The wealthiest designation is “J” and the poorest is “A.”
According to the DOE, 23% of educationally-disadvantaged kids who are assigned to a school district with a DFG of J – the wealthiest ranking – fail to meet proficiency in math. 11.1% of poor kids in J districts fail to meet proficiency in language arts. In other words, 77% of poor kids in rich districts pass the math portion of the HSPA and almost 89% pass the language arts portion.
But in districts labeled “A,” 53.4% of educationally-disadvantaged kids failed to meet proficiency standards in math and 30.7% failed to meet proficiency goals in language arts. So in poor districts only 46.6% of kids pass the math HSPA and 69.3% pass language arts.
That’s a gap of 30 points in math achievement between poor kids who attend school in J and A districts and a gap of 20 points in language arts.
There are many complex factors involved when educating poor children. But NJ’s most recent HSPA scores seem to make the case that poor kids suffer scholastically when they are segregated into large, urban districts.