New Data on Student Learning Loss Sounds the Alarm for NJ Education Department-Mandated Summer School Programs

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Last year the Trump Administration allowed states to waive annual standardized testing due to all-remote instruction. This year the Biden Administration cut states a break, requiring tests with lots of flexibility, but states still had to collect data. New Jersey did so by requiring districts to submit results from their own internal assessment data, whether it be from platforms like NWEA, iReady, or other ways districts measure student growth.

The results are in. A report last week from the NJ Department of Education shows that at least one-third of NJ students are behind grade-level in both reading and math. Gaps are larger for specific groups; for instance, while 37% of all students are below grade-level in reading, 54% of low-income students are. In reading (or English Language Arts if you’re looking at the state report), 16% of Asian students are behind grade-level and 56% of Black students are.

Senator Teresa Ruiz, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said that districts should be required to offer summer school programs that would be easily paid for by the $2.5 billion in federal stimulus funds through the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan.

The data is clear. It’s there in front of us. Knowing this is a fact facing our students, the [State Department of Education] needs to step up and take action. This reinforces what I was talking about since last March, and even before that. We have disparate percentages of African American, language arts and English-language learners who are below grade level. There has to be a plan to address this.

A report from JerseyCAN found that if state tests were given this Spring, 143,132 fewer NJ students in grades 3-8 would meet grade levels in reading, bringing the total number of students not proficient to 393,613. Low-income students lost 40% of expected learning over the last year in reading and 43% in math. These gaps are “alarming” and have “long-term implications” for students most affected by a school closures.

Currently there is no direction from the NJ DOE. Districts are free to create meaningful summer programs or, alternatively, disregard the data.

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