There was some dissension yesterday during the New Jersey State Board of Education meeting. Vice President Andy Mulvihill, upon hearing that 37 percent of NJ students were below grade-level in reading and math, declared the data showed “we are really in a state of emergency in New Jersey when it comes to our kids and our education. This pandemic and keeping the kids out of school and remote learning seems to have done tremendous damage.”
Yet Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan posited, “I do need to state publicly that it has not been a drain for everyone. It has not been a failure for everyone. I think we need to be sure that that balanced message is communicated.”
Not everyone was so sanguine. Assistant Education Commissioner Lisa Gleason, who heads the Division of Academics and Performance, cited “concerning percentages of students who are below grade level at the midyear point” as well as “the continued and alarming disproportionate equity gaps between our white students and students of color.”
Kathy Goldenberg, SBOE President said, “I am concerned, certainly, with the findings for those most vulnerable students that we have, and I’m looking forward to hearing other examples and ways that we can provide support – not just through federal funding but what we can do from the department side.”
Mulvihill added, “We have to recognize that we’ve been dealt a blow, and we all have to work very, very hard to recover from this,” he said. “And I think we’re going to have to be very, very careful about how we spend this federal money that’s coming. I know it’s not up to the state’s control. It’s going to be the districts. But we really want to make sure we keep an eye on the ball.”
Here’s a closer look at the data:
- In English language arts, 37% of 946,000 students tested were below grade level, 38% were at grade level and 25% were above grade level.
- In math, 37% of 1.02 million students tested were below grade level, 38% were at grade level and 24% were above grade level.
- In science, 21% of 794,000 students tested were below grade level, 45% were at grade level and 33% were above grade level.