‘If You Don’t Think This Is a Crisis Then I Don’t Know What Else Will Make It More Alarming’

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“I am heartbroken, disappointed and outraged,” State Senator Teresa Ruiz, the outgoing chair of the Senate Education Committee who will become the new Senate Majority Leader, said yesterday in an interview. “I am not sure people realize what is at stake here. But the truth is these are numbers we have seen before. If you don’t think this is a crisis … then I don’t know what else will make it more alarming than this…I don’t want numbers anymore…What I want is what are we doing about it.”

What accounts for Ruiz’s outrage and heartbreak? The learning loss experienced by students throughout New Jersey by covid-induced school closures and remote instruction, shown by a new assessment called Start Strong that districts administered to students in grades 4-10  this past fall in reading and math. (Results are obscurely titled “Strong Support May Be Needed,” “Some Support May Be Needed,” “Less Support May Be Needed.”)  At Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting staffers at the Department of Education broke down the data. Here are the numbers we have:

  • About half of all New Jersey students in grades 4 through 6 began school year 2021-2022 rating “Strong Support May Be Needed.” Across grades 4-10, 25% received that lowest score.
  • Learning loss was greater in math than reading.
  • 49.3% of fourth graders scored in the lowest category in math along with 41.5% in English.
  •  Losses are most severe among Black and Brown students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities: 74.3% of Black fourth graders likely need “strong support” in math as well as 57% in English. 69.7% of Hispanic fourth graders likely need “strong support ” in math and 57.2% in English.

State Board members were resigned. “Nothing is surprising,” commented Ronald Butcher.“That doesn’t mean I’m happy about the results, but the obstacles [from school closures and remote instruction] have been unbelievable.”

Also at the meeting, Board members declined to approve the DOE’s proposed “cut scores” for the high school graduation tests, or the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment. At last month’s Board meeting, to the dismay of some members, DOE leaders proposed changing the meaning of a NJ high school diploma from “college and career reading” to “high school graduation ready.”  Instead, according to NJ Spotlight, “The board put off a final decision until next month, asking to amend the resolution to give them more authority to review the cut scores in the years to come.”

(Photo courtesy of Forbes)

 

 

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