Little Silver's NJASK Scores Take Slight Dip

A change in the district's language arts curriculum is cited as one of the probable causes for lower scores in younger grades in the annual state assessment.

The results are in, and Little Silver administrators have learned that while sixth- through eighth-grade students continue to outperform their peers throughout the state on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK), some scores in younger grades show a dip from previous years.

When NJASK results come in each year, students in a district are measured not only against other students in the state, but against students with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, know as district factor groups (DFG). Third- through eighth-grades students take the test, which includes sections in math, language arts and science for fourth- and eighth-graders. Each student is scored as either Partially Proficient, Proficient or Advanced Proficient in each subject.

Little Silver students outscore students throughout the state in just about every instance, but lag when compared to DFG scores in sections like third and fourth grade math and fifth-grade language arts. (The full report can be accessed above this article.)

School Superintendent Carolyn Kossack presented the scores at the Oct. 11 board of education meeting, and said that the district's move to balanced literacy last year might be one of the causes for the dip.

Teachers no longer use a basal reader to work with students but instead employ guided reading and work in small groups to teach to students' abilities, "because one size doesn't fit all," Kossack said.

"It's a huge philosophical shift," she continued. "Teachers are learning to do something that's vastly different, vastly more rigorous."

Kossack said that in upcoming meetings with teachers, she will encourage them to analyze NJASK data from the previous year and target students who were a few points shy of moving into a higher scoring range, which would increase proficient and advanced proficient scores.

The district has also begun the process of adopting common core standards, calling for yet more changes in the curriculum, Kossack said.

"It's a little bit of a journey," she said of the shift in educational mandates. "But it's disappointing when we have a dip."

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