Princeton High, JW Scores Fall Short, According to State
Princeton High School and John Witherspoon Middle School have both been placed on the federal government's early warning list, following the release of the State Department of Education's preliminary results of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, outlined by the No Child Left Behind Act.
AYP results are based on year-to-year comparisons of the high school's scores in the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) test, and the middle school's scores in the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) test.
According to the state, John Witherspoon scored 38 out of the 40 points needed, while the high school only scored 34 out of 40.
At the high school, only 44 percent of African Americans passed the math portion of the test, and 66.7 percent passed the language arts portion. A total of 80 percent of Hispanic students passed the language arts portion, but only 60 percent succeeded in math.
At JW, both African American and special education students fell in the range of 50-62 percent passing.
The AYP results are only preliminary, and are based on the results of the first of three tests that were administered over the school year, said Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Graber at a Program Committee meeting held on Thursday, August 18. He noted that the district's score for PHS is 37 out of 40, which differs from the state's published report.
According to Mr. Graber, the AYP was not obtained at the middle school in part because only 60 percent of African Americans passed the language arts portion of the test, when 66 percent was needed. This small difference in percentages only accounts for one or two students, said Mr. Graber.
"Every child is important and we want every child to pass, but the numbers may change from year to year depending upon whether students drop out," he said.
Based on the reports that were released this month, 13 of Mercer County's 35 schools did not make AYP. Altogether 22.7 percent of the state's public and charter schools have been identified as "Schools In Need of Improvement."
While 13 schools failed to meet state standards this year, only six failed during the 2003-2004 school year.
This may be due to the fact that from 2001 through 2004, 69 percent of students had to pass the language portion of the test, while 74 percent had to pass math. Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, 77 percent had to pass language arts, and 81 percent had to pass math. "This is not statistically possible," said Program Committee Chair Charlotte Bialek, referring to the achievement levels the state wants from its schools. "They know it, and refuse to change it."
Last year John Witherspoon passed all areas of the AYP, but PHS suffered with some of the same shortcomings, with some African-American students unable to pass the language arts portion of the test.
Mr. Graber noted that while both schools fell short this year, they were recently recognized by the state as Just for Kids "best practices" schools, which is in part based on student performance and test scores.
"When you have a good school that misses by only two points because of just a few kids it penalizes the whole school," said Mr. Graber.
He added that the district intends to take measures this year to improve students' test scores, which will include an expanded, full year HSPA class at the high school, and a careful review of student achievement in math and language arts, which will help faculty identify ways to address students' needs during the upcoming school year.