IMG_6290The state says the middle school missed proficiency targets in language arts.

Red Bank Superintendent Laura Morana says school performance data released this week by the state Department of Education obscures genuine academic progress being made at the borough’s middle school.

In its annual report cards issued under the federal No Child Left Behind law, the DOE classifies the middle school as not having made adequate yearly progress in 2007. That classification sets the school back a step in its efforts to get off a path toward state intervention.

But Morana says the outcome was not unexpected, as the DOE “raised the bar” last August over the objections by administrators statewide that the change was too much, too soon.

“New Jersey is setting the bar a little higher,” a move that she applauds, Morana tells redbankgreen. “I just wish we had better advance notification. It’s disappointing.”

The school was classified as a ‘school in need of improvement,’ a designation that mandates “corrective action.”

Morana says she is confident the standards will be met in the current year.

The middle school shortfall last year, according to the report, came in the area of language arts literacy. Where the standard is for 75 percent of students to demonstrate proficiency or advanced proficiency in order for a school or district to be designated as ‘adequate yearly progress,’ only 65.4 percent of the middle schoolers did so, the state reports.

The school met the requirements for math studies, with 62.8 percent of students either advanced or showing proficiency, versus the 62-percent state standard for adequate year progress.

Unlike the middle school, the primary school was deemed to be making adequate yearly progress.

Red Bank’s middle school was not alone. Today’s Star-Ledger reports on “huge numbers of middle school students failing rigorous new tests designed to prepare them for the next level” across the state.

From the Sledger:

The latest School Report Card and State Assessments showed the
typical meandering of slightly up and down scores for high school and
elementary school students. And fourth graders actually continued a
long run of steady improvement in math, science and language arts.

But fifth and sixth graders failed in droves on the proficiency
test. In language arts, for example, upwards of 40 percent of all fifth
and sixth graders failed. In some urban districts, the failure rates
were much higher, with about 70 percent or more of fifth graders
failing language arts in Newark, Camden and Paterson.

“It’s a higher, more appropriate level of expectation, so the
decrease in some scores was expected,” said Rich Vespucci, a spokesman
for the state Department of Education. “But in the long term, it will
fit the overall plan to turn out high school graduates who are ready
for the demands of the 21st century.”

Vespucci said students have traditionally fared worse when new tests
or required passing scores — called cut scores — have been instituted
over the past 30 years. He insisted teachers and students have quickly
adapted in the past, and scores have bounced back.

But Don Goncalves, assistant board of education secretary in
Elizabeth, said the changes and their unsurprising result may prove
demoralizing to students and teachers who were progressing.

“The state changed the rules in the middle of the game,” he said.
“We got lower scores when, in fact, there was progress in the
classroom. It was a strange result.”

Red Bank Regional High School made adequate progress in both language skills and math, the state reported. Here’s the report.

Here’s the breakdown of how the middle school fared by demographic cohorts.

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