TRENTON — Five months after New Jersey students completed controversial new state exams, the state says it is nearly ready to announce the results.
The state Department of Education hopes to unveil preliminary state-level results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams around the middle of October, spokesman David Saenz said.
The general timeframe for releasing PARCC scores for each school and sending score reports to parents will likely be discussed at the state Board of Education meeting on Oct. 7, Saenz said.
"A lot of work and details still need to be hammered out," he said.
New Jersey was one of about 10 states and the District of Columbia that administered PARCC exams last spring.
The new computerized tests, aligned to the Common Core standards, drew criticism from some parents and teachers who said the exams were too confusing and that testing and test-prep stole away too much instructional time.
Despite the backlash, top state education officials have maintained that the detailed PARCC score reports will tell teachers and parents more about student performance than prior standardized test scores.
Teachers are looking forward to the release of the scores but are also skeptical about whether the results will truly reflect student achievement, said Wendell Steinhauer, president of New Jersey's largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association.
Steinhauer expects the overall tests scores will be lower than years' past, a common result of a state switching to new tests, he said. The results may also be affected by students who refused to take the tests — part of an "opt out" movement — or those who participated but didn't put in much effort, he said.
"I don't know what these test scores will really tell us," Steinhauer said. "Everything I hear from them is they are the best thing since sliced bread and they will tell us everything about every student and the data will be wonderful. But I guess we will have to wait and see once it comes out exactly what learned from these."
Livingston Public Schools hopes to use the scores to see how students performed on specific skills, said Patricia Boland, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The district wants to see to how students scored on reading comprehension and whether they were able to extract evidence from a text to support ideas and solve problems, Boland said.
"We are looking forward to seeing how well we are doing compared to other states," Boland said.
Students from Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts who took exams online struggled to meet the expectations for their grade level, according to preliminary PARCC results already announced by those states.
In Ohio, only between 35 and 40 percent of students in most elementary and middle school grades met expectations. But a larger percentage of students took the test on paper in Ohio than in New Jersey, and those scores were not yet released.
All results announced so far are incomplete and based on only one of several different versions of the PARCC exams for each grade level, said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for PARCC.
However, the final test results may not be much different, he said.