[Editor’s note: All this week, we are analyzing data from New Jersey’s School Performance Reports, released May 13, as they pertain to Brick Township schools.]
Educators, in recent decades, have largely come around to the idea that college readiness begins long before a child enters the door of his or her high school. Middle school trends, especially chronic absenteeism, are a good indicator of how a student will fare later in their educational career, state officials said in their annual School Performance Reports.
Brick’s two middle schools have dealt with various challenges over the years, ranging from nagging behavioral issues at Veterans Memorial Middle School and an influx of non-English speaking students at Lake Riviera Middle School. In most cases, school officials have improved the environment of the district’s middle schools, evident through both quantitative and anecdotal sources. The performance reports show this progress, but also highlight the challenges the two schools face.
Both middle schools have significant portions of their student bodies considered “economically disadvantaged,” including 28.5 percent of Lake Riviera’s students and 34.2 percent of Vets’. At Lake Riviera, about 9 percent of the student body primarily speaks a language other than English at home, while just 2.6 percent of students come from non-English speaking households at Vets’.
Neither school met participation goals for last year’s PARCC exams, though the students who did take the tests generally were considered proficient at a rate that met state benchmarks. Tests were scored in five categories, with levels one through three representing scores that did not meet expectations, and levels four and five representing scores that met and exceeded expectations, respectively.
At Lake Riviera Middle School, 54 percent of 6th students met or exceeded expectations in language arts, beating the state goal of 50 percent. For grade 7 students, 60 percent met or exceeded expectations, beating the state goal of 53 percent. For 8th graders, 50 percent met or exceeded expectations, lagging the state goal of 53 percent.
When it came to math, 50 percent of 6th graders met or exceeded expectations, besting the state goal of 42 percent; 44 percent of 7th graders met or exceeded expectations, beating the state goal of 38 percent; and for 8th graders, 14 percent met or exceeded expectations, missing the state goal of 24 percent.
At Veterans Memorial Middle School, 52 percent of 6th graders met or exceeded goals for language arts; 55 percent of 7th graders met or exceeded goals, while 57 percent of 8th graders met or exceeded. All beat the state percentage goal, which was uniform between the two schools.
In math, 46 percent of 6th graders met or exceeded goals; 43 percent of 7th graders met or exceeded, while 29 percent of 8th graders met or exceeded.
Chronic absenteeism – defined by the state as missing 10 percent or more of school days in a school year – has been steadily trending down at both schools. The chronic absenteeism rate dropped from a high of 12 percent during the 2012-13 school year to 8.26 percent last year at Lake Riviera. At VMMS, the rate dropped from 11.9 percent in 2012-13 to 7.43 percent last year.
The full performance reports can be found on the state Department of Education website for Lake Riviera Middle School and Veterans Memorial Middle School.