WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Rutzky presented the 2017-2018 New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum report to the Board of Education at its Nov. 6 meeting, revealing good scores in the five categories that the process evaluates. NJQSAC monitors and evaluates New Jersey’s public schools districts based on research and evidence from the district. The five categories are: instruction and program, fiscal management, governance, operations, and personnel. West Orange scored 100 percent in all of the categories except instruction and program, where the district scored 85 percent.
Rutzky said at the meeting that the district is evaluated every three years, and that later this year the NJQSAC process will change because of elements in the current system that are redundant. The current report, for example, does not take into account the results of PARCC exams and instead includes the old standardized test, NJ ASK, which was made obsolete by PARCC and has slowly been phased out of most school districts in the state.
Under NJQSAC, the district must evaluate and score itself and provide the evidence that led to its score; this data is then sent to the county to be re-evaluated.
“If you provide the evidence that shows you’ve met the indicator, you put down a ‘one,’” Rutzky said at the meeting, regarding the rubric. “Or if it is not applicable to the district you put a ‘one’ as well. If you don’t have the evidence to support the indicator, you put down a ‘zero.’”
Rutzky said the instruction and program portion of the report, the only section for which West Orange did not have a perfect score, represents the 2013-2014 school year.
“That was four years ago, and there’s been a lot of accomplishments since that time,” he said. “The scores are really not something that reflects what’s currently happening in our district.”
For instance, in the 2013-2014 school year, West Orange did not meet the annual measurable objective in language arts literacy; 76.7 percent of the district’s students were proficient in language arts that year, while the target was 79.9 percent. Because the district did not reach the target, it received a lower score in that part of the NJQSAC.
The district did, however, exceed the target for math proficiency in 2013-2014, with 81.4 percent of students proficient in math; the target for proficiency in math was 80.9 percent.
Another section of the report acknowledges individual schools in the district, and because the district does not have any priority schools, it received points on the evaluation.
“We are able to get a point there because we do not have a priority school, we had a Focus School,” Rutzky said, referring to Edison Middle School, which was designated a “focus school” until recently. During the NJQSAC evaluation, Edison was still designated as such. Focus schools are educational institutions in New Jersey with comparably lower student performance, lower graduation rates, and higher student achievement gap between different subgroups; approximately 10 percent of New Jersey schools are designated as “focus schools,” according to the state.
With WOSD having completed the NJQSAC self-evaluation, the district will now send the results of the self-evaluation to the county. According to Rutzky, the results of the county’s evaluation could vary slightly from the district’s depending on the evidence presented. He said that if the scores change, they will go down; the only time the county has raised the evaluation has been when information presented to them was inaccurate, he added.
BOE member Mark Robertson asked how the next year’s new NJQSAC would take into account the change from NJ ASK to PARCC testing, wondering how two different tests could be accurately compared.
“What I believe they’re going to do is abandon anything that was prior and have no comparison whatsoever,” Rutzky answered. “And they’ll set new benchmarks for the PARCC and whether or not they were met.”
BOE Vice President Irv Schwarzbaum expressed his approval of the NJQSAC report at the meeting.
“I think it’s great that in many areas — in personnel, governance, fiscal — we were at 100 percent,” he said. “And our instruction and program were at 85 percent, so there’s always room for improvement, but that’s very admirable.”