NJ ASK 2014 Results … And How To Use Them

The results are in!

As a teacher or parent, you have now received your child’s (or students’) NJ ASK scores from this past spring of 2014. And with the release of those scores, it’s time to think about what that means with respect to instruction, teaching, and learning.

A Closer Look at the Report: Ideas for Parents

First, you’ll notice that your child’s Individual Student Report displays two important scores: raw scores and scale scores. The raw score is “the total number of points a student earns on . . . [the] test”, while the scale score – which is a number between 100 and 300 –is a “mathematical transformation of the raw score” (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, p. 66).

Scale Scores

If your child scores between 200-249, this implies that your child has “generally met the state standards” and is deemed to be “Proficient”. Students with scores between 250-300 have “clearly met or exceeded state standards” (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, p. 23) and are considered “Advanced Proficient”. Although students whose scores are above 200 are not normally considered in need of academic intervention, it is still necessary to look at multiple measures to determine whether or not the child needs any academic support.

A score below 200 is considered “Partially Proficient” and “reflects performance that has not met the state standards” (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, p. 23); in these cases, it is highly probable that the student will benefit from additional academic interventions to help him or her improve.

Raw Scores and the Just Proficient Mean (JPM)

The bottom half of the report shows the raw scores, along with the “Just Proficient Mean” (JPM). The JPM is “helpful … in understanding where your child’s performance may not be meeting expectations”, since this number is based on the “average points earned by students who scored 200 on a particular subject test” (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, p. 35).

For instance, you can see how well your child scored on writing a narrative and an argumentative prompt (two categories in Writing), and you can also see how those scores compare to the JPM. In this example, if your child scored 15 out of 20 possible points on the narrative prompt – and the JPM for that category or “cluster” was 5.2, then your child appears to have exceeded expectations in that area.

Each subject area is broken down into clusters, and these groupings are an excellent starting point for making decisions on how you can best help your child succeed academically: for instance, if your child earned 13 out of 14 possible points in the “Expression and Equations” cluster but only 2 out of 13 points in “Geometry”, you would certainly want to focus any assistance – from you, a tutor, your child’s teacher, etc. – in the weaker area (in this case, Geometry).

From tutoring to taking advantage of academic assistance at your child’s school, investigate ways you can get your child the help he or she may need to improve during the school year. Calling your child’s teacher for feedback is another great way to get information – especially because your child’s teacher has observed his or her performance all year.

The teacher will also be able to confirm if he or she observes the same strengths and weaknesses in a classroom setting that the test results indicate; your child’s teacher is a wonderful resource to gather ideas of ways to help a child who scored Partially Proficient improve his or her skills to work towards proficiency, help a proficient student both maintain and also improve upon current successes, and challenge an advanced student’s progress.

Looking at the Report: Ideas for Teachers

As a teacher, you will want to use these scores as another data point to inform your instruction and curricular planning. The Student Roster is a terrific tool for this purpose, as this report lists all of the students in a school, along with each student’s scale score and raw points earned (by subject area totals and clusters).

Please note that when making year-to-year comparisons, you can only consider scale score data, as the raw scores cannot accurately be compared from one year to the next (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, 2014).

Helping Students Achieve

Because this year’s NJ ASK reflected the Common Core standards, you may notice your partially proficient students struggling with one or more of the key shifts that the Common Core writers have emphasized: increasingly complex text, more nonfiction reading, and using text-based evidence to support claims. For math, these shifts include: “greater focus on fewer topics … linking topics and thinking across grades … [and increased] rigor” ( from www.corestandards.org/key-shifts-in-mathematics).

Therefore, if you look at your students’ scores and note that a certain number of your students in your class are struggling with informational text (an ELA cluster for Reading), you may want to take this into account when forming flexible groups for reading instruction, cooperative groups, etc. Moreover, it may not be a surprise that students find informational text challenging, especially if an increased emphasis on this sort of reading is relatively new to students who have been taught with a literature-heavy curriculum.

For students who are struggling with the key shifts in ELA, consider introducing Close Reading to your students as you work with increasingly complex tests – especially nonfiction – and holding Socratic Seminars with your students to help them cite textual evidence.

A Caveat

As teachers, we know that test scores are only one measure of the child, so it’s important to continue to take other measures into account, including test scores from your class, informal observations, portfolio items, etc. And it is equally important to remember that if your instruction is aligned with the Common Core, then you are already preparing your students for success on the upcoming PARCC test in 2015, and that means that assessment, instruction, and student achievement will go hand in hand. Focusing on those key shifts in your instruction will help immensely in preparing your students for PARCC success and achieving the key objectives of the Common Core.

Final Thoughts

As a parent or teacher, trust your instincts and personal and/or professional judgment: you know your child and students best, and “decisions about appropriate instructional [plans and] placement should be based on an examination of a student’s classroom test results, grades, anecdotal records, portfolios, checklists, school-level results, and other measures of performance” (New Jersey Score Interpretation Manual, p. 24). Though the NJ ASK can certainly guide educators and parents when making academic decisions and thinking about how to best prepare them for the PARCC, it is still good practice and common sense to look at the whole child as well. By aligning instruction, curriculum, and testing in a way that reflects the Common Core, students will receive unified, consistent instruction that is not only purposeful and challenging but also will prepare them for success in the classroom and beyond.


Julie Lyons