Sunday, April 21, 2024

Frelinghuysen Eyes Its Own Report Card, Especially Test Scores

Important dates ahead
First day of school: September 5
Next Board of Education meeting: September 13
Back to School Night: September 14

Frelinghuysen’s Board of Education met on August 16 in their last meeting of the summer. Photo by C. O’Chang, 5/2023

For many in the education world, August may feel like one long Sunday night: a time to bunker down and prepare for the school year ahead.

In its August 16th meeting, Frelinghuysen Township Elementary’s Board of Education mostly looked behind instead– at the data from its most recent report for the NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC.

By NJ law, every public school must undergo a QSAC review at least every three years. The review aims to assess a school’s performance according to the following five dimensions.

1) Instruction and program, focusing on student performance and academic progress
2) Fiscal management, including financial reports, business functions, and grant
management
3) Governance, covering issues governed by the Board of Education such as curriculum
alignment with state standards and evaluations of the Chief School Administrator
4) Operations, including student conduct, health, safety, and school climate
5) Personnel, covering hiring, staffing, and professional development
Schools must score 80% or better in each of these five dimensions to be deemed a high-performing district.

Frelinghuysen’s newly minted Chief School Administrator Jarlyn Veras led the board in reviewing the school’s report. Frelinghuysen successfully achieved the high-performing district designation, earning 95% or above in four out of five categories.

The only stumbling block was instruction and program. In this category, Frelinghuysen earned 82% – still a high rating, but noticeably lower than the other four components.

Veras explained that the instruction category is determined mostly by student performance on state assessments. Test scores are the number one consideration. “So that’s going to be an area of focus for us,” she said.

Board members pointed to a more complicated story behind the number. This QSAC report considers data from 2020 to 2023.

Students didn’t take state assessments in spring 2020 due to Covid lockdowns, and the 2023 test results aren’t yet available. So it’s likely that this report focused on test results from 2021– when student academic performance suffered from a rocky transition to hybrid or in-person schooling with social distancing measures.

Several board members expressed doubts that the instruction rating accurately reflects student performance at Frelinghuysen. In fact, earlier in the year, former Chief School Administrator Stephanie Bonaparte had filed an appeal for the instruction rating to be reconsidered. The status and results of her appeal are unclear.

Nevertheless, Frelinghuysen’s overall high ratings offer a reason to celebrate.

“This is always a team effort,” Veras said, noting the work that the board and her predecessor devoted to the QSAC review process. “Congrats to [Bonaparte] and the team. This is a lot of work, and they did very, very well.”

The next QSAC review will likely occur in 2026, giving Frelinghuysen plenty of time to tweak its processes– and ensure that student achievement shows up in its ratings.

Chip O'Chang
Chip O'Chang, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Chip O'Chang is an educator, fiction writer, and lifelong resident of New Jersey. He has also written for My Life Publications and NJ Indy. He lives in the NJ Skylands with his partner, two cats, and and a bearded dragon.