New Jersey Start Strong Testing: What to Expect?

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New Jersey Start Strong Testing: What to Expect?

Parents, students, and educators are confused about New Jersey’s position on standardized testing in our schools. While there has been much discussion, finally, the State of New Jersey has taken a solid stand on this issue.

In a memo on April 14, 2021 to all Chief School Administrators and School Test Coordinators, the State announced that the New Jersey State Learning Assessment (NJSLA) for English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, and science were cancelled for Spring 2021.

Instead, in Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, students took START STRONG assessments in ELA, mathematics, and science. It is currently unclear whether the Start Strong test will be administered again in 2o23.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions from parents:

What has been happening since 2021 with school standardized testing?

The Spring 2021 administration of NJSLA ELA, mathematics, and science assessments was cancelled. The NJ Department of Education will have the first administration of the Start Strong assessments in Fall 2021 from September 13 through October 22 to all students in:

  • ELA grades 4-10
  • Mathematics grades 4-8
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II
  • Science grades 6, 9, and 12

In 2022, the assessment was administered from August 31 through October 21.

How does Start Strong affect my child? What is its value?

Start Strong is considered an “optional classroom assessment resource” for schools to measure student’s current skill level in ELA, mathematics, and science. 

COVID-19 created so many disruptions to standardized testing that schools and states have very limited data on how much the pandemic affected overall learning. Start Strong assessment’s primary purpose, therefore, is to provide data that district curriculum directors, teachers, and school administrators can use to determine:

  • how much learning loss occurred during COVID-19 disruptions
  • students’ overall current skill level on grade-appropriate standards
  • a student’s individual skill level
  • the level of support needed for current grade-level instruction

Ultimately, this assessment allows New Jersey educators to help students reach their highest potential and ability levels.

What can my child expect to see on the Start Strong assessment?

Each assessment will be shorter than the typical NJSLA exam. The test is 45-60 minutes and can usually be given in one class period.

It is aligned with the Common Core State Standards of the previous academic year. In addition you can expect to see the following:

  • Questions types and high quality passages that would typically appear on the spring NJSLA
  • Multiple-choice options
  • Online testing availability (for most schools)
  • Testing can be administered at-home or at-school
  • Fast computer-scoring that gives almost immediate results

How is the assessment graded?

Students’ individual report will show their raw score – exactly how many questions they answered correctly. From these raw scores, students will be grouped into three performance levels:

  • Strong Support May Be Needed
  • Some Support May Be Needed
  • Less Support May Be Needed

These three categories describe the level of support that a student might need to master the current year’s prerequisite skills and concepts. (See here for more information.)

How can I ensure that my child masters CCSS/State Standard skills with or without state testing?

With the introduction of Start Strong, many parents are wondering how to best help their child master state standard skills.

In the classroom, students can enhance their optimum skill and proficiency by completing all assigned work and tracking their progress through grades and assignments. Regularly review with your child how they are doing in the classroom, check that they have no missing assignments, and look at their grades to see if they are struggling in any area.

If you already know your child is struggling, don’t wait to get help. Check out MEK’s proven one-on-one School Support tutoring program.

Also, take advantage of MEK’s student evaluations to see exactly where your child currently stands on CCSS-aligned grade-level topics for ELA and mathematics. You can contact us here to set up an appointment for a virtual assessment or you can check out our Events page, where we frequently have free test events!

Finally, use this summer to your advantage by allowing your 4-8th grader to participate in MEK Learning Circles. This CCSS-aligned small group program is guaranteed to help your child master grade and above-grade level objectives, while having fun!

Or check out our High School Honors courses for 9-11th graders that teaches them up to 60% of the upcoming curriculum for advanced courses such as Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and more!

What changes are next?

We at MEK are dedicated to bringing parents and students new and relevant educational information. As new changes emerge, we promise to continue to update you. 

You can also check out New Jersey’s Department of Education website for updates.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions! We’re here to help.

Michelle Sinno

Michelle is the Chief Mentor of Teachers at MEK Review. She initiated our Writing Lab and College Essay program and serves as a mentor for our teachers. For over 10 years, Michelle has led countless students to success in the College Test Prep and H.S. Test Prep programs. She helped create many of the standards for our English programs and still oversees and reinforces those programs today.


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