State Report Cards show one ‘metric’ of progress in Union County school districts

UNION COUNTY, NJ — This is the second week LocalSource is providing results of the New Jersey Department of Education 2013-2014 school performance report cards.

The reports cards provide a snapshot of how students are faring compared to state and peer group averages. Although the controversial PARCC testing, which began this week, continues to take center stage, the school performance report cards remain the only viable data at this point that can be used to measure how students are progressing through elementary and high school.

The data, which focuses on academic achievement based on previously released test scores, college and career readiness and graduation rates, is compared to data collected from peer groupings and state averages. That data is then used by school districts to track student strengths and areas that need improvement.

While how students are tested statewide continues to be a subject of contention this year, the Department of Education stressed that no single metric, such as the annual report cards, can be used to measure a school’s overall performance. Rather, the report cards are just another way to provide additional information to educators and parents so they can decide where improvement is needed.

Each of the schools in the state is grouped with approximately 30 similar schools in a peer grouping that has similar grade and demographic configurations. Overall, the goal of the report cards is to provide opportunities for educators and all stakeholders to engage in local goal planning and improvement over time.

This week LocalSource takes a look at three more high schools, including those in Roselle, Rahway and Elizabeth
Roselle Abraham Clark High School, with an enrollment of 700 for the 2013-2014 school year, was concluding a four-year pilot program under the School’s Performance grant.

This program, piloted by the New Jersey Department of Education in conjunction with the Roselle Board of Education, was geared toward this high school turning from a school in need of improvement to a high performing school. However, in order for that to become a reality, there were areas that needed to be focused on. This included student growth and achievement, particularly in language arts literacy and math.

However, when academic performance tests were tallied, this high school still “significantly” lagged in comparison to statewide averages and to its peer grouping, which included schools in Rahway, Hillside, Linden, Trenton, Woodbridge and Bloomfield, among others.

For example, this high school only academically outperformed 9 percent of schools statewide and 6 percent of schools educating students with similar demographic characteristics.

Academic achievement measures the knowledge students have gained in language arts literacy and math, the same areas targeted by the pilot program the school was enrolled in the last four years.

This high school also lagged when it came to college and career readiness compared to schools across the state but was about average when compared to its peer grouping.

For example, Abraham Clark High School outperformed 37 percent of schools statewide and 43 percent of schools in its peer grouping.

College and career readiness measures the degree to which students demonstrate behaviors that indicate future success in college and careers. For high schools, this includes participation in college readiness tests, including the SAT and rigorous coursework in English, math, social studies and science.

Accordingly, the report card indicates this high school only met 20 percent of its goals in college and career readiness. For example, only 76.6 percent of students took the SAT’s, but the target goal was 80 percent. In its peer grouping, 67.2 percent took the SAT’s and 76.2 percent took the test statewide.

Only 5.1 percent of students scored above 1550 on the SAT’s, compared to the peer average of 22.2 percent and the state average of 44.6 percent. According to the state education department, the SAT benchmark score of 1550 indicates a 65 percent likelihood of achieving a B-average or higher during the first year of college.

The average score of Abraham Clark students taking the SAT was 1,168, compared to the peer average of 1,361 and state average of 1,514.

This school’s graduation and post-secondary performance also significantly lagged in comparison to schools across the state and its peers.

This particular scoring measures the rate at which students graduate after four years along with the dropout rate during that period.

Students at this high school had a 78 percent graduation rate after four years, outperforming 17 percent of its peers and 12 percent statewide.

Rahway
Rahway High School, a culturally diverse facility of 1,049 students enrolled in 2013-2014, has an advanced placement program in addition to a Union County Vocational Technical School program. The high school narrative indicated that approximately 80 percent of students pursue post secondary studies, with recent graduates attending Cornell University, Penn State and Purdue.
Although the school stressed it shares a vision that embraces the goal of preparing students to become self-sufficient adults who will succeed and contribute responsibly, academically this high school “significantly lagged” in comparison to schools across the state and lagged when compared to its peers.

Some of the high schools in this peer grouping included those in Linden, Roselle, Hillside, Hoboken, Bayonne and Bloomfield.
For example, this high school outperformed just 15 percent of schools statewide and 20 percent of schools educating students with similar demographic characteristics, but met 83 percent of its performance targets academically.
When it came to college and career readiness, this high school was rated about average, outperforming 57 percent of schools statewide. However, when compared to its peers, this high school’s performance was rated high, outperforming 70 percent of those in its grouping.

Approximately 84.4 percent of students took the SAT, compared to 67.6 percent of its peer grouping and the statewide average of 76.2 percent. However, of the 84.4 percent taking the SAT at Rahway High School, only 14.8 percent scored higher than 1,550, compared to the peer average of 21.4 percent and state average of 44.6 percent.
The average score of students taking the SAT came in at 1,307, compared to the peer grouping score of 1,356 and state average of 1,514.

This high school’s graduation and post-secondary performance “significantly” lagged when compared to its peer grouping while lagging in comparison with the statewide average.
In 2014, for example, this high school had a 4-year graduation rate of 86 percent, outperforming 46 percent of its peers, 24 percent statewide.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth High School, with a total enrollment of 816 for the 2013-2014 school year, was ranked by the Washington Post as the number one high school in New Jersey and 34th in the nation. Students are required to take advanced placement classes, while every student must complete 60 hours of community service and a senior project.

This school’s academic performance was rated very high when compared to schools across the state and its peers.
For example, Elizabeth High School outperformed 98 percent of schools statewide and 99 percent of the schools in its peer grouping, which included high schools in Newark, Plainfield, Paterson, East Orange and Jersey City, among others.
Its college and career readiness was rated as “very high” when compared to its peers and high in comparison to schools statewide, outperforming 76 percent of schools statewide and 91 percent of those in its peer grouping.

When it came to the SAT’s, 100 percent of Elizabeth high school students participated, compared to the peer average of 61.8 percent and 76.2 percent of students statewide.

This high school also saw 41.3 percent of students score 1550 or higher on this test, compared to just 11.4 percent of its peer schools. However, the score was slightly lower than the statewide average of 44.6 percent.

The average Elizabeth High School SAT score was 1,505, compared to the peer score of 1,237 and statewide average of 1,514.
This school’s graduation and post-secondary performance was about average when compared to schools across the state and high when compared to schools in its peer grouping.

For instance, in 2014, 95 percent of students graduated after four years, outperforming 88 percent of their peers and 64 percent statewide.