Per tradition, let’s compare the New Jersey School Report Cards of two Burlington County districts, Moorestown and Willingboro, which are nine miles apart from each other. Wealthy Moorestown is listed as an “I” District Factor Group (DFG) on NJ’s A-J scale of economic wealth. Willingboro is a “DE,” solidly working-class.
Moorestown High School enrolls 1,404 kids. 96% of its juniors and seniors are proficient in language arts based on the HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment) and 36.3% score Advanced Proficient. In math, 90% of the kids at Moorestown score proficiently in math and a stunning 51.4% are labeled Advanced Proficient. Average SAT scores are 600 in math and 560 in verbal. Fifty-three percent of juniors and seniors participate in Advanced Placement courses and 448 kids achieved scores of 3 or higher in 2011. The graduation rate is 95.6%.
Eleven percent of Moorestown High’s students are classified as eligible for special education services.
Total cost per pupil for 2011 (including preschool, out-of-district tuition, transportation, various overhead) was $16,453. Budgetary cost per pupil was $12,593.
Now let’s travel south on Rte. 295 to Willingboro High School where 22% of the 928 kids are classified as eligible for special education services, twice as many as at Moorestown. 75% of juniors and seniors test proficiently in language arts (2.7% are Advanced Proficient) but 66.2% fail the math portion of the HSPA. Average SAT scores are 395 in math and 370 in verbal. Advanced Placement participation is 2.7% and only one student in 2011 scored a 3 or higher on one A.P. test.
The graduation rate for the class of 2011 was 69.82%. Total cost per pupil (including preschool, out-of-district placements, transportation, etc.) was $16,523. Total cost per pupil was $11,927.
The A.P. differences are striking. At Willingboro High School, 63 kids took one or more of the 10 A.P. courses offered but only 13 kids took the official end-of-course exams. For example, 9 students are listed as enrolled in Calculus AB and another 9 in Biology; 15 students took Willingboro’s course in A.P. English Composition. But at the end of the year not one of those students attempted the A.P. exam. Do the students at Willingboro High really have access to the full A.P. curriculum?
Moorestown High School, on the other hand, offers 21 A.P. courses. Of the 618 kids who availed themselves of that opportunity, 511 took the end-of-course exams and 448 scored highly enough (3 on a scale of 1-5) to earn A.P. credit.
Are there any other options for the kids at Willingboro High School? They can’t go to Moorestown because Moorestown is not enrolled in the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. Two high school in Burlington County are enrolled, however: North Burlington High School offers 8 seats in each high school class and Pemberton Township has 20 seats, Willingboro Academy Charter School intends to begin operations in September, but it’s only a kindergarten-2nd grade school (with ambitions to expand through 5th grade).
In New Jersey, nine miles makes a big difference.