The big NJ education story today is the release of graduation statistics from the DOE. Coverage from NJ Spotlight (which links to all the data), the Star-Ledger, The Record, Courier-Post, and Press of Atlantic City.
NJ has typically posted a high school graduation rate of about 95%, just about the highest in the country. But now the U.S. DOE has its own formula for calculating rates, which includes kids who drop out or who don’t graduate in four years. Also, NJ’s stats were self-reported by districts, not always the most accurate data collection mechanism.
We still have a great graduation rate: 86% of the freshmen who entered high school in 2008 graduated in 2012. That puts us at 12th in the country.
But it’s not all good news. From NJ Spotlight:
Even in the graduation statistics, the schools’ overall rates in graduating African-American and Hispanic students did not compare so well. While improved from 2011, the graduation rate for African-American students in the Class of 2012 was 75 percent and it was 77 percent for Hispanic students.
The gaps remained wide in NJASK as well. In both language arts and math, there was a difference of as much as 30 percent in the passing rates of white students and African-American or Hispanic students.
Over the last three years, only the language scores on the HSPA showed some significant narrowing of achievement differences.
Comm. Cerf focused on the improvement among NJ schools awarded School Improvement Grants (SIG), a federal program that offers up to $6 million per school in order to achieve a “turn-around ” from failing school to successful one. (We have SIG schools in Camden, East Orange, Lakewood, Jersey City, Newark, Roselle, and Paterson.) NJ’s No Child Left Behind waiver incorporates SIG-related interventions and our new focus on Priority Schools also follows a SIG model. . From Cerf’s statement: “”The results for schools undergoing intensive turnarounds this year are particularly very encouraging, showing that while our achievement gaps across the state are persistent and unacceptably high, we can close them with dedicated support and intervention.”
However, the Courier-Post reports that at Camden High (a SIG school), its “already low graduation rate fell by 7 percent over the past year, leaving the city second to last in the state for producing high school graduates, according to data released Wednesday.
Also, “[t]he city’s 2012 graduation rate plunged to 49.3 percent, down from 56.9 percent last year. Only Trenton, at 48.44 percent, has a lower rate than Camden.”
Why do some SIG interventions provoke improvement and others don’t? We’ll wait for more data.
(N.B.: Cerf’s emphasis on the benefits of SIG grants may or may not be related to former-Deputy Comm. Andy Smarick’s recent criticisms of the SIG program, including his belief that “turnaround efforts are not a path to ensuring low-income urban kids get a great education; that dysfunctional schools are a function of dysfunctional districts; that we need to close these schools, open new schools, and allow great schools to replicate and expand.”)