Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Under Kids First Leadership Hoboken High School Receives a Grade of D from The Newark Star Ledger- "Parents beware of these schools. Test scores are below average, and there is little academic growth" (p.31, September 2013- Inside Jersey)

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In a story written by Frederick Kaimann of The Star-Ledger, ratings were recently computed which took data from the New Jersey Department of Education on the High School Proficiency Assessment results for language arts and math tests among the general student population for all high school students in New Jersey. Then, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores were added for each high school and weighted. The results according to Kaimann, "separate the best schools from the worst using the same four letter grades children see scrawled across their assignments- A, B, C, D." 

The median score (score by which all public high schools in New Jersey are split in half) is 317. The median growth for public high schools in New Jersey from 2008 to 2012 is + 4.8%. 

Hoboken High School achieved a score of 235.3 which represented a negative growth of -3.7% and a grade of D. The score of 235.3 is among the lowest in Hudson county and the grade is D is the lowest grade possible. 

In the words of The Star Ledger, a grade of D means "Parents beware of these schools. Test scores are below average, and there is little academic growth" (p.31, September 2013- Inside Jersey). 

Approximately 356 public high schools were graded with this new rubric which weighs HSPA and SAT scores. Only 6 high schools in New Jersey (Palisades Park H.S., Bogota H.S., Medical Arts H.S, Pitman, H.S., Paulsboro H.S., and Lakewood H.S.,) experienced a greater percentage drop than Hoboken High School. 349 high schools (98% of all New Jersey public high schools) achieved greater percentage gains than Hoboken. 

This assessment coincides with recent NJ Department of Education's Report Card results which said of Hoboken High School:  
This school's academic performance significantly lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its academic performance lags in comparison to its peers. This school' college and career readiness lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its college and career readiness is about average when compared to its peers. This schools's graduation and post-secondary performance lags in comparison to schools across the state. Additionally, its graduation and post-secondary readiness lags in comparison to its peers. - NJ Dept of Education
This analysis is particularly concerning and shows how quickly academic success can be retracted when one considers that in 2007 and 2008 Hoboken High School received successive Honorable Mention (Bronze Medal) recognition by US News and World Report and in 2008 was voted New Jersey's "second most improved high school in New Jersey" by New Jersey Monthly

How did this decline occur? It is difficult to point to 1 or 2 simple causes. Likely, it is more systemic. But, it is important to realize that since February of 2010, under the leadership of the Kids First super majority at the Board of Education, Hoboken High School has had 4 principals (a retired interim, a gym teacher who was never a principal, among others....) in 41 months. During the same 41 months the district has had 3 different superintendents, two of whom were retired interims with little to no objective academic success at either the district or school level. In fact, Kids First selections Interim Superintendent Peter Carter, Interim Superintendent Walter Ruszak along with Interim Principal Joy led Hoboken High School on its downward spiral back in 2010 when the school failed to meet federal and state Adequate Yearly Progress standards for the first time in school history.  

Such turnover seems to have had significant and tangible impact on the educational process at the school and the district. Recall that in December of 2011 the Hoboken School District was designated a DINI District or "district in need of improvement" by the NJ Department of Education. Again, for the first time in the district's history.

What is particularly distressing is the vast amount of independent and unsolicited analysis which showed Hoboken High School was on a very positive trajectory just a few years ago under the leadership of a different Board of Education majority and more consistent school and district level administration. While the political group known as Kids First would like people to believe they inherited a failing school district and had failing schools-- independent data by NJ Monthly, US News and World Report, the NJ Department of Education, the Newark Star Ledger, The Wall Street Journal and numerous other independent publications show otherwise.