Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Under Kids First and Superintendents' Carter and Toback Hoboken HS Falls Below State Graduation Rate for 3rd Year in a Row; Christie Administration Announces Increase in New Jersey's High School Graduation Rate from 86.5% to 87.5% for 2013

Board Member McAllister discussing the district she
inherited in 2009 and the district under her
leadership today
Maybe there are explanations other than "white flight" and segregation for why Hoboken parents are seeking alternative educational options for their children. Maybe things weren't so bad before and maybe they are not as good now despite what some Board members would like people to believe. For instance, an official press release from the State of New Jersey Department of Education dated December 4, 2013, high school graduation rates in NewJersey increased from 86.5% in 2012 to 87.5%* for the 2013 graduating class. This is the third year the state is using a federally mandated methodology for calculating the graduation rate. The federal methodology is designed to provide a more complete accounting of graduation rates by tracking cohorts of students over four years, starting from the time they enter the ninth grade. The new methodology has brought uniformity and consistency to this often elusive statistic. Unfortunately, for the third straight year, the Hoboken school district's graduation rate has fallen below the state average. The Department also calculated the five-year graduation rate for students that began high school in 2008. While the state wide four year graduation rate last year was 86.5 percent, the graduation rate for students who continued on for a fifth year was 88.8 percent. Unfortunately, Hoboken did not experience a corresponding bump. Its five year graduation rate for students that began high school in 2008 dropped from 85.43% to 82.89%.

2013 State HS Graduation Rate: 87.5%; Hoboken Graduation Rate: 85.43%
2012 State HS Graduation Rate: 86.46%; Hoboken Graduation Rate: 74.53%
2011 State HS Graduation Rate: 83.17%; Hoboken Graduation Rate: 81.99%

Figure 1: State vs. Hoboken graduation rates 2011-2013
The Hoboken superintendent of schools and the Board of Education majority are making significant headway in arguing that parents, citizens, and taxpayers in Hoboken should have lowered expectations based on social and economic conditions of the children attending the public schools. Recent calls of "white flight"and of segregation within the city have received much attention. Nonetheless, the data is clear that under the present leadership, high school graduation rates have fallen consistently below state averages. Likely some will point to the rise in graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 but that rise is not much different than the drop from 2011 to 2012 and simply washes out (see Figure 2) when trend lines are utilized.

Board and District Leadership Matters 
Hoboken High School has had 4 principals since February of 2010, 4 different vice-principlas, and has experienced 3 different grade configurations and consolidations during the same period. Disruptive and questionable administrative decisions such as these are likely contributing factors impacting the high school graduation rate. It is important to remember that in 2007 and 2008 while I was in the district along with different Board leadership and Superintendent Raslowsky and Principal Lorraine Cella (remember how she was removed from her position which led to a lawsuit) this very same high school was recognized by NJ Monthly as the second most improved high school in the state of New Jersey and the school won back to back US News and World Report Bronze Medal Awards. Now? A much different story under Kids First and Superintendents Carter and Toback. Read what the Star Ledger and has to say about individual high schools in NJ by clicking HERE. Hoboken High School received a grade of "D." The fault of the students? No. The responsibility of the teachers? No, a majority of the teachers are still in place from when the high school won accolades from NJ Monthly and US News and World Report. The responsibility of the Board majority and district leadership? An interesting proposition.

Figure 2: This graph gives a much better sense of the graduation rate
comparison over a longer period of time using trend lines
"High school graduation is a journey that takes more than a decade for an individual student, and at each point in that journey our teachers and principals are working hard to launch those students forward," said former Commissioner Chris Cerf.  "Today, we celebrate those accomplishments and congratulate our students and educators."

"We are grateful for all of the hard work among local school officials to maintain and submit high quality, student-level data," said Arcelio Aponte, President of the State Board of Education. "The effort at the local level benefits individual students, and it helps us more accurately mark the progress of all students throughout the state."

In 2011, which was the first year of the federally mandated reporting method, the reported graduation rate was 83.3 percent. However, state Department of Education officials believe the substantial one-year increase from 2011 to 2012 (from 83.3 percent to 86.5 percent) was largely due to better tracking and reporting of student-level data by districts in the second year of the program.

This year, the Department continued to work closely with districts to ensure accurate information is being provided. The Department's outreach this year included holding 42 webinars to train local school staff on how to properly record and input figures; direct support to districts that had not properly provided data; contacting any district with a one-year change in the graduation rate of more than 5 percent; contacting districts with large numbers of unverified transfers; and allowing all districts to challenge the figures.

New Jersey has made in-roads toward narrowing the achievement gap, although significant disparities still remain. A summary of graduation rates by student subgroups is as follows:
  • 76.4% of African American students graduated in 2013, an increase from 74.6% in 2012.
  • 78.6% of Hispanic students graduated in 2013, an increase from 76.7% in 2012.
  • 93.1% of white students graduated in 2013, an increase from 92.6% in 2012.
  • 95.9% of Asian students graduated in 2013, an increase from 95.3% in 2012.
  • 77.1% of economically disadvantaged students graduated in 2013, an increase from 75.3% in 2012.
  • 70.5% of Limited English Proficient (LEPs) students graduated in 2013, a decrease from 73.1% in 2012.
  • 75.9% of students with disabilities graduated in 2013, an increase from 74.5% in 2012.
The Department also calculated the five-year graduation rate for students that began high school in 2008. While the four year graduation rate last year was 86.5 percent, the graduation rate for students who continued on for a fifth year was 88.8 percent.

Information on the graduation rate can be found online at

* I have not been able to obtain standard deviations so have not performed a statistical test. Likely, 2011 and 2013 were not significant while 2012 graduation rates were significant.

Hoboken Curriculum Project- Failure to Implement? 

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