New Graduation Rate System Launched by State

Tina Pappas | NorthJersey.com
06/07/12

High school graduation rates were recently released by the state and the latest calculations are based on a newly federally mandated system.

According to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the "four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate" is now required in every state, and offers a more complex and accurate way of calculating the high school graduation rate. The statewide graduation rate stood at 83 percent for 2011.

"As we look at these new graduation rates across the state, the question we must continue to ask ourselves is not only whether students are graduating from high school but whether we are truly preparing them to be ready for the demands of the 21st century. These results reinforce the need for the new end-of-course assessments, not only to increase the number of high school graduates, but to increase the number of graduates ready for college and career," said NJDOE Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf, in a press release.

However, many district officials feel the new formula makes it impossible to make direct comparisons to the previous year's numbers. Passaic Valley High School (PVHS) had a in a 92.51 percent rate for 2011.

"It's like comparing apples to oranges when looking this year's numbers as opposed to last year's numbers," said Dr. Viktor Joganow, PVHS superintendent. "I believe we were somewhere around 98 percent previously but many districts, including our own, saw their rates drop. Also, when you're having students transferring in and out, it doesn't necessarily mean that students aren't graduating from high school, therefore, the numbers aren't very accurate. We try to do our best when the students are inside our doors but once they leave we don't have much control over that situation in terms of where they end up at. Many times, they have moved and are at a different school district so they haven't dropped out of school."

In comparing the rate to other high schools, like nearby Wayne Valley, which posted a 93 percent graduation rate, the PVHS rate was relatively similar, according to data provided by the NJDOE.

During the past several years, the NJDOE also held trainings in each county and worked with over 200 districts statewide on the rate change and district requirements. Also implemented was NJSMART, software which allows districts to track students each year of enrollment. It allows districts to update a student's history from freshman through senior years and can update a student's status in real time based on a transfer or other change in status. The NJDOE worked on over 7,000 student level appeals from districts in the fall in order to ensure that the data collected in recent years was correct.

Also announced by the NJDOE is a transition away from the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPA) to a new series of end-of-course assessments aimed to better measure and prepare students after graduating high school. Besides being geared to measure whether students can apply the knowledge they have learned to the real world, it's also an incentive for schools to focus on "critical thinking" with the goal of increasing college and career readiness.

Additional information on the new rating system can be found at www.state.nj.us/education. 

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