More than a Bit Tardy, State Releases Annual School Report Card

June 1, 2012

 New Jersey’s annual School Report Card, a compendium of test scores and other statistics from 2010-2011, was finally released by the Christie administration yesterday, more than two months later than ever before.

The delays have been many, largely blamed by the administration on new data being collected on graduation rates. Nevertheless, the reports providing information on schools from the previous year and a rite of winter for the last 15 years moved deep into spring this year.

NJ Spotlight’s Report Card, including interactive charts on student achievement for each school, is available on our site.

Some of the information was a little anticlimactic, too, with the 2010-2011 test scores already released by the state two months ago, showing mostly improvements, slight to significant, depending on the schools.

But the Report Card release also provides other useful information, from class sizes in each grade to the percent of students with access to the Internet (at least on school computers) to the spending per pupil in a number of categories.

Required to be distributed to every student and family, the Report Card also includes a written narrative for each school and district that aims to provide more explanation and information than straight numbers.

Nonetheless, the financial statistics certainly reflected the tough times that schools faced in 2010-2011, still reeling from the administration and Legislature’s deep cuts in state aid the year before.

Total cost per pupil for K-12 districts dropped to $17,469, from $17,885 the year before. In turn, the ratio of students to faculty rose, especially with administrators where there were close to 190 students for each supervisor.

Still salaries didn’t appear to much slow, with the average teacher salary rising slightly to $63,800, with 10 years experience, and $119,500 for administrators, with 19 years.

Not surprisingly, local taxpayers bore a greater share of the expenses, too, paying about 52 percent of the total costs. Interestingly, the state share rose slightly to 42 percent, but the big hit was a drop in the federal share from 9 percent to 3 percent, a reflection of the loss of federal stimulus funds.

After all the wait, this will be the last year of the Report Card in its current form. Acting education commissioner Chris Cerf said the School Performance Reports of the future will better reflect achievement trends in schools and highlight comparisons between different categories of students and between schools and their socio-economic peers.

“While these Report Cards provide some helpful information to parents, the general public, and school administrators about school performance, the Department has long acknowledged that we can do a much better job of providing actionable information for the purposes of school improvement,” Cerf said in releasing the information.

Cerf said the department would bring together experts and educators to start developing the reports in the coming months.