Education in the Media
Interactive Map: How Many Grads Make the Grade?June 21, 2013
School has ended for just about every student in New Jersey, with graduation ceremonies at nearly 400 high schools over the past two weeks capping a year that for many was interrupted for a week or more by power outages and other mayhem wreaked by superstorm Sandy.
Final numbers for this year are not yet available, but the state's School Performance Reports do break down data for prior school years by a number of categories, including race, special needs, and type of graduation.
While passing the 11th grade level High School Proficiency Assessment is a graduation requirement, there were only three schools in 2012 two small academies in the Union and one in the Middlesex vocational districts in which every graduate passed the HSPA. Another 59 had nine of every 10 seniors pass the test.
Still, there were 31 schools where fewer than half the grads passed the HSPA. All but six of those were in special-needs districts, typically in cities. In those cases, a majority of graduates completed an alternative assessment. Roughly 2.4 percent of seniors, often special education students, were exempt from the HSPA last year.
New Jersey used to have a Special Review Assessment that students could complete to be eligible to graduate if they were unable to pass the HSPA in three tries. But officials found that sometimes districts were allowing too many students to complete that assessment as a way around the HSPA and they were graduating unprepared for college or employment.
“Last time we were looking at this closely as an agency was 2010,” said Richard Vespucci, a DOE spokesman. “In spring 2010 we were cracking down on districts using SRA and a lot of kids almost didn’t graduate. Out of that experience was born the AHSA exam.”
The state’s tightened rules led to about 3,000 students being denied a diploma. Since then, it has tweaked the Alternative High School Assessment process and given students a third way to prove their mastery in the skills tested by the HSPA, involving Educational Proficiency Plans. About 13.5 percent of graduates wound up getting a diploma through the AHSA, an appeal involving an EPP or other alternative method in 2012.
The map shows the percentage of graduates passing the HSPA: the larger the circle, the greater the HSPA passing percentage. Other graduation statistics are available by hovering over a school or clicking on it.