N.J. Schools Near Top in Nation in Student Achievement, New Study Finds

January 9, 2014

New Jersey schools rank near the top in the nation in student achievement and chance for success, according to a study released today.

The Quality Counts report from the non-profit Editorial Projects in Education, the Maryland publisher of Education Week, studies the academic, social and financial forces that are shaping school districts. In addition to state highlights, the report examines key issues facing district leaders around the country.

New Jersey is a perennial powerhouse in this and other studies about the quality of education. The state ranked second, behind Massachusetts, in the Chance for Success Index, a measure of the role of education in an individual's life. New Jersey's B+ grade was significantly higher than the national average of C+.

New Jersey ranked third in K-12 Achievement, an index that measures performance of public school in 18 indicators. Massachusetts and Maryland were one and two. The state's grade of B- was higher than the national average of C-.

However, New Jersey ranked below average in two other categories, scoring a C (and ranking 44) for standards, assessments and accountability and D+, and a 38 ranking, for teaching profession. According to the report, New Jersey has no incentives for teachers or principals working in hard-to-staff disciplines or targeted schools, no salary parity with other occupations, and no financial incentives for teachers to earn national certifications.

Much of New Jersey's success is linked to higher than average family income, parent education, and employment. The state also ranks high in preschool enrollment. High school graduation rate and post-secondary education enrollment are other factors.

The 18th edition of the national report also looks at school choice initiatives, district mergers and policy shifts and how they are transforming schools. Among its key findings are:

  • Charter schools are the fastest growing segment of non-traditional public schools, with 5,500 charters educating 1.7 million students in 2011-12.
  • Nine of 10 district officials reported economic challenges were forcing change, while two-thirds reported low student achievement were resulting in change.
  • Six in 10 district officials reported support for charter and home schooling, but fewer than 2 in 10 supported voucher programs.