What can be done to improve our standings in the NJ Monthly high school ranking, based on the NJ Report Card findings, relative to other I districts? Should this even be a goal of ours?

NOTE:  The candidates were originally given this question worded in this manner:  "What can be done to improve our standings in the NJ Report Card relative to the other I districts? Should this even be a goal of the district?"


However, some pointed out that there are no rankings on the Report Card but rather on the NJ Monthly High School listing, which obtains its data from the Report Card.  So, please make note of this difference as the reason why some answers refer to the Report Card and others to the NJ Monthly list.  Metuchen Matters accepts all blame for the confusion.



In order to improve our standing on the NJ Report card I believe the general education classes must be taught with the same intensity and enthusiasm as the AP classes.  This would cause more students to qualify for and be placed in Honors and AP classes, thus causing a gravitational pull in the overall student performance.  This improvement in student performance  overall would naturally increase Metuchen's standing in the NJ Report card in relation to other districts in the I category and could possibly move our ranking beyond the I ranking to the J ranking.




Typically I districts are considered wealthy. Some of the other I Districts are Spring Lake, Colts Neck, and Westfield.  While we have wealthy people in Metuchen, I would not consider Metuchen to be a wealthy town. District Factor Groups can change every 10 years. Until the 2000 census, Metuchen was a G/H district.


In my six years on the board I have always been vigilant about wanting to improve student knowledge and performance. The Administration and the staff monitor this in part by analyzing and reviewing student test scores and other data like the annual report card.  Over the past several years, special programs in math have been instituted at the middle school level in response to scores that did not meet our standards.  We recently hired a science supervisor to address the shortfalls in our science curriculum.  Our curriculum guides and course outlines are living documents that are analyzed each year to assure that the subject matter taught in our classrooms reflects the latest in teaching methodology. Over the last several years, the Board has committed additional resources to ensure that we keep current of developments in the field.  I plan on seeing that these and other efforts are continued to keep improving our curriculum.


I am in favor of the proposed partnership with Princeton Review to offer SAT prep and college advisory services at a reduced rate at the high school to help the students raise their SAT scores.


Improving our standing in the NJ report card is very important, but should not be our only goal.  It is also the responsibility of the Board of Education to ensure we graduate well-rounded students who are prepared for life after they leave Metuchen High School.  While academics are the most important aspect of what the school district provides our children, they wouldn't get into good colleges without a strong co-curricular program as well.  I am proud of the clubs, theater, music and sports programs offered at our schools and the level of participation we have.  A student's overall experience should also be looked at to determine if we are a successful school district.




We use the NJ Report Card, as well as other legitimate assessment tools, to gauge the district against its prior performance and relative to other districts in the county or state.  The administrators and faculty break down and evaluate the information reported in a number of ways.  This facilitates a clearer understanding of what lies behind the numbers.  For instance, why did one subgroup perform at a lower level than the previous year; or, why did the scores of another group increase?  Both these pieces of information provide direction as to where the curriculum may need to be strengthened or where existing strengths may be modeled or increased even further.


The responsibility of the district is to continually reevaluate the curriculum, teaching practices, and achievement levels.  The NJ Report Card standings are an important tool but should not be the prime motivation behind the delivery of a quality education.  The board of education in its yearly budget sets aside monies to be used for professional development and curriculum revision.  The professional development offered by the district may include new instructional practices, vertical and horizontal articulation, and the infusion of technology at all levels of the district.  Two years ago, a new science supervisor was hired.  Her first charge was to evaluate our science program and make suggestions for changes.  She will be providing her assessment and recommendations in the near future.  To facilitate higher SAT scores, the curriculum committee recently reviewed a proposal by Princeton Review to provide SAT prep courses and informational sessions directed to each year of high school.  While not a requirement, the reduced fee courses available to our students may help to improve SAT scores for interested students.  The district, at all levels, routinely looks at ways to improve instruction and student achievement.  Both the school based and district goals further the objective of providing every child with the best education the budget will allow. 


"The district will provide a curriculum which is fully inclusive and recognizes the high expectations of the community. "


Higher expectations for our students have and should continue to be a district goal.  The above is a direct quote from the school district's Mission Statement.


As a member of the Board of Education we always look at the changing criteria that NJ Monthly uses and are in the process of identifying the criteria that our district should use to evaluate itself. To improve our standings, I believe that we need to really profile those districts that are similar to our district both in size and resources, and analyze that data.  What are they doing to improve scores that we aren't currently doing?    Some of the "I "districts have been "I" for a number of years and have invested monies far surpassing the increases made to our budgets. While money is not the only thing that matters, the most recent DOE Report Card indicates that Millburn spent $15,338 per student, while Metuchen spent $13,920. Although our HESPA scores are good to excellent, we need to look for innovative ways to improve those scores as well as our SAT scores. In the 2009-2010 school year the Princeton Review course will be offered to our students for a reduced price.  More importantly, the district has entered into a Consortium with 16 districts to bring us to the next level of curriculum development for the high school.  A stronger curriculum across the board will raise standardized test scores in the NJ Report Card and NJ Monthly rankings.



We can use other successful districts as a measuring stick and model to try to find areas where we can improve our school system. The strongest school districts in New Jersey have integrated community involvement, high percentages of teachers with advanced degrees, good social and guidance networks at every level, and a progressive outlook on what it means to educate children in the 21st century. Interestingly, they also have better SAT scores and a higher percentage of students who are participating in Advanced Placement classes--and taking the AP tests, which are ways to measure the rigor of a school's curriculum.


While rankings are not the only measurement to consider, Metuchen's plummet in the NJ Monthly NJ High School Rankings--from 27 in 1998 to 56 in 2006 to 86 in 2008--signals that something is wrong. It has great impact on our children but broader unintended consequences as well, including the effect on housing values. High schools are the way a school district is judged, as the culmination of that district's education plan. The most widely given comment at the Superintendent's Forum was that Metuchen curriculum ­is not challenging. Considering that over $800,000 is budgeted annually for curriculum development, that is a troubling reality.

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