The Board of Education and the Superintendent Search has been very much at the top of local news the last two days. A lengthy Board meeting on Tuesday night highlighted the District's data via Board member Dan Benderly and Director of Curriculum Paul Pineiro regarding district performance indicators as well as the results of the district goal "Improving Consistency of Placement/Grading," and high school test results.
The district is having few issues in the area of language arts but Metuchen's math scores are low for schools in all I districts (although Benderly noted an uptick in the last year). Metuchen has grown considerably in terms of sending 97% of its graduates into college, but a high number of these students opted for a two year as opposed to four year colleges. Benderly also acknowledged that the low rate of four-year college attendance does not seem to be in keeping with the higher academic performance overall of our district. "It's something interesting for us to keep our eyes on," he said. He stressed that, although there was an uptick in some scores like SATs in our district, when compared against other districts, Metuchen's scores were not as impressive. Many of these numbers are Metuchen-specific, not gauged against the median scores of other districts so this is only the beginning of this conversation.
A discussion about family income range and its effect on SAT scores was prompted by Board member Ben Small, whose idea to survey the community regarding this issue was encouraged by Board member Jackie Gibson. Mr. Benderly said that he felt that the question that needed to be asked was "Of the 30% who didn't apply to a four-year school, why didn't they?" Board member Jonathan Lifton stated that perhaps what is most important to consider is that if the entire district at every level was focused on the point of improving this particular statistic, great strides forward could be made. Mr. Benderly also discussed the fact that, for an I district, Metuchen has many more families who have two well-educated spouses that have made the decision to survive on one salary only, a lifestyle choice. Economics were at the forefront of the continuing conversation with the community members at the meeting.
The members of the public expressed concern about the low rate of students applying to four-year colleges. Does that mean that they aren't encouraged or supported in such a way as to believe that this is the road for them or is it really a matter of economics and resources that keeps them from pursuing four-year colleges? That then became a major topic for the Forum regarding the hiring of the new district Superintendent that was held last night.