The State of New Jersey Public Education, 2014

A JerseyCAN RESEARCH REPORT

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The State of NJ Public Education

Preface

It was two years ago when we published our first ever State of Education report. In fact, it was the very achievement gaps and trends we noted in our original report that prompted us to launch JerseyCAN in the first place.

Later, when we published our Framework for Excellence, we continued to see those severe achievement gaps. That same research showed that fewer than half of New Jersey students were at college and career ready benchmarks set by NAEP. Those findings prompted us to create a dual mission for JerseyCAN: close the achievement gap and raise the bar for every student in New Jersey.

Today, two years of school later, those concerns have not gone away. Some progress has been made, but stark achievement gaps remain between low-income students and their wealthier peers and between white students and students of color. We must continue to raise the bar for all students.

Our numbers as a state may look strong in the aggregate, but those of us living and working here every day see the real inequities across and within districts, especially in those where few high quality schools exist. This report aims to provide some basic data and trend information that demonstrates how pervasive these achievement gaps are across the state.

The report summarizes the current state of many reforms underway, and synthesizes several different types of achievement data, to provide a comprehensive picture of the state of education in New Jersey right now.

It’s a complex picture. While we’re certainly investing heavily in education, the investment has not translated into high quality options for all students. The picture is made even more complex by new reforms underway, including the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the first administration of PARCC tests this year and the start of our new teacher evaluation system. It is precisely because of all of these major changes and the controversies that surround them, however, that now--more than ever--we should be asking hard questions about how all students across New Jersey are being served.

The time is now to look at these trends and commit to real, sustainable reforms. We can’t continue to have this conversation year after year. The students who started kindergarten two years ago already had their shot at kindergarten and are fast-approaching the third grade, a crucial point by which they should be reading on grade level and prepared for future grades.

Or consider this; the students who started community college two years ago, with the hopes of completing an associate’s degree, are in many cases still taking remedial classes – and racking up debt while doing so.

Time is ticking away for our kids. Let’s keep that front and center as we debate politics, policy, and implementation challenges and push to resolve these challenges with the urgency that all of New Jersey’s students deserve.

The students

The first step to understanding our school system is understanding who it serves. Find out more about the students who attend our schools, including their demographic breakdown and the kinds of schools they’re enrolled in.

Who we’re educating

Demographic breakdown, 2013–20141

“2013-2014 Enrollment,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr14/county2.htm.

Where our students attend school, 2012–20132-3

“New Jersey Public Schools Fact Sheet,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/fact.htm. “The Public Charter Schools Dashboard,” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, accessed December 18, 2014, http://dashboard.publiccharters.org/dashboard/students/page/overview/state/NJ/year/2013. Note: According to the New Jersey Department of Education, there are over 35,000 students in charter school across the state as of September 2014. Find more information about charter schools in Jew Jersey here: http://www.nj.gov/education/chartsch/about.htm.

The system

Take a look at the system we’ve built for our students: how we prepare them for kindergarten, whom we’ve hired to fill our classrooms, the laws schools and educators must abide by, and how much we spend on it all.

Who’s teaching

New Jersey teachers by the numbers

Demographic breakdown4

“2013-2014 Certified Staff,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/cs/cs14/county2.htm.

Where we need more teachers

Areas of teacher shortage5

  • Elementary mathematics (grades 5-8)
  • Elementary science (grades 5-8)
  • Elementary world language/Spanish (grades 5-8)
  • Teacher of supplemental instruction in reading and mathematics (grades K-8)
  • Students with disabilities
  • Blind or visually impaired
  • Deaf or hard of hearing: oral/aural communication
  • Deaf or hard of hearing: sign language communication
  • English as a second language
  • Bilingual/bicultural education
  • Mathematics
  • Biological science
  • Earth science
  • Physical science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Chinese
“Educator Preparation Provider 2014 Annual Report - Statewide Overview: Alternate Route,” New Jersey Department of Education, pp. 2-6, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/rpr/preparation/providers/2014/AlternateRoute/EPP.pdf.

New Jersey school policies

School staffing policies

Teacher evaluation

In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act. The Act requires every New Jersey district to implement a teacher evaluation system beginning in the 2013–2014 school year that meets minimum standards set by the State Board of Education. Teachers must be evaluated based on multiple objective measures of student learning and multiple observations of classroom practice, and must receive an annual summative rating of highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective.6

State standards require that, during the 2014–2015 school year, 10 percent of the total evaluation score for teachers of tested grades and subjects (fourth- through eighth-grade language arts and math) is based on student growth on the state assessment, 20 percent is based on student progress toward learning goals set by teachers in consultation with their principals and 70 percent is based on a minimum of three observations of classroom practice using a state-approved teacher practice instrument. For teachers in all other grades and subjects, 20 percent of the total evaluation score is based on student progress toward learning goals and 80 percent is based on observations of classroom practice.7 Professional development is linked to evaluation results, and teachers who receive a rating of partially effective or ineffective must participate in a corrective action plan.8

Although districts must submit their evaluation models to the Commissioner of Education for approval,9 they may also request waivers from certain state requirements. To date, more than 70 districts have had waiver requests approved.10

Teacher tenure

The TEACHNJ Act also changed New Jersey’s teacher tenure process. Prior to 2012, teachers were eligible to receive tenure after three years, and evidence of effectiveness in the classroom was not required for tenure conferral. Teachers hired after the TEACHNJ Act took effect, by contrast, are eligible to receive tenure after four years and must earn an effective or highly effective evaluation rating in at least two of the final three years to be eligible for tenure conferral. Furthermore, a teacher’s tenure may now be revoked, and the teacher dismissed, for consecutive ineffective or partially effective ratings.11

However, during reductions in force, New Jersey still requires districts to lay off teachers in inverse order of seniority, with the least senior teachers laid off first. New Jersey is one of eleven states that require some or all districts to use this “last in, first out” (LIFO) layoff policy.12

Teacher compensation

New Jersey law establishes a statewide minimum teacher salary. Beyond the minimum salary, districts establish their own teacher compensation policies and pay scales.13 There are no statewide policies that support differentiated compensation systems based on teacher effectiveness.14

New Jersey ranked 5th nationally among states in average annual public school teacher salary in 2012–2013 (although this figure does not take into consideration cost-of-living differences across states).15

In 2012, Newark teachers agreed to a new contract that establishes a district-wide differentiated compensation system. Newark teachers may now earn a $5,000 bonus for a highly effective rating and a $10,000 bonus if they are rated highly effective and work in a high-need subject or low-performing school. Furthermore, while the previous pay scale is still in place, teachers must now earn an effective or highly effective rating to move up the pay scale.16

And in 2014, Governor Christie negotiated a deal in Paterson that included a new step in the teacher pay system – teachers who receive an “effective” or “highly effective” rating on their annual evaluations will be eligible for a raise. However, teachers rated “ineffective” or “partially effective” will not be given raises. Veteran teachers can opt-in to this new system or continue under the old system.17

Teacher certification

To become certified to teach in New Jersey, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA (or 2.75 GPA for candidates graduating before 2016), have appropriate subject matter preparation for their grade level and subject, complete a course of study in professional education and pass the required certification tests for their subject area and grade level.18 Novice teachers earn provisional teaching certificates and must be recommended for permanent certification.19 Evaluations of teacher effectiveness are not considered in licensure advancement decisions.20

New Jersey allows alternate route teacher training programs. Candidates must first meet each of the requirements listed above except for the course of study in professional education. They earn a provisional certificate of eligibility and teach while completing a state-approved alternate route training program.21

P.L. 2012, Chapter 26, C.18A:6-123, “Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act,” accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/PL12/26_.PDF, and N.J.A.C. 6A:10-2.1, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/njcode/. “Teacher Evaluation and Support in 2014-15,” AchieveNJ/New Jersey Department of Education, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ/intro/1PagerTeachers.pdf. “Teacher Evaluation,” AchieveNJ/New Jersey Department of Education, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ/teacher/. P.L. 2012, Chapter 26, C.18A:6-122, “Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act,” accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/PL12/26_.PDF. John Mooney, “Dozens of School Districts Win Waivers for New Teacher Evaluations,” NJ Spotlight, May 30, 2014, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/05/29/dozens-of-school-districts-win-waivers-for-new-teacher-evaluations/. “Guide to the TEACHNJ Act,” New Jersey Department of Education, pp. 4-5, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ/intro/TeachNJGuide.pdf. “New Jersey,” savegreatteachers.com (StudentsFirst), accessed July 11, 2014, http://savegreatteachers.com/. “2013 State Teacher Policy Yearbook: New Jersey,” National Council on Teacher Quality, p. 111, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/2013_State_Teacher_Policy_Yearbook_New_Jersey_NCTQ_Report. “State of the States 2013: Connect the Dots: Using evaluations of teacher effectiveness to inform policy and practice,” National Council on Teacher Quality, p. 20, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/State_of_the_States_2013_Using_Teacher_Evaluations_NCTQ_Report. “Table 211.60: Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13,” National Center for Education Statistics: Digest of Education Statistics, 2013 Tables and Figures, accessed July 11, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp. Kate Zernike, “Newark Teachers Approve a Contract with Merit Pay,” New York Times (November 14, 2012), accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/education/newark-teachers-approve-contract-with-performance-bonuses.html?_r=0. John Mooney, “New Pact in Paterson Gives Teachers Extra Pay Tied to Their Performance,” NJ Spotlight (August 15, 2014), accessed January 13, 2015, http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/08/14/new-pact-in-paterson-gives-teachers-extra-pay-tied-to-performance/. “Certificate Subject Area/Grade Level and Codes,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/education/license/endorsement.pl?string=999&maxhits=1000&field=2. See “Elementary K-6 Standard Certificate” for an example: http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/endorsements/1001S.pdf. “What Is the Process for Newly Hired, First-Time Teachers?” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/provprogram.htm. “State of the States 2013: Connect the Dots: Using evaluations of teacher effectiveness to inform policy and practice,” National Council on Teacher Quality, p. 20, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/State_of_the_States_2013_Using_Teacher_Evaluations_NCTQ_Report. “What Is the Process for Newly Hired, First-Time Teachers?” State of New Jersey Department of Education, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/provprogram.htm, and “I am applying through alternate route for teacher certification,” State of New Jersey Department of Education, accessed January 7, 2015, http://www.state.nj.us/education/educators/license/process/AlternateRoute.htm.

Public charter school policies22

Charter school caps

There are no caps on charter school growth in New Jersey.

Authorizers

The state commissioner of education is the only charter school authorizer in New Jersey.

The legislature and governor may review the performance of the authorizer at any time, but there is no formal statutory review process or review timeline.

Accountability

Charter schools must enter into a written agreement with the state commissioner outlining the school’s goals for factors such as student achievement, postsecondary readiness, attendance, financial performance and board stewardship. The initial term of a charter is four years.

The law provides specific charter renewal criteria and a renewal may be denied for failure to satisfy any component of the renewal process. Charters may be renewed for five year terms.

If the commissioner elects to close a charter school, the school must be given written notice, but there is no requirement for the decision to be made in a public meeting.

Facilities

New Jersey charter schools have access to tax-exempt bonds from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority but there is no specific per pupil funding for charter facilities, no state grant or loan programs for charter school facilities and there is no right of first refusal for charter schools to access unused public school buildings.

Funding

In New Jersey, charter schools are excluded from state adjustment aid payments, which results in inequitable funding for charter schools.

According to a recent study, when all funding streams are considered, the average charter school in New Jersey receives $15,043 per pupil, while the average district school receives $18,648 in per pupil funding (19.3 percent less). These numbers are much worse for Newark and Jersey City: In Newark, the average charter school receives $16,719 while the average district school receives $28,321 (41 percent less). In Jersey City, the average charter school receives $13,138 while the average district school receives $23,154 (43.3 percent less).23

“Measuring up to the Model,” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, accessed July 16, 2014, http://www.publiccharters.org/get-the-facts/law-database/states/NJ/. Larry Maloney, “Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, New Jersey Profile (April 2014),” University of Arkansas, accessed July 16, 2014, http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/charter-funding-inequity-expands-nj.pdf.

New Jersey and the Common Core State Standards24

More than 40 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards in English and math, and one state—Minnesota—has adopted the English standards only.

“Standards in Your State,” Common Core State Standards Initiative, accessed July 16, 2014, http://www.corestandards.org/standards-in-your-state/.

Pre-K access

A glimpse at preschool access in New Jersey25

National Institute for Early Education Research: The State of Preschool, 2013

51,726
Total state program enrollment
12,701
Number of students enrolled in federally funded Head Start programs
0
Number of students enrolled in state-funded Head Start programs
20%
Percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K programs
6%
Percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled in Head Start programs
3/27
National Institute for Early Education Research’s access ranking for 3-year-olds
28%
Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K programs
7%
Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in Head Start programs
17/4126
National Institute for Early Education Research’s access ranking for 4-year-olds
“The State of Preschool 2013,” National Institute for Early Education Research, pp. 13, 94-98, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nieer.org/sites/nieer/files/yearbook2013.pdf. 28 percent of four-year-olds are enrolled in state pre-K programs in New Jersey, earning the state a ranking of 17th out of the 41 states with a state preschool program. Comparatively, 20 percent of three-year-olds are enrolled in state pre-K programs in New Jersey, which is considerably more than many of the 27 states that also have a pre-K program for three-year-olds.

Charter School Geography

Charter School Geography

Total number of students enrolled in charter schools, 2012–201327-28

“The Public Charter Schools Dashboard,” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, accessed December 18, 2014, http://dashboard.publiccharters.org/dashboard/students/page/overview/state/NJ/year/2013. Some districts may be omitted due to unavailable district-level data.

The Cost

Per pupil spending, 201229-30

“Public Education Finances, 2012,” United States Census Bureau, p. 8, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/12f33pub.pdf. Note: the figure for New Jersey does not include expenditures for teacher pensions. The 2013 per-pupil expenditure in New Jersey was $18,891. See Peggy McGlone, “Average NJ Per-Student Spending is close to $19K, New Report Finds,” The Star-Ledger, May 9, 2014, accessed January 14, 2015, http://www.nj.com/education/2014/05/average_nj_per_pupil_spending_almost_19k_new_report_finds.html.

How per–pupil funding was allocated in 201231

“Public Education Finances, 2012,” United States Census Bureau, p. 8, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/12f33pub.pdf.

Employee benefits expenditures as a percentage of total instructional expenditures, 2010–201132

“Table 236.50: Expenditures for Instruction in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, by Subfunction and State or Jurisdiction: 2009-2010 and 2010-2011,” National Center for Education Statistics: Digest of Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_236.50.asp. Note: this is the most updated data available.

How the system is working

We now know who our students are and what kind of school system we’ve given them. But is that system working? Take a journey through New Jersey’s K-12 system and find out how well students are learning each step of the way.

elementary school

Beginning in elementary school, low-income students and students of color are already behind their white and wealthier peers. On the NJASK, only 39 percent of low-income students scored proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 73 percent of non-low-income students. In math, we see similar gaps – 59 percent of low-income students scored at least proficient, compared to 85 percent of their wealthier peers.

Unfortunately, data from the Nation’s Report Card paints a similar picture of student achievement in New Jersey. Over the last decade, student achievement has improved across the board for almost all New Jersey elementary school students on the Nation’s Report Card. Since 2003, average student performance across all fourth-graders has increased by 10 percentage points. Reading performance has also improved, albeit a little more stagnated, with a three-percentage point gain since 2003. But when we break down the data by subgroups, the numbers are far worse. Fewer than 25 percent of black fourth-graders in New Jersey scored proficient or above in math or reading on the Nation’s Report Card. This means that more than 75 percent of black fourth-graders are already lagging behind before they enter middle school. Similarly, low-income fourth-graders in New Jersey trail their wealthier peers by over 30 percentage points in math and reading, resulting in a wide proficiency gap early on in their lives.

New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge proficiency, 4th grade

Percentage of NJ 4th-graders proficient or advanced in 201433

“New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Performance by Demographic Group Statewide – Grade 4,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask4/demographic_reports.pdf.

NAEP proficiency, 4th-grade34

Percentage of NJ 4th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

2013–2014 NJASK proficiency, 4th grade35-36

In-state district comparison: Percentage of NJ 4th-graders proficient or advanced, 2014

“Grade 4 New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Spring 2014: NJASK 2014 State Summary – Excel Spreadsheet,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask4/. “2013-2014 Enrollment: Total Enrollment by Grade, Race and Sex for Every School in New Jersey,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr14/stat_doc.htm.

Regional comparison37

Percentage of 4th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

  National New Jersey Connecticut Massachusetts New York Pennsylvania
 
Math 41 49 45 58 40 44
Reading 34 42 43 47 37 40
  Math Reading
National 41 34
New Jersey 49 42
Connecticut 45 43
Massachusetts 58 47
New York 40 37
Pennsylvania 44 40
“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Nation’s Report Card trends38

Percentage of NJ 4th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Proficiency gaps

A proficiency gap represents the difference in proficiency rates between two groups of students. In New Jersey, for example, a much higher proportion of white students score proficient or advanced on state and national tests compared to their black peers. The proportion of white fourth-graders who score at least proficient in math on the Nation’s Report Card exceeds the proportion of black fourth-graders scoring proficient by a whopping 37 percentage points. Similarly, on the NJASK, black fourth-graders trail their white peers in math by 31 percentage points.

NJASK proficiency gap, 4th grade39

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Performance by Demographic Group Statewide – Grade 4,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask4/demographic_reports.pdf.

Nation’s Report Card proficiency gap, 4th grade40

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Achievement gaps

Achievement gaps show the difference in average student performance on the Nation’s Report Card (also known as “scale scores”) between different subgroups. In New Jersey, average low-income student performance in fourth-grade reading trails behind that of their wealthier peers by more than 29 points.

Nation’s Report Card achievement gap, 4th grade41

The scale-score difference in student achievement between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students

  White/Black White/Latino Low-income/Non-low-income
Math 25.4 20.0 24.5
Reading 26.5 26.2 29.3
  Math Reading
White/Black 25.4 26.5
White/Latino 20.0 26.2
Low-income/Non-low-income 24.5 29.3
“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

middle school

Unfortunately, the achievement trends we see at the elementary school level tend to remain the same as our students progress through middle school. Looking at data on the NJASK and the Nation’s Report Card, we can confidently say that there is still much work to be done if we are going to provide a great education for all New Jersey students.

On the NJASK, it is clear that a majority of our most disadvantaged students aren’t getting the education they need and deserve. Only 47 percent of black students in New Jersey met the proficiency benchmark in math on the NJASK and 61 percent scored proficient or above in reading. Not only are they significantly trailing their white peers, nearly 40 percent of all black students in New Jersey are not ready for high school math or reading, severely limiting their educational opportunities. District data shows similar trends. Camden for example has one of the highest percentages of low-income students in New Jersey, with 95 percent of students receiving free or reduced price lunch. Only 19 percent of eighth graders in Camden are proficient in math, and only 32 percent are reading on grade level.

The Nation’s Report Card data also offers some insight into how our middle schoolers are faring. The good news is New Jersey has seen gains on the Nation’s Report Card at the middle school level over the last decade, especially in math. Since 2003, math performance has increased by 16 percentage points overall. However, proficiency gaps remain enduring and alarmingly high for our middle school students. The gaps on the NAEP are just as stark as they are on the NJASK. There is more than a 20-percentage point gap in proficiency between students of color and white students and a 30-percentage point gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers in both reading and math on the Nation’s Report Card.

NJASK proficiency, 8th grade42

Percentage of NJ 8th-graders proficient or advanced, 2014

“New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Performance by Demographic Group Statewide – Grade 8,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask8/demographic_reports.pdf.

NAEP proficiency, 8th grade43

Percentage of NJ 8th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

2013–2014 NJASK proficiency, 8th grade44-45

In-state regional comparison: Percentage of NJ 8th-graders proficient or advanced, 2014

“Grade 8 New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Spring 2014: NJASK 2014 State Summary – Excel Spreadsheet,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask8/. “2013-2014 Enrollment: Total Enrollment by Grade, Race and Sex for Every School in New Jersey,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr14/stat_doc.htm.

Regional comparison37

Percentage of 8th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

  National New Jersey Connecticut Massachusetts New York Pennsylvania
 
Math 34 49 37 55 32 42
Reading 34 46 45 48 35 42
  Math Reading
National 34 34
New Jersey 49 46
Connecticut 37 45
Massachusetts 55 48
New York 32 35
Pennsylvania 42 42
“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Nation’s Report Card trends, 8th grade47-48

Percentage of 8th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx. “NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

NJASK proficiency gap, 8th grade49

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Performance by Demographic Group Statewide – Grade 8,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/njask8/demographic_reports.pdf.

Nation’s Report Card proficiency gap, 8th grade50

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Nation’s Report Card achievement gap, 8th grade51

The scale-score difference in student achievement between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students

  White/Black White/Latino Low-income/Non-low-income
Math 29.1 20.4 28.5
Reading 23.5 18.7 23.7
  Math Reading
White/Black 29.1 23.5
White/Latino 20.4 18.7
Low-income/Non-low-income 28.5 23.7
“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

high school

As we move into the high school data, we can clearly see that the achievement trends evident in elementary school continue and worsen as our students move through our K-12 schools. These disparities are visible for high school students in the NJASK results, the Nation’s Report Card, high school graduation rates and AP exam participation and success.

In the class of 2014, 93 percent of white students graduated in four years, compared to a much lower 79 percent of black students and 81 percent of Latino students. And again, when we disaggregate graduation rates by district, our districts with the highest proportion of students receiving free or reduced price lunch have cripplingly low graduation rates. In Trenton, for example, only 53 percent of the class of 2014 graduated from high school. And in Camden, only 62 percent of high school seniors received their diplomas.

Likewise, AP exam participation data for students in New Jersey reveals similar gaps; the proportion of white students taking AP exams outpaces that of students of color. In 2013, only 13 percent of black graduates and 25 percent of Latino graduates took at least one AP exam during high school, compared to 32 percent of white graduates.

The odds are stacked against our most disadvantaged students in New Jersey, beginning early in their formative years and lasting until they attempt to enter the workforce or go to college. Prudent policy change is needed if we are going to ensure that all of New Jersey’s students have access to great public schools.

New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment proficiency rates52

Percentage of NJ 11th-graders scoring proficient or advanced, 2014

“New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment: Performance by Demographic Group,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/hspa/demographic_reports.pdf.

NAEP proficiency, 12th-grade53

Percentage of NJ 12th-graders proficient or advanced on the Nation’s Report Card, 2013

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment proficiency rates54-55

In-state regional comparison: Percentage of NJ 11th-graders scoring proficient or advanced, 2014

“High School Proficiency Assessment Spring 2014: NJ HSPA 2014 State Summary – Excel Spreadsheet,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/hspa/. “2013-2014 Enrollment: Total Enrollment by Grade, Race and Sex for Every School in New Jersey,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr14/stat_doc.htm.

New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment proficiency gap56

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“New Jersey High School Proficiency Assessment: Performance by Demographic Group,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/achievement/14/hspa/demographic_reports.pdf.

Nation’s Report Card proficiency gap, 12th grade557

The difference in proficiency rates between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students (in percentage points)

“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

Nation’s Report Card achievement gap, 12th grade58

The scale-score difference in student achievement between white students and students of color, and low-income students and non-low-income students

  White/Black White/Latino Low-income/Non-low-income
Math 26.2 22.2 22.5
Reading 30.1 25.2 24.2
  Math Reading
White/Black 26.2 30.1
White/Latino 22.2 25.2
Low-income/Non-low-income 22.5 24.2
“NAEP Data Explorer,” National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2014, http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/naepdata/dataset.aspx.

4-year cohort graduation rate, class of 201459

Percentage of students who graduated on time, by subgroup

“2014 Graduation Rates: 2014 Adjusted Cohort 4 year Graduation Rates,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/grate/2014/.

4-year cohort graduation rate district breakdown60

Percentage of students who graduated on time, by district

“Graduation Rates: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Adjusted Cohort 4 year Graduation Rates,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/grate/2014/.

Students’ participation and success on Advanced Placement exams, 2008–201361-63

Percentage of graduates leaving high school having taken an AP exam

“The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: New Jersey,” College Board, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-new-jersey.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: New Jersey,” College Board, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-new-jersey.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: New Jersey,” College Board, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-new-jersey.pdf.

Percentage of graduates scoring 3+ on an AP exam at any point in high school

Advanced Placement Exams, Regional Comparison64–68

Percentage of the class of 2013 scoring a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement Exam in high school

The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: Connecticut,” College Board, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-connecticut.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: Massachusetts,” College Board, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-massachusetts.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-new-jersey.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: New York,” College Board, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-new-york.pdf. “The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, State Supplement: Pennsylvania,” College Board, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/ap/rtn/10th-annual/10th-annual-ap-report-state-supplement-pennsylvania.pdf.

College entrance exams

Just as there are gaps between the academic performance of white students and students of color, there are also gaps in the likelihood that those students will take—and do well on—college entrance exams. In 2013, the percent of white high school seniors who met the four college readiness benchmarks on the ACT was over four times the rate of black students.

But lacking college readiness knowledge is not just a problem that plagues communities of color – it’s a problem statewide. A mere 40 percent of all seniors who took the ACT in 2013 met all four college readiness benchmarks. This means that over 60 percent of seniors who hope to go to college are not ready for rigorous college material. Similarly, our average score on the SAT in 2013 was 1521 – 29 points shy of the 1550 college and career-readiness benchmark set by the College Board.

Trends in SAT participation69-74

“2012-2013 Enrollment,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr13/stat_doc.htm. “2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/NJ_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2009-2010 Enrollment,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr10/stat_doc.htm. “2010 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/NJ_10_03_03_01.pdf. “2005-2006 Enrollment,” New Jersey Department of Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.state.nj.us/education/data/enr/enr06/stat_doc.htm. “2006 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/cb-seniors-2006-new-jersey.pdf.

Trends in average SAT scores75-77

A total score of 1550 is the college and career-readiness benchmark set by the College Board.

“2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/NJ_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2010 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/NJ_10_03_03_01.pdf. “2006 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/cb-seniors-2006-new-jersey.pdf.

Regional comparison of SAT performance, 201378–82

A total score of 1550 is the college and career-readiness benchmark set by the College Board.

“2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: Connecticut,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/CT_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: Massachusetts,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/MA_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New Jersey,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/NJ_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: New York,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/NY_13_03_03_01.pdf. “2013 College-Bound Seniors State Profile Report: Pennsylvania,” College Board, p. 1, accessed December 18, 2014, http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/PA_13_03_03_01.pdf.

Percentage of New Jersey 12th-grade ACT takers meeting college readiness benchmarks83

“ACT Profile Report: Graduating Class 2013 New Jersey,” ACT, p. 7, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/pdf/profile/NewJersey.pdf.

Demographic break-down84

“ACT Profile Report: Graduating Class 2013 New Jersey,” ACT, pp. 18-22, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/pdf/profile/NewJersey.pdf.

After graduation

The ultimate goal of New Jersey’s school system is to prepare all of its graduates to thrive in the post-high school world—whether they’re going first to college or entering the workforce straightaway. So, are we meeting that goal? To find out, we look at how well New Jersey students do on college entrance exams, the rate at which they graduate from college, and what they can expect to earn in their lifetimes.

College completion

The proportion of New Jersey students who graduate on time from four-year public universities is higher than many of our neighboring states as well as the national average.85 However, just as we’ve seen in all aspects of our education system, black and Latino students are far less likely to graduate from four-year universities on time than their white peers. And across all groups, the graduation rate for two-year public colleges is significantly lower than the graduation rate for four-year public universities.

“College Completion: New Jersey Public Colleges (4-year),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=nj§or=public_four.

Graduation rate86–88

“College Completion: New Jersey Public Colleges (2-year),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=nj§or=public_two. “College Completion: New Jersey Public Colleges (4-year),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=nj§or=public_four. “College Completion: New Jersey Public Colleges (4-year),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=nj§or=public_four.

Regional graduation rate89

“College Completion: New Jersey Public Colleges (4-year),” The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed December 18, 2014, http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=nj§or=public_four.

Expected earnings

In general, the more education you’ve had, the more you’re likely to make—which is why it is so important to set our students up for success after high school. In New Jersey those with a bachelor’s degree take home an annual salary that is, on average, more than double what those who have not gone beyond high school earn.

Average yearly earnings by educational attainment in New Jersey90

Data from 2011 Census

  High school dropout High school graduate Some college Bachelor's degree and above
$ $9,895 $27,192 $32,175 $70,317
  $
High school dropout $9,895
High school graduate $27,192
Some college $32,175
Bachelor's degree and above $70,317
“New Jersey’s College-and Career-Ready Commitment,” Achieve, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.achieve.org/files/NewJersey_CCR_FactSheet_Sept2012.pdf.

U.S. Average lifetime earnings by educational attainment, 200891

“New Jersey,” Achieve, accessed January 13, 2014, http://www.achieve.org/New-Jersey. Note: click on the slide deck and view Slide 17 to access the data.

New Jersey job openings92

By skill level, 2010–2020

“Middle Skill Jobs State by State: New Jersey,” National Skills Coalition, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-New-Jersey-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf.

Conclusion

This report makes one thing clear: we must do more to help all students reach their full potential, in school and beyond. The time for change is now. As a state, we have a long tradition of innovation, excellence and a collective unwavering commitment to our kids. Let’s keep that tradition strong and commit to real reforms that grant all of our children access to the education they deserve.

There’s just one thing we still need in order to take swift and comprehensive action to improve our schools: you. We need you to explore and share this report, see that meaningful gains are possible and understand that our lingering gaps must be tackled head on. We hope you will join us in our deep belief that all kids can succeed, that great schools can be the agents of change, and that it’s within our reach for the kids of today.

endnotes