NJ best school rankings: Time for reassessment: Editorial
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The U.S. News and World Report came out recently with its annual high school rankings, and, as usual, it was a mixed bag for Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Once again the Monmouth County Vocational career academies performed admirably, with High Technology High School in Middletown ranking No. 1 in the state. Three other Monmouth academies finished in the top 20 of the 407 high schools ranked by the magazine.
Non-academy high schools in Monmouth County fared less well. And those in Ocean County were largely mired in the middle of the pack, or worse, statewide. Educators there should take a serious look at why Ocean County public schools don't perform better in rankings — not only with U.S. News, but other organizations that rank schools, including the state Department of Education.
It should be conceded that rankings provide imperfect snapshots of the education being provided at any given school. The criteria are often different, and the weight given to each factor being measured can provide a distorted picture.
U.S. News puts a heavy emphasis on academic rigor, standardized test results and the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement classes and passing AP exams.
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The N.J. Department of Education rankings, instituted two years ago, offer a different picture, although the top schools are mostly the same as those identified in other commercial rankings. In addition to academic achievement, the state includes such factors as absenteeism, disciplinary actions, police calls, bullying incidents and staff experience.
In the U.S. News rankings, Monmouth non-academic high schools may suffer somewhat from the academies cherry picking some of their top students. Marlboro High School was the highest ranked in the state, 69th, and only two others finished in the top 100 — Rumson-Fair Haven (69) and Matawan-Aberdeen Regional (97).
Losing top students to academies would not appear to be a factor in Ocean County, which has only two. One of them, Ocean County's Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES), was ranked fifth in the state in the 2019 Niche rankings and 26th in the latest U.S. News rankings.
Other than MATES, only two Ocean County high schools placed in the top 100 U.S. News rankings — Point Pleasant High School (71) and Point Pleasant Beach (100).
In Monmouth County, about 10 were clustered between 100 and 150, and in Ocean County, the next highest-ranked high school after the two Point Pleasant schools was Pinelands Regional at 176. Most of the others were clustered in the high and low 200s.
Why the mediocre rankings? Any number of factors could
While the rankings are often dismissed by districts that feel they are an inaccurate measure of the education being offered in their schools, It's important that school administrators, school board members, teachers and interested parents seek to understand them. More importantly, it's important that they develop plans to improve areas in which they are underperforming.
Ocean County, in particular, was dragged down in the U.S. News rankings by its poor performance in "college
Monmouth and Ocean counties' educators need to take an in-depth look at what they can be doing to prepare students for life beyond high school.