Any champion will tell you the toughest challenge is staying on top. But that’s just what Millburn High School managed to do in this year’s ranking of the state’s top public high schools. The Essex County school, which was number 1 in the New Jersey Monthly ranking in 2008, repeats as our high school champ in 2010.
In fact, the top of this year’s high school ranking is almost identical to the 2008 list, with McNair Academic of Jersey City and Tenafly High School repeating in the number 2 and number 3 spots, and Glen Ridge High School moving up one notch to number 4.
The Top High Schools list is based on data reported by the schools to the Department of Education for the 2008-2009 school year. Click here for an explanation of our methodology.
In addition to publishing the Top 100 Public High Schools in this section, we also have compiled the top 10 schools by District Factor Group, which ranks schools based on their socioeconomic peer group (click here to view the rankings by district factor group); and a list of the Top 10 Most Improved High Schools, based on our ranking. See the full rankings below.
What the rankings do not tell us is how the schools will fare after losing $820 million in direct state aid this year. Under Governor Chris Christie’s cuts, many of the state’s most successful school districts lost every penny of state cash assistance (although the state will pay for certain teacher benefits and the districts’ social security contributions).
That’s the case at Millburn High School, where aid was cut from $3 million for 2009-2010 to zero for the new school year. MHS principal William Miron says the cuts forced an approximate 7 percent reduction in his school’s budget. That has meant increasing some class sizes, eliminating some classes (five sections of Chinese instead of seven), merging a number of clubs, and cutting back sports schedules. Districtwide, about six administrative positions were eliminated, some through retirements; administrative responsibilities were spread among teachers through the creation of department-chair positions.
“We did a pretty good job of contracting without eliminating teaching positions,” Miron says.
A similar scenario is playing out at New Providence High School in Union County, which made a strong leap in the new ranking, moving from number 17 to number 5. The district’s state aid was cut from $1.48 million to zero. NPHS principal Paul Casarico reports that seven teaching and support positions were eliminated districtwide, including two and a half teaching positions at the high school. “Some of the opportunities that kids could take part in won’t be there this year,” Casarico says. At the high school, that means larger class sizes, fewer coaches (although no sports were dropped), and fewer clubs and activities.
Further down the rankings, Glassboro High School is also feeling the pain; its district lost $1.7 million, or 10 percent of its state funding. As a result, four and a third teaching positions were cut at the high school, and class sizes have grown, especially in electives like art and African-American history, says principal Santina S. Haldeman. Her school also cut several teams (cross-country, winter track, spring golf), the fall play, and an after-school weight-lifting program.
Glassboro, which has many students from low-income housing areas, has made good progress, moving from number 197 to number 188 in the rankings. (It is number 10 among its District Factor Group peers.) But Haldeman is concerned about hanging onto the gains. “I worry about what the future will bring,” she says. “I think this is just the beginning. I can’t imagine how it will be a year from now in terms of loss of teachers and programs.”
Click on the links below to read our Top High Schools rankings in the categories listed:
Click here to view the 2010 Top High Schools methodology