Just in time for back-to-school, we present our 2012 list of the best public high schools in New Jersey.
For the first time since 2008, a new number 1 tops the New Jersey Monthly list of the state’s Top 100 Public High Schools. New Providence High School in Union County ascends to the summit of the rankings, up from number 5 on the previous list (published in September 2010). In fact, a number of high schools make significant moves up—or down—the list, which is based on data reported by the schools to the Department of Education for the 2010-2011 school year. (Click here for a complete explanation of our methodology)
Some of the biggest moves are fueled in part by New Jersey’s use of a new graduation-rate calculation. In the past, our rankings distinguished between students going on to four-year colleges, two-year colleges and other postsecondary schools. The data for students going to four-year colleges was given extra weight, making it a potent driver of the results. This year’s rankings use the new four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, introduced by New Jersey in 2011, as mandated by the federal government.
New Jersey Monthly made two other changes in compiling this year’s rankings: Because personal computers have become widespread among the high-school population, we eliminated student/computer ratio as a factor. More significantly, we increased the weighting for data on test results and the aforementioned graduation-rate calculation. The change in weighting is intended to emphasize the importance of student results at a time of budget cutting, when even the best schools must learn to do more with fewer resources.
In addition to publishing the Top 100 Public High Schools, we have compiled the top 10 schools by District Factor Group, which classifies schools based on their socioeconomic peer group. We also created a list of the top 20 most improved high schools (based on our overall rankings. And for the first time, we have ranked the state’s top 35 vocational schools. For a complete ranking of 328 public high schools, visit njmonthly.com/topschools.
So how did New Providence do it? The state’s new top-ranked school has climbed steadily up the New Jersey Monthly chart in recent years; it placed at number 26 in 2006 and rose to 17 in 2008 before breaking into the top 10 two years ago.
The school’s average class size is down sharply since the 2010 rankings, and its math scores in the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) have improved significantly. This at a time of state budget cuts and local belt-tightening.
Paul Casarico, who starts his sixth year as principal at New Providence this fall, acknowledges that it was tough adjusting to Governor Chris Christie’s cuts in school aid, which began in 2010, but he also sees a bright side. “It was an unfortunate thing,” he says, “but it made us look at everything we do as a school and really prioritize.”
More than 500 districts were affected by Christie’s $989 million in cuts; 100 districts, mainly affluent communities like New Providence, lost all their state aid for the 2010-2011 school year.
However, as the Christie administration has worked toward improving New Jersey’s fiscal situation, the amount of state aid for schools has increased. Christie restored $839 million in aid to districts in his 2011-2012 budget. (New Providence received $645,220 in state aid in 2011-2012, less than half the $1.48 million that had been cut the previous year, according to the Department of Education website.) In Christie’s proposed budget for 2012-2013, schools get an additional boost of about $136 million.
In adapting to the new economic reality, New Providence eliminated a few teaching positions, but Casarico says other teachers were redeployed within the district to minimize the effects of the cuts. “We worked with the middle school and the elementary schools to best utilize our staff so we didn’t have balloon enrollments of up to 29 or 30 in a classroom,” Casarico says.
Further cuts were made “around the periphery,” Casarico says. For example, “if a team had four coaches, we went down to three.” Adds district superintendent David Miceli, “We went at it with a scalpel and took little pieces from here and there. The goal was to maintain the culture of the district”—which aims to provide as many opportunities for students as possible.
Both men also credit the community and the board of education for rallying behind the schools. “People are very supportive,” Casarico says. “They expect a lot out of the schools. When kids come in, they are pretty much ready, and it’s just up to our teachers to take them to the next level.”
A number of high schools make notable jumps into the top 10, led by Glen Rock, which moves from number 28 in 2010 to number 4 this year. Also leaping toward the top are Kinnelon (21-5), Madison (15-6) and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional (31-10).
The top-10 perennials holding strong include McNair Academic, a Jersey City magnet school that topped the chart in 2006 and continues to deliver impressive results, holding at number 2. Tenafly remains at number 3, while Mountain Lakes moves up two positions to number 7 and Ridge (serving Bernards Township) climbs three rungs to number 9.
Losing its perch at the top is Millburn High School, which had been number 1 in our 2008 and 2010 rankings. Millburn’s overall score was mainly affected by an increase in average class size from 19.1 to 21.3 in the new data. The school’s HSPA results in both math and language actually improved since two years ago; it also had one of the highest adjusted cohort rates—meaning Millburn students continue to excel.
William Miron, principal of Millburn High School, acknowledges that, like most school leaders, he had to ask some tough questions following the cuts in state aid. Increasing class size was one of his answers. “We used to say that 25 would be our maximum,” Miron says. “Now we’ve eased up on that.” That means teachers considered capable of handling larger classes might get more than 25 students. But Miron points out that less-advanced students are placed in smaller classes, where they can receive greater personalized attention.
Correction: Due to incorrect data on class size recorded by the Department of Education, the ranking for Jefferson Township High School is incorrect. The school should be ranked in a tie at number 167. The original ranking has it at 211.
Budget Cuts and Teachers
Although the comments from Principal Casarico and Superintendent Miceli of New Providence are true, they neglect to mention the fact that the teachers opened their contracts and had their salary increments frozen for two years. Those two steps on the guide will never be recovered by the teachers. This amounts to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars for EACH teacher (depending on the years they remain employed). The teachers gave back several hundred thousand dollars in the short term, and will continue to lose in the long run. These salary cuts make it less likely that teachers can afford to live in a "top-rated" district.
Posted by: A. Teacher, New Providence | Aug 20, 2012 21:25:35 PM |
Budget Cuts and Teachers
The article the administrators were commenting on was NOT ABOUT contract negotiations with the teachers, so why would they mention that? Although it is unfortunate that the resources don’t exist to pay everyone what they think they deserve, please keep in mind that you are not beholden to your job in NP, and are free to seek employment anywhere where you feel you would be better compensated. So far the state hasn’t taken that right away.
Posted by: A Resident, New Providence | Aug 21, 2012 13:21:16 PM |
Here’s one analysis of the methodology:
These rankings are no more useful than judging a teacher by a student’s performance on a particular standardized test; there’s just so much more than really warrants consideration.
Posted by: Not A Resident of New Providence, Raritan, NJ | Aug 21, 2012 17:03:14 PM |
Budget Cuts and Teachers
The New Providence resident’s claim that the article "was NOT ABOUT contract negotiations with the teachers" misses the point. One focus of article WAS about how NP made due with the governor’s budget cuts. It was NOT a "scalpel" as Dr. Miceli states. It was a gaping wound that was allowed by the teachers in order to help the community. The point is that some credit should have been given to the teachers for their actions during the crisis.
Posted by: A. Teacher, New Providence | Aug 21, 2012 19:07:55 PM |
How about the top special education schools for autistic & handicapped for us struggling with special needs children in north NJ?
Posted by: Helen, Hopatcong | Aug 21, 2012 22:21:04 PM |
Re: Budget Cuts and Teachers
With a child in High School as well as one in Elementary School in New Providence, I do want to acknowledge the role played by the NPSD teachers in this achievement. This is less about money, although these days everything comes down to that and in that connection I am aware of at least some classes where teachers routinely pay for additional classroom supplies out of their own pockets. The teachers are a big part of what makes New Providence schools special.
Posted by: B. Resident, New Providence | Aug 22, 2012 19:06:04 PM |
Methodology and validity of ranking results
For any high school ranking to be credible, the relative rankings that the methodology produces should make intuitive sense and be consistent with various real world measures of student academic success after graduating from high school. For example, while both are excellent schools, how can one justify Millburn having a lower ranking than Kinnelon? In every category of academic and test performance scoring, Millburn has significantly higher scores (for example, Millburn’s average combined SAT scores are almost 200 points higher!). What good is a hypothetical ranking of high schools if the resulting ranking shows little or no correlation with (or even negative correlation with) the real world academic successes of the students graduating from those schools. For example, with superior across the board test results, I would be willing to wager that Millburn will have a higher % of its students being accepted to the top 100 most selective colleges and universities than many of the other schools that are ranked higher than it in this NJ Monthly ranking. The real question is "How well a school is educating its students?"--regardless of the student-faculty ratio or other resources. Should a school be penalized because of a low faculty to student ratio even though it manages to still do a better job teaching its students even with less resources (especially when the academic results are evidenced by a range of standardized test scores)? I would ask a panel of college admissions officers what they think of the NJ Monthly rankings. My guess is that based on the same raw data, they would come up with a very different ranking. Incidentally, the year-to-year volatility of ranking changes in the NJ Monthly list is a red flag pointing to potential faults in study design. Specifically, I would check to see if the ranking is overly sensitive to small changes in any of the explanatory input variables. For example, if a half of one percent change in a school’s graduation rate has more impact on the final ranking than a 50-point change in the school’s average combined SAT score, I would question the relative weighting of the graduation variable and its calibration in the ranking formula. I would also highly recommend that NJ Monthly engage an experienced statistician to assess the rigor of the ranking methodology.
Posted by: Ridgewood resident, Ridgewood | Aug 23, 2012 04:58:21 AM |
My Own Rankings
With the power of Excel, I have made my own high school rankings..I’m only posting the Top 50 for now but if people wanna see more, let me know!
Let me know if you think these are more accurate..
My methodology is simple. I just added HSPA Advanced/Math and HSPA Advanced/Language together for all the schools.
#1: McNair Academic [Jersey City] (129.3)
#2: Haddonfield Memorial (128.3)
#3: Millburn (120.6)
#4: Princeton (119.9)
#5: West Windsor-Plainsboro South (114.6)
#6: West Morris Mendham (108.6)
#7: Chatham (108.5)
#8: West Windsor Plainsboro North (108.4)
#9: North Valley Regional (Demarest) (105.1)
#10: Montgomery (104.7)
#11: New Providence (103.5)
#12: Rumson-Fair Haven (102)
#13: Westfield (101)
#14: Tenafly (100.9)
#15: Ridge (Bernards Township) (99.2)
#16: Ridgewood (97)
#17: J.P. Stevens (Edison) (96.5)
#18: Livingston (94.7)
#19: North Hunterdon Regional (93.6)
#20: Glen Ridge (93.5)
#21: Cherry Hill East (91.4)
#22: Governor Livingston (Berkeley Heights) (89.6)
#23: Bernards (88.6)
#24: Pascack Hills (Montvale) (88.5)
#25: Madison (88.2)
#26: Cresskill (87.9)
#27: Moorestown (87.7)
#28: Marlboro (86.5)
#29: Northern Highlands Regional (Allendale) (85.5)
#30: Northern Valley Regional (Old Tappan) (85.2)
#31: Holmdel (84.4)
#32: Cranford (84.3)
#33: Hopewell Valley Regional (Pennington) (84)
#34: Science Park (Newark) (83.9)
#35: Metuchen (83.4)
#35: Colts Neck (83.4)
#37: Ramsey (83.3)
#38: Mountain Lakes (82.6)
#39: Summit (82.4)
#39: Randolph (82.4)
#41: Ramapo (82.1)
#41: Bridgewater-Raritan (82.1)
#43: Kinnelon (79.2)
#44: Indian Hills (78.6)
#45: Highland Park (77.7)
#46: Mahwah (77.3)
#47: West Morris Central (Chester) (77.1)
#48: Watchung Hills Regional (Warren) (76.9)
#49: Wayne Hills (75.8)
#49: Glen Rock (75.8)
Posted by: David , Princeton, NJ | Aug 24, 2012 16:04:06 PM |
the rankings seem too random and volatile
The preceding post by the Ridgewood Resident gives very articulated reasons on why you should take a further look if the methodology you used was flawed. Take West Windsor-Plainsboro South and North for example. They were in the same school district. While the North is down slightly from 29 to 32, the South is down to 62 from 16 even it has the highest SAT score among all NJ high schools. Look at the raw numbers, you will see the South has slightly better “student outcome” and “student performance” than the North but had "worse school environment": higher faculty-to-student ratio and class size. Their resources were managed by the same school board. The WWP South seems be penalized by its own success.
Posted by: frank, cranbury | Aug 23, 2012 06:38:55 AM |
New Providence Budget Cuts
I worked at New Providence for 14 years. To be precise, teachers in the New Providence School District overwhelmingly voted to give back the taxpayers of New Providence $500,000. We opened our contracts and lost significant raises across our salary guide for teachers and other staff. That money will never be recouped. It was not easy but the right thing to do at the time. What the Principal and Superintendent stated, regarding budget cuts, was true, but a significant reason why the school has been able to be fiscally sound during these tumultuous times is the New Providence Education Association (the teacher’s union)choice to open their contracts and give back to the great district where we work. I do believe the general public benefits knowing this information considering the, at times, unfair criticism unions receive. The NPEA’s decision to open their contracts is an example of how unions and boards of education CAN work together to solve problems. It is a model for how to work together in our increasingly polarized and overly ideological society.
Posted by: Michael, Bernardsville | Aug 23, 2012 12:29:02 PM |
Once again we are using limited criteria to evaluate the success of our schools. The number no one wants to talk about is the success rate post high school. By the second semester of college, too high a percentage of students have dropped out. While you can attribute a certain number of these failures to immaturity and self management issues, some of them are due to our secondary schools not providing their students with the tools they need to succeed, such as study skills and financial management skills.
To evaluate our high schools success without factoring in these numbers is simply letting them off the hook. We are sending ill prepared students out into the world, and a good number of them are failing.
Posted by: David Sinderbrand, Wayne | Aug 27, 2012 14:43:49 PM |
Didn’t they issue an apology for the error in their 2010 publication which ranked Princeton at #44? I am very confused! I just read that Princeton ranked top 10 in NEW JERSEY and #196 nationwide on May 9th according to US News. I’m not sure what criteria was used in order to compile this list but I will question its accuracy and validity!
Posted by: Elizabeth, Princeton | Aug 28, 2012 02:57:59 AM |
U.S. News ranked Princeton TOP 10 in NJ; 196 nationwide
Posted by: Elizabeth, Princeton NJ | Aug 28, 2012 03:11:37 AM |
I am always entertained by the posts that come out after these rankings are published. Absolute denial from the same towns each year who think their schools should rank higher. I understand that many of you pay alot for your homes and very high taxes, but the proof is in the pudding its not just about a town’s reputation an elitist view. You have to look at the facts, this study uses very reliable and fair metrics for scoring.
Posted by: J. Harmon, Washington Crossing, PA | Aug 28, 2012 13:39:10 PM |
NO DENIAL HERE
Yes, property/school taxes are high in the Princeton and our schools are WORTH EVERY PENNY!! No denial here... we know our schools are great and this (flawed) list certainly does not define our school system. I’m going w David’s list, hahah... and am likewise entertained by the idea that PA is chiming in on "New Jersey" High Schools!!
Posted by: June, Princeton NJ | Aug 28, 2012 17:33:48 PM |
Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again
Posted by: Cheap Los Angeles Kings Jerseys, http://www.nhljerseyscity.com/ | Sep 08, 2012 06:11:15 AM |
"Some of the biggest moves are fueled in part by New Jersey’s use of a new graduation-rate calculation. In the past, our rankings distinguished between students going on to four-year colleges, two-year colleges and other postsecondary schools. The data for students going to four-year colleges was given extra weight, making it a potent driver of the results. This year’s rankings use the new four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, introduced by New Jersey in 2011, as mandated by the federal government."
This paragraph makes no sense. It explains how they weighted COLLEGE choices in the past, then describes the federally mandated four-year cohort graduation rate change, which refers to HIGH SCHOOL graduation rates and has nothing to do with the percent of students going to college. The author clearly doesn’t understand the methodology. If you click on the methodology, it gives no information about about four year colleges, two year colleges, or any colleges at all. NJ Monthly editors? Are you there? Clarify, please.
Posted by: Frank, Raritan | Sep 08, 2012 16:00:50 PM |
Here is a list of selected places for reference only, that I compiled.It uses HSPA, Class Size and the weighted graduation rates.
9. New Providence
Posted by: Rick, Hillsborough | Sep 09, 2012 06:09:50 AM |
Please tell me the ranking of Fair Lawn, NJ we have a lot of special education students bused to our schools.
Posted by: JOHANNA L WEINBERG, Glen Ridge now Fair Lawn | Sep 10, 2012 11:32:19 AM |
No More Princeton
"This year’s rankings use the new four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate". Now i know why Montgomery is "pulled" (not dropped!) from top 10 to 60s. Should I be happier if my kid go to a community college and save me a lot of money to pay his rent later?
Posted by: NoMorePrinceton, Montgomery | Sep 10, 2012 15:39:58 PM |
Flawed Rankings. What a shame.
This list is definitely flawed. West Windsor-Plainsboro High school South was recently ranked number 1 by another news magazine. If you all take a look at the numbers, you will notice that West Windsor-Plainsboor high school South has the highest SAT scores in the state and ranks in the top 5 for number of AP classes offered, percent of students passing AP exams, graduation rate, HSPA passing rate, and HSPA advance proficient rate.
The only issue is the class size which is only marginally higher than some of the other schools. What this says is West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South is more efficient in producing results. Just because you have a small class, does not mean your quality of education is better. The teachers at WWP South are top notch and almost always stay after school to help their students. I know students from schools that are ranked higher because of smaller class sizes and these students often complain about how incompetent their instructors are and how ridiculously easy the classes are. It’s no surprise their AP passing rates and participation rates are so low compared to schools like Princeton, West Windsor, and Montgomery. Schools should be ranked more so on results, than on class size.
Posted by: Ryan Jones, West Windsor | Sep 13, 2012 15:09:11 PM |
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
In a new ranking of New Jersey high schools by The Star-Ledger, Princeton High School is one of only two open-enrollment schools in the top 15. With the exception of PHS and Haddonfield Memorial, all of the other top schools listed are magnet schools with selective admissions policies.
Posted by: Elizabeth, Princeton NJ | Sep 15, 2012 06:01:53 AM |
academic performance means no much
By comparing #4 Glen Rock with #59 Princeton, #61 Montgomery, #62 West Windsor on ANY academic performance related data like English/Math/SAT/AP, Glen Rock is well off than the others. It seems that smaller class with high teacher/student ratio means more than anything else. Is this ranking sponsored by the teacher union?
Posted by: New Jersey, New Jersey | Sep 18, 2012 18:09:29 PM |
There are three kinds of untruths: lies, G** D***** lies, and statistics. For starters, are your averages a median (50th percentile) or a raw arithmetic mean. The median SAT is a better gauge of how well ALL the students are testing. The median class size is more useful than the mean, which can be skewed downward by a few electives with a small class.Second: the percentage of students in AP classes is more useful than a plain count of the courses. More about class size. A school system that responds to budget cuts by increasing gym class sizes will suffer more than one that eliminates some elective classes entirely.
Posted by: Paul Kopelman, Wayne, NJ | Oct 01, 2012 23:37:47 PM |
I saw the article at the newstand in the supermarket, came home and searched for it online. I no longer have children in the school system, however I have a niece who is currently in the public school system and granddaughter that will be entering the school system in a few years. This is a well needed report that every parent in NJ. Thank you
Posted by: Allena E. Ross, Plainfield | Oct 24, 2012 22:45:10 PM |