Not As Good As You Think: Why Middle-Class Parents in New Jersey Should be Concerned About Their Local Public Schools

Many middle-class New Jersey residents think that most low-performing schools are located in poor inner cities such as Newark, not in their nice neighborhoods or in their smaller towns. They need to think again. Based on a variety of indicators, many New Jersey public schools with predominantly non-low income/middle class student populations are not as good as people think. Among the 114 predominantly non-low-income high schools in New Jersey, which met the state target of 80 percent or more of the seniors taking the SAT, 28 percent, or nearly 3 in 10, had half or more of their SAT-takers fail to score at or above the college readiness benchmark score of 1550.  The study used 2014 SAT testing data.

At the lower grade levels, many students also failed to perform at the target proficient level.  Based on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the nation’s report card, the study reveals the following:  On the 2015 NAEP fourth-grade reading test, 43 percent of non-low income New Jersey test takers failed to score at proficient level. On the NAEP fourth-grade math test, 38 percent of non-low income New Jersey students failed to score at the proficient level. On the 2015 NAEP eighth-grade reading exam, 49 percent of non-low income New Jersey test takers failed to score at the proficiency level. On the NAEP eighth-grade math exam, 42 percent of non-low income New Jersey test-takers failed to score at the proficient level. New Jersey lawmakers should consider school-choice options suchas education savings accounts and tax-credit programs, which have been enacted in other states.

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