Recent school ranking initiatives brought good news and we-could-do-better news to the residents of Highland Park.
Niche, a website that analyzes dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards, and profiles for K-12 Schools, Colleges, and Places to Live, gave the Highland Park School District an “A” Grade on a scale of A+ to D- and ranked it number 36 among all the 621 districts in New Jersey.
According to Highland Park Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor, “what makes the Niche ranking system unique is its attention to community review as well as quantitative performance data.” The ratings were based not only on the quality of the local schools, but also the crime rate, housing trends, employment statistics and access to amenities.
“I’m proud of this recognition, but won’t rest on any laurels. We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said the superintendent.
The other piece of news that came out last week was the NJ.com analysis of the schools in the state with the best SAT scores. Highland Park failed to make it into the top 51 districts. According to an NJ.com article on April 19, 2017, the average SAT score among New Jersey’s public high schools was a 1,075 out of 1,600 last school year, but plenty of schools posted significantly more impressive scores. Statewide, 19 high schools achieved an average score higher than 1,300, including five with an average score above 1,400, according to state data. Specialized schools with selective enrollment and run by county vocational districts once again dominate the list of highest average scores, taking home the top 12 spots. Here are the 51 New Jersey high schools with the highest SAT scores.
Dr. Taylor noted that the district’s “low-income population has exploded in the last several years with approximately 40 percent of our students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. These students likely cannot afford the same (SAT prep and tutoring) services their peers in the affluent communities on many rankings lists can provide. To make matters worse, our school district has been slow to provide the same rigor and opportunity for challenging programs to large swaths of students whose needs we’ve been slow to accommodate.”
The mayor took pride in the Niche ranking because the analysis looked comprehensively at the quality of life in the community. “It’s wonderful to be recognized for our excellent schools which are a reflection of the borough’s diversity and commitment of all our residents to high quality of life issues like schools, crime prevention, our housing stock, plus our unique location of only a half mile from the New Brunswick train station with easy walking access to shopping, eating, and neighborly get-togethers,” commented Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler.