WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Aug. 19, NJ.com published its biannual report on Inside Jersey' s New Jersey's Top Performing High Schools. The ratings were based on a 'new' formula, which included a four year overview that compiled information from the New Jersey Department of Education High School Proficiency Assessment results in Math and Language Arts, and weighted SAT scores in a span ranging from 2008-2012.
After compiling the results, Inside Jersey claims to have come up with a formula that separates schools into A, B, C, and D categories. The article lists the descriptions for the grades in the following manner:
A - Above average scores, below average growth
B - Above average scores, above average growth
C - Below average scores, above average growth
D - Below average scores, below average growth.
West Orange High School received a "C", with scores indicating growth, jumping from 290.1 in 2008 to 310.9 (7.2 percent). The weighted SAT score was 1,449 and median home values were listed at $395,100. However, factors not taken into consideration to assess the rankings were those unique to each school, such as demographics and school sub-groups.
Interim Superintendent James O'Neill responded strongly to the article by saying:
“We are always disappointed when our students do not do as well as we hoped or thought they would do," O'Neill said. "We have been looking at every strategy that will help improve test scores. We actually think our students need more test-taking techniques, and we are looking at how to incorporate those skills into a high school student's educational experience on a daily basis. We are encouraged by the growth that has taken place, but we will not be satisfied until the scores more accurately reflect the ability of our students and the skills of our teaching staff. We will continue to look at the results of this ranking and other methodologies for ranking.
"However, I go on record as stating I do not believe any ranking system that simply looks at test results tell you about the culture, climate and dynamic nature of a high school experience that helps students become productive, contributing adults in our society," O'Neill said. "I don’t even believe that many of the tests we administer test the skills that will help a student be successful in the world beyond high school."
For the past two years, West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore along with his team at the high school, have been working diligently to set the new rotating drop schedule in place, starting on Sept. 9. Utilized by many of the 'top performing' high schools, the West Orange School district has also established rotating drop scheduling at its three middle schools as well. Edison already has block scheduling in place, and Liberty and Roosevelt will also be implementing it on Sept. 9.
Moore said, "You always need a starting point to assess where you are and where you need to go. It will take a lot of hard work, but we are going to get there and help our students believe in themselves so that they can achieve things they never thought possible." The primary focus of this school year, he continued, is "student achievement" and he outlined several steps and factors that the high school has implemented and will be addressing to achieve that goal:
1. The new rotating drop schedule. See a presentation by Assistant Principal Annette Dade here.
2. Continue to offer challenging curriculum, Honors and AP courses; continue the utilization of the teaching team and administrators at the high school as the district continues to work with the NJ State Department of Education regarding new state education requirements on testing, student proficiency and teacher evaluations.
3. Continue the implementation of the NCAA’s Academic Skills Achievement Program (ASAP) for all student athletes.
4. Set the tone for the high school's goal of increased academic achievement by transforming the Library Media Center into a "Hub of Learning" for all students.
Principal Moore, along with Assistant Principal, both stressed that 'student achievement' was comprised of not only academic achievement, but social and artistic achievement as well.
Board of Education President Michelle Casalino, who, along with the rest of the board unanimously voted to approve rotating drop scheduling at the middle and high schools, stated:
"It is very frustrating to view the rankings recently published by NJ.com because they do not reflect the numerous successes of our students at West Orange High School. However, the West Orange School Board is excited about the implementation of the Rotating Drop Schedule at West Orange High School as well as the Middle School Blocks in Liberty and Roosevelt Middle Schools. Both our administrators and teaching staff have been working diligently on these initiatives and we are confident that they will be successful in raising the academic excellence for all of our students at West Orange High School."