CHATHAM, NJ - The most impressive part is that some of the methodology changed and Chatham High still ranked as the No. 1 public school in New Jersey, according to New Jersey Monthly magazine, which recently published its 2016 top 100 public high school rankings.
New Jersey Monthly uses Department of Education statistics to rate the top public schools in New Jersey every two years, selecting Chatham High as No. 1 in 2014 and again in 2016.
Chatham senior Kate Purschke adorns the cover of the magazine, which is on newsstands now. The online version of the magazine will be published on Sept. 1.
Following Chatham on the list of the 100 schools listed are: 2-West Windsor-Plainsboro North. 3-Kinnelon. 4-Millburn. 5-Haddonfield Memorial. 6-Livingston. 7-Holmdel. 8-Westfield. 9-West Windsor-Plainsboro South. 10-Glen Rock 11-Watchung Hills Regional. 12-Montgomery. 13-New Providence. 14-Basking Ridge. 15-Princeton. 16-Randolph. 17-Mountain Lakes. 18-Summit. 19-Gov. Livingston. 20-Park Ridge.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," Chatham High Principal Darren Groh said. "As I said before, we don't work at being No. 1, we work on what we're doing for the students and what we do as a school as a whole. That's really been our focus.
"The one thing I would say about this year's rankings is that they have added additional categories that I think that really encompasses a number of students in multiple areas. There is a lot of pride that goes into that as a principal that our kids are not only being successful academically, but they're also well-rounded in the course selection that they have each year."
According to New Jersey Monthly's Ken Schlager, "A new factor in the chart is student participation in visual and performing arts classes."
Chatham rated highly when it came to Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken as a percentage of the student population and in AP and IB student test scores.
"We have an open enrollment when it comes to AP testing," Groh said. "Even our students who are not necessarily recommended by their previous teacher for an AP course, but choose to take them, generally do very well."
In the AP, IB category, 97.2 percent of 11th and 12th graders at CHS took at least one AP or IB test, and 63.5 percent of high school students took at least one AP or IB class.
"Anybody who reads that thinks that 97 percent of our 11th an 12th graders take an AP test, that means all but nine kids, that's not it," Groh said. "They actually take the number of juniors and seniors who sit for at least one AP test. Then they take all other students who sit for an AP test. We have about 125 sophomores who take AP. They take all the kids who took the test and divided by the number of 11th and 12th graders. Everybody is ranked by that same measure. The calculation includes additional test takers from other grades, which makes it a higher percentage."
In relation to SAT testing, 74.4 percent of Chatham students scored 1550 or higher on the test.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that of all the students at CHS who take AP and IB tests, 91.3 percent score 3-plus in AP or 4-plus in IB.
Three or better in AP scores means those students fall into the range of "qualified, well qualified or extremely well qualified." Four or better in IB means that the students scores are "satisfactory, good, very good or excellent."
Other highlights for Chatham include the fact that 98 percent graduate high school and that 90 percent remain in four-year colleges 16 months after graduation from high school.
"We don't rest on our success, we're continually looking at changes in education and society and respond to that," Groh said. "It doesn't matter what category they pick now (for rankings), our kids do well in whatever they do.
"The kids have a lot of pride in what they do and they strive to be the best they can be. Our kids are not just working to do well academically, they're working to do well on the stage, they're working to do well athletically, they're working to do well at their job. It just really prepares them to be successful."