Livingston BOE Discusses School Report Card

LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Livingston Board of Education discussed the "Livingston Report Card" at Monday evening's meeting.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Oates presented a comparison of Livingston High School’s (LHS) rankings with other schools in New Jersey and across the nation, as compiled by national publications, such as: the Washington Post, U.S. World News & Report and Newsweek. The state report card released by the New Jersey Department of Education places a heavy emphasis on the growth of Advanced Placement (AP) and the taking of AP tests. In turn, the state report card is often used as a metric to determine a school’s place in state and national rankings.

“It’s important to keep in mind that different publications might use different metrics to determine their scores,” Oates said. “That’s why the [LHS ranking] might vary according to who is doing the ranking.”

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According to Oates, LHS has seen tremendous growth in multiple areas of AP testing over the previous five-year period (2009-2013). The total number of students taking AP classes has increased by 65 percent, while the number of students taking AP exams has increased by 63.5 percent.The number of students who have scored at least a “3” or higher on at least one of their exams has increased by 72 percent.

The Washington Post methodology divides the number of graduating seniors in a class by the number of AP, International Baccalaureate and other college level tests to determine a school’s score. By that metric, LHS ranked 18th in New Jersey and 793rd in the country. Both rankings were substantial improvements from one year ago.

The rankings for Newsweek incorporated several measures, such as: graduation rate, college matriculation and the number of AP/IB tests taken per student, among other measures to determine a ranking. LHS ranked 9th in New Jersey.

U.S. World News & Report compiled its rankings based on how high schools compared to other schools within their own state in certain measures. Those measures included whether a school performed better than expected in state accountability measures, whether a school performed better than expected for the school’s least advantaged students and whether a school exceeded expectations in providing access to challenging college-level coursework. After ranking 401st last year, LHS was not ranked this year.

“We contacted [USWNR] and we couldn’t get much solid information on why we dropped. If people are interested, we can certainly pursue that again,” Oates said.

Oates also noted that in an effort to level the playing field between small schools and large schools, the New Jersey DOE has started constructing its school report card focusing on a core of only 10 courses: English language, English literature, Calculus, Calculus BC, Biology, Chemistry, Physics B, European history, U.S. history and U.S. Government and Politics.

As Physics B is the only AP science course evaluated by the state, Livingston’s numerous other science courses carry no weight in the report card. LHS currently has over 100 students in various science courses including the popular AP environmental science course.

“We know that some of our peer districts have contracted some of their AP science offerings because they don’t help in the rankings. We have to strike a balance between striving for recognition and offering our students choices,” Oates said.

Board member Leslie Winograd echoed those sentiments, saying “Chasing rankings is not palatable to me. Rankings are certainly a matter of pride, but more important is the depth and breadth of what we teach.”

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