WEST ESSEX REGION, NJ – After being ranked at No. 52 in 2014, up from No. 46 in 2012, James Caldwell High School jumped to No. 34 when “New Jersey Monthly” magazine published its bi-annual “Top 100 Public High Schools” ranking this week. On the other hand, West Essex High School, ranked at No. 25 in 2014 and No. 16 in 2012, fell to No. 55 in 2016.

The online version of the magazine will be published on Sept. 1. The printed version is available on newsstands now.

This year, Livingston High School, up from No. 16 to No. 6, and Millburn High School, up from No. 5 to No. 4, were once again the only two Essex County high schools to be ranked in the Top 20.

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Using Department of Education statistics to rate the top public schools in New Jersey every two years, “New Jersey Monthly” selected Chatham High School as No. 1 in 2014 and again in 2016. Following Chatham on the list of the 100 schools listed were West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North at No. 2 and Kinnelon at No. 3, which jumped from No. 23 and No. 20, respectively.

The remainder of the Top 10 schools included Holmdel at No. 7, Westfield at No. 8, West Windsor-Plainsboro South at No. 9 and Glen Rock at No. 10.

A follow-up story with comments from district representatives and current statistics will be published after the online version of the 2016 list becomes available.

According to Ken Schlager of New Jersey Monthly, "a new factor in the chart is student participation in visual and performing arts classes," which could explain why some high schools jumped so far up the list this year.

Other changes this year included replacing HSPA test results with PARCC tests in 2015. However, after consulting with superintendents in the area, NJ Monthly chose not to use data from PARCC test scores from 2016 because the conclusion stated that “the PARCC data is not yet a reliable metric, since student participation rates varied wildly among districts.”

“Despite these changes, the chart is largely consistent with the 2014 results,” Schlager wrote. “The fastest-rising high schools in the Top 100 this year are Secaucus, which jumps 63 places from 155 to 92; Princeton, up from 67 to 15; Roxbury, up from 102 to 52; and Rutherford, up from 124 to 74.”

In relation to SAT testing, nearly 60 percent of James Caldwell students and 51 percent of West Essex students scored 1550 or higher on the test in 2014. 

Approximately 91.4 percent of all the students at JCHS and 84.3 percent of WEHS students who take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests scored 3-plus in AP or 4-plus in IB, according to the 2014 ranking.

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 JCHS in 2014 included a 96-percent graduation rate and the fact that nearly 85 percent of students remain enrolled in four-year colleges 16 months after graduation from high school. The graduation rate for WEHS was 98 percent in 2014, with the percentage of students remaining enrolled in four-year colleges 16 months after graduation at 88 percent.

Schlager said that this year’s Top 100 High Schools chart is dominated by suburban schools, which he also said was synonymous with previous years. In fact, seven New Jersey counties, including Morris, Mercer, Essex, Camden, Monmouth, Union and Bergen Counties are represented in the Top 10. 

"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,” said Chatham High Principal Darren Groh. “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."