The Jersey City school system has been state-operated since 1989, but according to the recently released school report cards, the district’s per-pupil costs are still above the state average, and high school graduation rates declined.
Jersey City received on Wednesday its school district report card for the 2007-2008 school year from the state’s Department of Education. It presents 35 areas of information on test scores and salaries for each school, as well as district-wide.
Jersey City currently has 38 schools including six high schools, five middle schools, one special-education school, and 26 elementary schools. The district contains 27,986 students and 3,312 teachers, which comes out to an 8.4 to 1 student-teacher ratio, better than the 10.5 to 1 state average.
The district is known for having one of the top ranking high schools in the country in the magnet school known as McNair Academic High School on Coles Street. However, the other five high schools generally perform below state averages.
The school system was taken over by the state Department of Education in 1989 because it failed to meet state standards in such categories such as student performance on state standardized tests and school attendance. The district has been steadily coming out of that designation since then.
The district receives a majority of funding for its current $627.4 million budget from state aid rather than through the city.
One of the facts that the report card pointed out was that during the 2007-2008 school year, the cost per pupil was $16,124, while the state average was $14,359.
Also, the average administrator in the Jersey City school system earned $121,882, about $10,000 more than the state average of $111,311. Teachers’ average salary was $53,930, a few thousand dollars less than the state median of $57,242.
Last year, the district graduated 74 percent of its senior year students, which is lower compared to the 2006-2007 school year, in which 78.1 percent graduated from high school.
Testing more stringent
New Jersey students take state standardized tests in March called NJASK (New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) in grades 3-8 in mathematics and language arts.
In grade eight, they also take the GEPA Science Exam. They take the HSPA in grade 11 in order to graduate from high school.
There were mixed results for Jersey City students taking the tests in March of 2008.
Students taking the language arts test for grades 5, 6 and 7 did much worse than the year before.
31.9 percent of fifth-graders tested proficient (or passing), a 40-point drop from the year before. 29.6 percent of sixth-graders passed, a 20-point drop while 47.1 percent of seventh-graders passed, which was a 10-point drop.
Showing marked improvement were fourth-graders taking the language arts exam, with 68.4 percent tested proficient in language arts, up 6 points from the year before. Also, 59.8 percent of eighth-graders in language arts were proficient, an 8-point hike. In the science exam, 63.6 percent were proficient, a 7-point upswing.
But the larger reality is the percentage of Jersey City students in all grades tested found to be proficient still fell below the state average.
Michael Littlejohn, the director of testing for the Jersey City school district, said while the school district has “decreased the achievement gap” when it comes to the state exams in the past five years, they still need to restructure schools who have done poorly in testing and bring in “coaches.”