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Old 04-01-2012, 03:39 PM
 
Location: Glen Rock, NJ
667 posts, read 1,437,185 times
Reputation: 376

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MontclairJoe View Post
labcjo, that is *awesome*!!

I'm on a bit of a rampage about the quality of Montclair's schools these days, mainly because I've heard one too many disparaging remarks about its supposed "mediocre" (or worse) performance vis a vis the state's "best" schools---most of which are almost exclusively white and wealthy.

So, I went looking (at the NJ DOE web site) for data.

And what I discovered is that there’s a very good “hard data” case to be made that the teachers and the curricula in the Montclair school system are every bit as good as the schools that are widely perceived to be at the very top of the crop in NJ.

The analysis that leads to this conclusion hinges on what may at first blush appear to be an “un-PC” way of making the case: namely, by comparing the NJASK4, NJASK8, and HSPA11 test results from both school districts for only one demographic group: white students.

Why do I single out white students? Because in making disparaging remarks about the supposed ‘mediocrity’ of the Montclair school system, critics frequently cite Glen Ridge’s school system (or Millburn's, or Tenafly's) as the point of comparison, without acknowledging that that school system is almost uniformly populated with high-socio-economic-status (i.e., white) families, whereas in Montclair there is a large population of (very) low-SES families. In north Jersey, the demographic category “white” is a virtual (but by no means absolute) proxy for “high-SES.” So the only way to properly do an apples-to-apples comparison between Glen Ridge (or Millburn, or Tenafly) and Montclair is to isolate the performance data for the white kids in both systems.

And when you do that comparison, you find, lo and behold, that Montclair’s educational outcomes are on par with—and in the case of Glen Ridge, are consistently better than—those from the much-lauded, NJ-Monthly “Best” schools.

Here are the data in Google-doc spreadsheets, comparing Montclair with Glen Ridge, Millburn, and Tenafly (Sorry for the inactive links--you'll have to cut and paste. Apparently, I have to be around here for awhile before I'm allowed to embed live links):

Glen Ridge
bit.ly/GW6bt3

Millburn:
bit.ly/GYsiUb

Tenafly:
bit.ly/H10gZ9

I should point out that I believe that there is so much more to a school system than results of standardized tests. (Obviously! Just look at that great video that labcjo posted above!) But the point here is that, for the people who are most prone to worrying and complaining about the quality of their kids’ schools (and who are also the ones most likely to make disparaging comments in public about the school system)—namely, high-SES parents and taxpayers—there is solid data to suggest that their kids are getting as solid an education as their demographic peers in Glen Ridge, Millburn, Tenafly, and other widely-praised school systems.

Maybe, just maybe, if these folks see these data sets, they'll give the Montclair school system the respect it deserves and rally around the teachers and students in a more positive and constructive way.
I think most folks know the answer is somewhere around the middle. Montclair schools are not recognized as the best nor are they they the worst.
The issue with these 'hard facts' as you state is that the curriculum seems to only be helping the white kids at Montclair HS achieve while a heavy lower class % (mostly black/latino) in town struggle. That's not necessarily a good thing IMO. It's a catch-22, I get that, as I wouldn't want my children who are achieving to be held back in some way. I know it's not a simple answer. However, it does force a deeper issue into why isn't the entire school population dong well. It's a question that can't be ignored and one that many families have to take into account. I do see a HUGE opportunity for Montclair schools to improve overall in the years to come and show the state a better way to educate. But that can also swing the other way around.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:15 AM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greeneny View Post
MonclairJoe - Just wanted to say I really really appreciate the analysis as well as putting yourself out there by using the best-available proxy for socio-economic class. If only the DOE would provide data on that very meaningful metric, we wouldn't have to resort racial/ethnic demographics.

Awesome post.
Thanks, greeneny. By the way, I think it's at least arguable that students (of any color or ethnicity) in Montclair who aren't raised in high-SES families aren't getting the education they deserve in our town, so my next project is to tackle that data and make something approximating an apples-to-apples comparison to see how our less-well-off students (the category that is relevant in the NJ DOE school report card data is "economically disadvantaged"--it is supposed to encompass students who qualify for free or reduced-fee lunches) are doing in comparison to their counterparts in some school districts with similar percentages of "economically disadvantaged" students.
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Old 04-02-2012, 08:26 AM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lfsr1544 View Post
I think most folks know the answer is somewhere around the middle. Montclair schools are not recognized as the best nor are they they the worst.
The issue with these 'hard facts' as you state is that the curriculum seems to only be helping the white kids at Montclair HS achieve while a heavy lower class % (mostly black/latino) in town struggle. That's not necessarily a good thing IMO. It's a catch-22, I get that, as I wouldn't want my children who are achieving to be held back in some way. I know it's not a simple answer. However, it does force a deeper issue into why isn't the entire school population dong well. It's a question that can't be ignored and one that many families have to take into account. I do see a HUGE opportunity for Montclair schools to improve overall in the years to come and show the state a better way to educate. But that can also swing the other way around.

The question of "why" may lie outside of the school district's control. The thing that every study that tackles this question acknowledges is that parents' socioeconomic status correlates more strongly with educational outcomes than almost every other factor. Anyway, I'm going to look at the data for the students who are classified as "economically disadvantaged" and compare their outcomes to similarly-classified students in districts that have a comparable percentage of its students in that category. This will be a similarly 'apples-to-apples' comparison to the one I did above. I have no idea ahead of time what I'll discover. Will try to post the results within a week.
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Old 04-02-2012, 11:57 AM
 
Location: Glen Rock, NJ
667 posts, read 1,437,185 times
Reputation: 376
Quote:
Originally Posted by MontclairJoe View Post
The question of "why" may lie outside of the school district's control. The thing that every study that tackles this question acknowledges is that parents' socioeconomic status correlates more strongly with educational outcomes than almost every other factor. Anyway, I'm going to look at the data for the students who are classified as "economically disadvantaged" and compare their outcomes to similarly-classified students in districts that have a comparable percentage of its students in that category. This will be a similarly 'apples-to-apples' comparison to the one I did above. I have no idea ahead of time what I'll discover. Will try to post the results within a week.
I'll be interested to read your findings. The 'school district's control' is limited but still very powerful. When I look at school programs such as Harlem's Success Academies and see how they manage to progress and thrive in a community that years back was left for dead, I realize there's hope.
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:17 PM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
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Charter schools have much broader leeway in culling uncooperative or badly-behaved students from their ranks. Public schools / teachers / administrators don't have that luxury. If the relationship between public schools and charters worked in the opposite direction from the one in which it operates now, that is, if public schools could divert the recalcitrant and uncooperative students to a charter school, and the charter school was forced to find a way to deal with those students, then you can be sure that the educational outcomes would be mirror images of each other.
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Old 04-02-2012, 01:43 PM
 
Location: Glen Rock, NJ
667 posts, read 1,437,185 times
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But one can make an argument that many of these kids, now at the charter schools started with uncooperative, problem-kids and yet these charter programs took them in and had to start somewhere and expected more. Listen, I'm not here to advocate Public vs Charter, as there are plenty of failing Charter schools as well. I'm focusing on the reality that you can't have one with the other in Montclair. Meaning, while test scores for most white kids are on par with some top school districts based on your findings, you can not simply ignore that there is a huge % of it's population that is failing in it's schools goals and that to me is a problem. I know it's very difficult to find a true apples to apples comparison for Montclair as it's a diverse suburban community that has a ton of upside. My point is that while it's all deeply rooted in several layers of complex issues, some beyond what the school district can do, it would be wise for the district to reexamine their process and expect to do better for those underperforming students and in turn for the best for it's citizens. With those type of high taxes, I would expect better.
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Old 04-02-2012, 02:16 PM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
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Hmm. I don't think it's accurate to say that the Success Academies "started with uncooperative, problem kids." They're small enough that they could skim the kids with the most active and involved parents off the top of each relevant neighborhood's student-population. Even the narratives they tell about their successes hinge on this parental quality. Sure, there are some problem kids whose parents are involved and active in their lives, but most such parents have kids who will help Success Academy look more successful than they would be if they had to take (and retain) everyone, as public schools do.
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:00 PM
 
Location: Glen Rock, NJ
667 posts, read 1,437,185 times
Reputation: 376
I grew up in areas just like Harlem (Bushwick, Brooklyn). The heavy majority were uncooperative and problem makers at a very early age. Trust me, I recall getting choked pretty badly by some kid in 3rd grade quite vividly. Parental quality was close to zilch and so were many of my teachers. I had cousins on the other side of town with even more neglect. So even 'skimming' the top, you're not getting a great head start.
I'm just trying to be as candid about the situation. When folks are looking to buy and invest in a community it's best not to sugar coated. I've said time and time again that I think Montclair is a really good neighborhood. With previous urban living experiences, I feel it's got a great mix. But calling their schools top notch and starting to compare it to top tier public schools like Millburn and Glen Ridge is a bit of a stretch.

Last edited by lfsr1544; 04-02-2012 at 03:12 PM..
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:27 PM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
Reputation: 25
My wife was an educator in a high school in Brooklyn until very recently (having had about 12 years' experience there). She had students from Bushwick, East New York, Bed Stuy, and many other areas. There were definitely kids who caused problems in her classroom and others, but she's very clear about one thing: the top 20% of her high-school's students were motivated and hardworking. If a charter school were to take that 20% out of her former school, they'd have enough students to populate a whole new school, and it's pretty certain that that new school would look really good in comparison with the school those students left behind.
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Old 04-02-2012, 03:29 PM
 
9 posts, read 47,911 times
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And I'll stand by the implication of my analysis above: if you took the teachers and facilities from Montclair and plopped them down in Millburn and Tenafly and Glen Ridge, you'd likely get the same results in those communities that you see now, and if you did the same thing in the reverse direction, the teachers from Glen Ridge (or Tenafly or Millburn) would likely not improve Montclair's test-results or rankings.
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