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Good News: New Jersey's Public Schools

New Jersey's public schools educate approximately 1.4 million children. Public education constitutes the largest single government-funded operation in our state.

However, too often we hear negative comments about public education, whether in the form of an off-hand remark or inaccurate information stated as fact.

It's time to set the record straight. Below are studies, research and facts about the strength of New Jersey's public schools. And the fact is New Jersey's public schools are among the best in the nation in so many benchmarks of success. Certainly, boards of education must continually strive to improve our schools, but, with our fellow New Jerseyans, we should also celebrate our success.

Sincerely yours,

John Bulina, President
New Jersey School Boards Association

  • Among the nation's best reading scores: New Jersey ranks among the best in the nation—tied for second—in the fourth-grade reading scores of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the "Nation's report card." In eighth-grade reading, New Jersey tied for fourth best in the nation. (Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress)

  • Leading the nation in writing scores: New Jersey eighth graders topped the nation in writing, according to results from the NAEP writing tests. (Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress)

  • Leading the nation in graduation rates: A national report from Education Week magazine, Diplomas Count 2011, found New Jersey’s graduation rate of nearly 87% led the nation, and exceeded the national graduation rate of 71.7%. (Source: Education Week).

  • Among the nation's best math scores: The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which compares test results among states, ranked New Jersey among the top five states in both fourth-grade and eighth-grade math scores. (Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress)
  • Highest rated: An annual publication ranks New Jersey schools first in the nation on 19 factors that measure quality of public education (Source: "Education State Rankings 2010-2011," CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly)

  • Quality Education: Nearly nine out of 10 parents say they are satisfied with their local public schools and more than half said they were "very satisfied," according to a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll, "Public Education in New Jersey: Good and Getting Better." (Source: Eagleton Institute of Politics)

  • College preparation: The number of New Jersey public school students taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course, which allows high school students to earn college credit, increased 88 percent from 2000 to 2009. New Jersey students' AP scores are also high, as New Jersey ranked third in the nation in the percentage of students (nearly 72%) who scored a grade 3 or higher, which qualifies for college credit. (Source: The College Board, National Report, Exams by State)

    A state-by-state report, "Measuring Up," gave New Jersey's public school system high marks as to how well it prepares students for college. New Jersey was one of only six states to receive an "A" in college preparation. (Source: National Center for Public Policy and Education)

  • Spending less on administration: New Jersey public schools are spending less on administration, ranking 38th in the nation in the percentage of its public school expenditures devoted to school administration. And, while the number of New Jesey teachers and students have grown about 30% since 1990, the number of school administrators has grown 1.8% in the same timefram. (Sources: National Center for Education Statistics and New Jersey Department of Education's Vital Education Statistics).

  • Safe schools, safe students: Schools continue to see a decrease in violent incidents, according to the report, "Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Schools." The most recent report shows that violence declined 5 percent, vandalism declined 11 percent, and weapons declined 14 percent from just the previous year. (Source: New Jersey State Department of Education)

  • The most recent New Jersey Student Health Survey found fewer students have smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, used drugs, had sex or carried weapons. (Source: New Jersey Department of Education)

    New Jersey's SAT scores in both verbal and math have been increasing. Average verbal scores (508) are the highest in years; average math scores (520) are the higest ever. (Source: The College Board, New Jersey State Profile)
  • Putting resources into the educational program: The ratio of pupils to teachers in New Jersey's public schools, 12.7 to 1, is significantly lower than the national average of nearly 16 to 1 and is among the four best states in the nation. (Source: U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics).

  • Closing the achievement gap: New Jersey ranks at or near the top in the nation for reducing the achievement gap between white and black elementary students in reading and math, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, a report by the Education Trust rated New Jersey as one of the top states in closing the achievement gap between low-income or minority students and their peers.

  • A leader in preschool: New Jersey leads the nation in the percentage of 3 and 4 year olds who are enrolled in preschool. (Source: Education Week)

The Big Picture The following information about schools nationwide provides helps to provide an accurate picture of public education today:

  • Weighing indicators of quality education—the dropout rate, number of students taking high-level courses, and pupils' scores in science, math, and college admissions tests—students today have made substantial progress since the early 1980s.(Source: Do You Know the Good News About American Education?, Center for Education Policy and American Youth Policy Forum).

  • School violence in public schools has decreased dramatically during the past decade, with thefts and the violent crime rate in schools dropping by approximately half, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education. (Source: Indicators of School Crime and Safety)

  • The 2008 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools finds a continued support of local public schools, with 72% of parents giving a grade of A or B to the school their own child attends—the highest rate in 15 years. (Source: Phi Delta Kappan). Moreover, parents are far more likely to say local school boards—not the state or federal governments—should determine what is taught in the classroom.

  • A Family Life Magazine survey found that, even though parents have concerns about American schools overall, they believe by resounding margins that their local public schools are very good.
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