Decreasing the high school drop-out rate, by setting high expectations for each child and providing resources teachers to offer individual learning plans, is the goal of this successful program.

In 2008, Bergenfield school officials were concerned that the economic crisis was leading to students dropping out of high school. So in 2009, the school board decided to help all students reach higher, by establishing the objective that 80 percent of students would take at least one Advanced Placement course, and score a 3 or more on the AP exam.

The district worked to elevate instruction through the use of data; an infusion of Smartboards, increased Internet access and other technology; professional learning communities for educators, and partnerships with Rutgers and Seton Hall universities. These efforts made it possible for teachers to tailor learning precisely to individual student needs. The board also created a community of lifelong learners, by mapping a pathway to achieve what the community dreamed of. The result was astounding.

In 2010, Bergenfield High School was named the state’s “Most Improved High School,” by New Jersey Monthly magazine. The number of high school dropouts fell from 63, in 2008, to 0, in 2012. The number of AP courses offered rose from 10 in 2008 to 17 in 2012; and the percent of students scoring a 3 or more went from 52 percent, in 2008, to 71 percent in 2012. The four-year college attendance rate among Bergenfield graduates went from 52 students, in 2008, to 183 students in 2012.

Guidance counselors attribute the success to the paradigm shift which enables teachers to expect all students to elevate their content area knowledge. Success is spreading to other grades. For example, the ninth grade failure rate dropped, and the middle and elementary school assessment scores rose.

In short, instead of saying, “We can’t reach some students,” Bergenfield staff members ask, “How can we reach all students?”


Contact: James Fasano, Bergenfield High School principal,

Winner of the National School Boards Association’s Magna Awards