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High-School Graduation Rates, Test Scores on Upswing in NJ

Annual report shows big achievement gaps remain for minority students

The annual report on New Jersey public-school test scores and graduation rates brought mostly good news yesterday, with the 2011-2012 numbers up overall for high schools, less so for the lower grades, and all with the expected cautions and caveats.

It’s hard to draw a single conclusion from dozens of different grade-by-grade statistics released by the state each year, but much of the focus in the Christie administration’s presentation to the state Board of Education was on high-school graduation rates.

This was the second year of new methodology intended to more accurately track how many students entering high school actually graduated.

And, for all the worry that the change would send New Jersey’s historically highest-in-the-nation ranking plummeting, the state overall fared pretty well in posting a new graduation rate of about 86 percent for the Class of 2012, up from 83 percent in 2011.

That’s still down from graduation rates that have topped 90 percent in the past, and New Jersey no longer remains the nation’s highest among the 40-plus states that have moved to the new federally-mandated method for tracking graduates.

But it still kept the state at the high end with other comparable states in the Northeast, including New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, officials said.

Within the totals were some especially bright spots. Three-quarters of students with disabilities graduated within four years, the fourth-highest rate in the country, and three of the state’s most troubled districts – Newark, Trenton and Paterson – each saw gains as well. Newark’s graduation rate rose from 61 percent to almost 69 percent.

In addition, the state started tracking five-year graduation rates, with the five-year rate for the Class of 2011 rising from 83 percent to 86 percent one year later.

To continue reading this article and for an interactive map, please go to NJ Spotlight.

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