CENTRAL JERSEY: Five area high schools named among the tops in the state

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Princeton High School

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
Let there be no doubt about it — the five public high schools in The Princeton Packet coverage area are all top-notch and has each earned a spot in New Jersey Monthly’s bi-annual Top 100 High Schools.
The results, which were released in the magazine’s September issue, are based on revised criteria that included the number of students enrolled in visual and performing arts classes, as well as the percentage of students taking an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test.
New Jersey Monthly had considered test scores in the past, but the High School Proficiency Assessment is no longer used. School superintendents in several districts agreed that the newer PARCC test should not be used because student participation rates varied from district to district.
Nevertheless, the results were fairly consistent. There was some movement up and down in the rankings, but overall, four of the five high schools — Princeton High School, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South and Montgomery High School — stayed within the Top 100 high schools.
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North was named the second best high school in New Jersey, while West Windsor Plainsboro High School South placed ninth. High School North was ranked 23 in 2014 and High School South was ranked 35.
Montgomery High School earned a 12th-place ranking, up from 33 in 2014, and Princeton High School was ranked 15. It had been ranked 67 in 2014.
Lawrence High School cracked the Top 100 list, rising from 114 in 2014 to 87 this year.
At the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, Superintendent of Schools David Aderhold said that while the difference between being ranked second and ninth is nominal, “the big picture take-away is having two high schools in the Top 10 is remarkable.”
Consistent excellence does not happen overnight, Mr. Aderhold said. It takes years of honing the school system to achieve such accolades, he said, noting that the honors are a credit to the teachers, staff, parents and students.
Mr. Aderhold pointed out that “while one should always be skeptical of rankings,” Niche.com announced its 2016 ratings last month. The online site ranked the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District as the third best district in New Jersey and the 33rd best in the United States.
Montgomery Township Public School District’s superintendent of schools, Nancy Gartenberg, took a more measured view of the rankings, noting that “for as long as I have been a superintendent, which is 10 years, the criteria is always slightly different.”
“I am always cautious when an external entity rates the district,” Ms. Gartenberg said. “I see quite frequently in the media there are different entities rating the schools. At any time, you can be down or up in the ratings. It is not consistent. Entities fine-tune their metrics, and that’s the reason for the fluctuations.”
There is a correlation between a district’s wealth and student achievement, she said, adding that she is “not comfortable with that. There are many other districts worthy of attention and they should be measured by metrics other than by third-party entities.”
Princeton Public Schools’ Superintendent of Schools Stephen Cochrane said he was pleased that the methodology was revised to include more than test scores and participation in Advanced Placement courses. The criteria now includes the percentage of students taking at least one visual or performing arts class.
“We value balance in the intellectual lives of our students, and the increase in our ranking may reflect that,” Mr. Cochrane said. “Regardless, however, of any ranking, we are proud of our students, of their many pathways to success, and of the teachers who support them along the way.”
Crystal Edwards, the superintendent of schools for the Lawrence Township Public School District, said she was “ecstatic” that Lawrence High School had broken into the Top 100. She said she was proud of the high school students, staff and administrators for that achievement. She noted that Lawrence High School was ranked in the Top 100 in 2012.
“It is a testament to the high school staff’s hard work and dedication, as well as to all the Lawrence Township Public Schools educators who contributed to the achievement of Lawrence High School students along the way,” Ms. Edwards said. 