Administration Disappointed by High School’s 'D' Ranking, Calls Criteria 'Ludicrous'
Monday, August 26, 2013 • 4:00am
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – After a large statewide newspaper published grades for each of the state’s high schools and gave South Plainfield High School a “D,” school administrators and board members criticized the ratings at last week’s Board of Education meeting, calling the grading criteria “ludicrous.”
“To grade anything on two bullet points is ludicrous,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Genco. “To say I’m a little bit annoyed is an understatement.”
The ratings were compiled using data from the New Jersey Department of Education and primarily relied on High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) scores and SAT scores. Whether test scores improved also played a role in the grades. Schools were given the same grades children receive in their classes – A, B, C, or D.
In criticizing the method the study used to determine the grades, Genco said that SAT scores are the least effective means for evaluating a school.
School board members agreed. “I had two kids who went through this high school,” said Board President Sharon Miller, “and let me tell you, it’s a good high school.”
Assistant Superintendent of School Nicole Pormilli stressed how test scores have not gone down. “There has been no decrease in test scores,” she said.
Pormilli also criticized the report for the flawed way in which it gauged improvement. Rather than look at improvement as students move through school and get older, the study compared different groups of students to one another. “They should be the same cohort of students,” Pormilli said.
The study relied heavily on improvement, which meant that a high school with lower test scores could actually score better than one with higher test scores if the scores improved. For example, SPHS, which received a “D,” had SAT scores averaging 1449. HSPA scores were 309.6 in 2008 and 309.6 in 2012. By contrast, Dunellen High School received a “C” even though it had lower SAT scores (1431) and lower HSPA scores (294.3 in 2008 and 308.9 in 2012).
South Plainfield also had higher SAT and HSPA scores than high schools in Perth Amboy, South Amboy and Carteret, each of which earned a “C.”
Administrators and board members also pointed to recent changes in curriculum, textbooks, technology, and course offerings, saying that the grading criteria ignored these types of investments.
“I’m not making excuses,” said Genco when referring to the the high school's grade, but that’s "not what the high school is.”