THE GOVERNOR IS WRONG ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
Governor Chris Christie attempts to justify his proposal to take massive amounts of school aid away from NJ districts educating the most disadvantaged students by making claims about student achievement that simply aren’t true.
The Governor says districts with high student need “get a big check from the state every year, [but] they are not making any changes in the way they educate children and they are not showing any increase in success.”
The Governor is just plain wrong. The facts show NJ’s most disadvantaged students making substantial gains over the last 15 years, and studies have documented the positive connection between increased funding and improved student outcomes. For example:
- A study of the effects of the school funding reforms resulting from the Abbott Supreme Court orders found that the additional dollars directed to poor urban districts were largely spent on instruction and support services and resulted in a significant positive impact on 11th grade achievement.
- During the decade from 2003 to 2013, the percentage of NJ eighth-grade students eligible for national lunch programs who scored “proficient” and “advanced” on the reading test of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) increased from 16% to 27%, while the percentage scoring “below basic” fell from 44% to 26%. The gap between Black and White students narrowed from 28 points to 20.
- From 2003 to 2009, Limited English Proficient (LEP) student performance in language arts literacy and math increased in grades 3, 4, 8, and 11. More than half of the state’s LEP students attend school in the former Abbott districts.
- By fourth or fifth grade, children who attend two years of NJ high quality, full-day, “Abbott Preschool” are, on average, three-quarters of an academic year ahead of students who do not attend a quality preschool. That’s enough to close about half of the achievement gap between low-income children and their more advantaged peers.
- In Union City, where three-quarters of students come from homes where only Spanish is spoken, and a quarter are estimated to be undocumented, students’ achievement scores are close to state averages despite far higher percentages of LEP students and at-risk (poor) students.
Governor Christie likes to talk about low graduation rates when he says high need districts are not improving. But rising graduation rates are a big part of the success story the Governor never tells, especially given the extreme concentration of student poverty of these districts:
- NJ’s 2014 graduation rate for at-risk, poor students – 80% – was nearly equal to the 82% national graduation rate for all students, including those from affluent families. The graduation rate in the former Abbott districts was close behind at 72%, rising to 77% in 2015, even though the concentration of low-income students in Abbott districts is more than 75%, compared to 50% nationally.
- Gaps in graduation rates have been closing in New Jersey. Between 2011 and 2014, the state’s graduation rate for black students rose 9.9%. The graduation rate for Hispanic students rose 7.6%, more than twice the 3.5% increase for white students.
- Between 2001 and 2010, the high school graduation rate increased 12% in former Abbott districts, compared to an increase of 4% in non-Abbott districts.
- In 2014, three Abbott districts had graduation rates equal to or above NJ’s overall graduation rate for all students, which is the third highest in the nation and by far the highest rate for states with diverse student populations.
The Governor never mentions that the districts where funding has been increased – the very same districts he wants to de-fund – are among those with the highest levels of student poverty and racial isolation in the nation.
Of course, there is certainly more work to do to improve student achievement in our poorest districts and in schools across the state. But it’s time to tell the Governor to stop his false narrative of school failure and instead celebrate our unprecedented success while we roll up our sleeves to continue the hard work of building on that success for every student.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications