We have four guiding stars in the JerseyCAN Vision Guide: excellence, equity, options and innovation. What are these guiding stars, and why are they important? What is JerseyCAN doing to implement these values in our state, and how have we been successful?

The final of the four organizational guiding stars from our Vision Guide is equity:

“All children deserve an excellent education, regardless of where they were born, their cultural background, their socioeconomic status or their zip code. Our education system must eliminate any structural inequities and embrace every child’s unlimited potential.

To reach this destination, families must have access to high-quality, culturally relevant early learning opportunities. Students must then receive continuous support with appropriate resources and excellent teaching. This means students learn rigorous academic content in an individualized way, to ensure they stay on track to meet and exceed expectations. Equal access is the foundation for achieving equity, but our entire system—from families and schools to workplaces and public policies—must align to eliminate barriers to a child’s chance at success.”

This value has been especially relevant recently as we’ve seen the release of our state School Performance Reports. These reports provide extensive data from the state, district and individual school level on things like demographics, academic achievement, college readiness and more.

As we read and analyze the data from these reports, we need to remind ourselves of our commitment to equity.

Yes, equity means access to high-quality schools and programs. But it also means access to the challenging curriculum and high academic standards that actually prepare students for life after K-12 schooling. Regardless of zip code, a child’s school should provide them with the tools they need to succeed. It’s not just a question of whether students graduate, but whether they graduate able to confidently navigate their next steps.

We encourage parents to dig into the data provided in these reports, and to look beyond surface-level numbers. A high graduation rate – such as Paterson’s districtwide, 4-year graduation rate of 84.8% for the class of 2018 – should be taken into context alongside the percentages of student proficiency on our statewide graduation tests. In the 2017-18 school year, only 18% of students met or exceeded expectations on the English Language Arts/Literacy Assessment in Grade 10 and only 16% did so in Algebra I.

Compare this to Millburn, with a districtwide, 4-year graduation rate of 98.7% in 2018. In their 2017-18 school year, 70% of students met or exceeded expectations on the English Language Arts/Literacy Assessment in Grade 10. 89% did so in Algebra I.

Although these are not perfect, apple-to-apples comparisons (the class of 2018 would have taken ELA 10 in the 2015-16 school year, a year where a district-level performance report is not available), it indicates a large mismatch between high school graduation and proficiency rates.

Allowing some students to graduate well-prepared while others leave still struggling with necessary skills? This is far from our vision of equity.

This is why JerseyCAN advocates for maintaining an objective state assessment system, which provides all students and parents with a tool to examine where their schools are succeeding and struggling when it comes to preparing students for college and their careers.

Equity requires honesty and transparency. Assessment data and school performance reports offer both.


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