Recent reports and news articles have brought renewed focus on Hoboken High School test scores and ranking amongst its peers. While most people would agree that what makes a school great goes way beyond standardized test scores, such testing is one of the few (mostly) objective measures available to track student performance. An important question to keep in mind, however, when considering recent trends and comparisons with other districts is: do these headlines and the data behind them fully and accurately describe the quality of the schools?
This was the question that prompted me to take a deep dive into the data and look at other ancillary factors behind the metrics. I looked at the contributors, historically, to such performance measures, and got better insight into the current state of the district, and the high school in particular. It was immediately apparent that certain actions taken in the past directly impacted average test performance scores and, as a result, the school's ranking in various publications. But the research effort also led to some important takeaways about administration of the school in recent years and speaks positively about the direction we are headed and how we will get there.
Hoboken High School (like most public schools) has a mandate to accept and serve all children in the community; public schools with selection/admission criteria have an advantage in testing by drawing away high achieving students from other districts
Many districts have sought to improve their perceived test performance through improper handling of student enrollment and other means; Hoboken High School also did this throughout the early to mid-2000s
Introduction of the AJ Demarest Alternative School served many at-risk and academically struggling students; when these students moved out of the Hoboken High community it had an immediate and significant impact on average test scores reported by HHS
Both of these factors (mishandling of grade 11 student rolls and the addition of the Demarest Alternative School) also had a significant impact on the high school's ranking in the NJ Monthly 'Top High Schools' list, among others
Underlying socio-economic factors at play in the community along with the competitive school landscape are also fundamental, contributing factors that are well documented and decades in the making; improvements are possible but require dedicated, long term strategies
Essential to such solutions are accurate assessments of said challenges and commitment to higher standards for all; in this regard, the Hoboken district and Hoboken High School is making big strides and a number of statistics show how HHS is outperforming county peers and state averages
While district test scores and broader proficiency levels have a long way to go, the current standards being applied to reporting accuracy and transparency, as well as more rigorous academic tracks (including AP courses) indicate that substantive efforts are well underway
These higher academic standards, coupled with an already strong offering of elective courses, sports & arts programs, extracurriculars, and safe, well equipped facilities, mean that Hoboken High School represents a much more compelling educational option than recent headlines imply