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Academic Performance of Summit Schools Outlined

Summit High School Principal Paul Sears discussed how success is measured.

Summit High School Principal Paul Sears led a presentation on Summit High School's academic performance at the Dec. 19 Board of Education meeting.

Sears outlined where SHS has ranked according to state and national publications. He also compared the high school to others in the area. (The entire presentation can be viewed here.)

NJ Monthly, which ranks schools every two years, placed SHS at 15th in the state and 14th among public schools in August of 2012. Newsweek placed the high school at 38th in New Jersey, 29th among the state's public schools, and 461st in the nation. US News and World Report ranked SHS 18th in the state, 9th among New Jersey's public schools, and 252nd nationally. The Washington Post placed SHS 12th in the state, 7th among New Jersey's public schools, and 662nd nationally.

Sears said because each uses different criteria, which can vary from year to year, it is difficult to point to these standings as conclusive. 

Summit measures success by taking a look at SAT scores, AP test scores and college acceptances, Sears said. The number of SHS graduates continues to grow, he added. While the class of 2011 had 220 graduates, the class of 2013 swelled to 271. SAT scores have dipped slightly since 2011, with the average writing score at 562 in 2013, down from 568 in 2011. Math scores averaged 579 in 2013, down from 588 in 2011. The Verbal/Critical Reading average score dropped to 551 in 2013 from 564 in 2011. Scores are still above the national average, which hovers around 500 in each area, Sears said. 

Scores are on an upswing in Summit when it comes to AP testing. The number of tests taken has grown to 650 in 2013, up from 518 just two years earlier. AP tests were taken by 346 students in 2013, an increase from 285 in 2011. Testers scoring 3 or higher, out of a possible high score of 5, numbered at 549 in 2013, up from 448 in 2011. While the percentage of students continuning their education dipped from 97.7 percent in 2011 to 94.5 percent in 2013, the percentage of those attending "most competitive, highly competitive, or very competitive" schools increased to 77.9 percent, up from 76 percent in 2011. 

Sears next compared SHS students' SAT scores to those of neighboring districts Millburn and New Providence as well as Ridgewood.

Summit's scores averaged 1713, while Millburn's came in at 1857. New Providence's scores averaged 1742 and Ridgewood's were 1778. Sears said the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in Summit was well-above the other towns, at 12.2 percent. Millburn's came in at .8 percent, with New Providence and Ridgewood at 2.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. 

Sears noted that many families come to the Summit school system because they want their children to experience the diversity that can lead to a "much richer experience." Board member James Freeman asked Sears, if based on these statistics, it is fair to say Summit is outperforming Millburn. Sears said in communities like Millburn, where the student body is more homogeneous, program offerings are less diverse. Freeman and Summit parent David Shanker asked the district if it were possible to "disaggregate" the free and reduced lunch group and then look at Summit versus Millburn. Initially, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nathan Parker said it might be possible, but later said that when 40 or fewer students are in those categories, confidentiality restrictions would not allow that data to be culled. 

Sears closed by saying that there are "lots of ways of measuring success" and invited the public to speak to students, alumni, and teachers. Come watch our faculty and students work together, perform on the athletic field, stage, or in any academic competition, to view the total picture, he said, adding that that is how he measures success. 

A presentation by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Julie Glazer followed in which she said more emphasis on student growth compared with peers on a statewide level would occur with the implementation of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing, slated to begin in 2015.  Glazer implied that currently there are more questions than answers in terms of how districts will be able to compare students to those in nearby communities, by socio-economic factors or even by special versus general education students. Glazer said more information is expected to become available in the future to shed light on these concerns. She said once PARCC is in place, test results will be available much more quickly, allowing teachers to identify students in need of help in a more timely manner than has been possible with the NJASK testing. 

To view Sears' presentation, click here. 

To read more on the meeting, click the headlines below:

Board of Ed Appoints New Vice Principal at Summit High School

Kaplow's Retirement 'Significant Loss' to District, Superintendent Says

Summit Dad Makes Strong Case for Additional Forensics Funding

Summit Dad Asks Board to Expedite Search for New Superintendent

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