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State Removes 19 Schools from Watch List for Student Achievement Gaps

Districts told efforts to improve have led to removal from ‘focus school’ designation

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While attention has been focused recently on the state’s intervention in its public schools, the Christie administration has more quietly removed 19 schools from its watch list.

Nineteen schools in 16 districts – both suburban and urban – were informed last month that they were no longer considered “focus schools” under the state’s accountability system.

Those removed from the list ranged from large high schools in Plainfield, Trenton and Jersey City to smaller suburban schools in Paramus and Westfield.

“Focus schools” are the middle tier of state intervention in response to large achievement gaps or other specified weaknesses in student performance, making those schools subject to state requirements and eligible for assistance for corrective action.

“We applaud your efforts to close the achievement gap and encourage you to continue to be vigilant in supporting all the students in your school,” wrote state Education Commissioner David Hespe in his letters to the schools.

In addition, the state said it is taking a year off from adding schools to the list, including the more intensive designation of “priority schools,” which are the lowest performing in the state and subject to the greatest requirements.

That’s not to say the state is pulling back entirely, as evidenced by the continued debate over the state’s ongoing control of the Newark, Camden, Paterson and Jersey City school districts.

And the state’s recently approved accountability plan submitted to the federal Department of Education added some new wrinkles to the system, including a separate tier for schools in the state-run districts.

The following schools have been removed from “focus school” status:

  • Paramus – East Brook Middle School

  • Orange – Orange High

  • Paulsboro -- Paulsboro High

  • Jersey City – No. 23

  • Jersey City – Liberty High

  • West New York – Memorial High

  • Hoboken – Thomas G. Connors

  • East Windsor Regional – Walter Black

  • East Windsor Regional – Ethel McKnight

  • Trenton – Robbins

  • Trenton – Trenton Central West

  • Middlesex County Vocational – Middlesex County Vocational-Piscataway

  • South Brunswick – Constable

  • Morris – Normandy Park Middle School

  • Manalapan-Englishtown – Pine Brook

  • Passaic County – Manchester Regional

  • Hillside – Hillside High

  • Plainfield – Plainfield High

  • Westfield – Thomas Edison Middle School

Here’s the full list of “priority” and “focus” schools.

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