Department of Education Posts List of Nearly 60 Reward Schools

John Mooney | March 11, 2013 | Education
Designation indicates overall high performance or marked progress on statewide exams

More than 50 public schools have been singled out by the Christie administration as “Reward Schools” — thanks to their students high overall performance or progress on state tests.

The state Department of Education posted the list of 57 schools last week, with the greatest number coming from Essex and Bergen counties, at 10 each. Virtually all of the Monmouth County vocational district’s magnet schools also made the cut.

The Reward Schools come out of the state’s accountability system approved two years ago.

Schools that have low achievement levels or wide gaps in achievement are also tagged — as “Priority” or “Focus” schools. Those distinctions are made every three years.

The Reward Schools listed annually. are an annual list, going this year to schools that in the 2011-2012 state tests either showed high achievement levels overall or the greatest progress as indicated by the state’s new system of “student growth percentiles” (SGP).

The number of Reward Schools listed this year is half of last year’s 112 schools, largely due to the fact that schools now required to meet specific achievement targets.

Just nine schools were highlighted as “high growth” for reaching the progress targets, with the remaining 48 on the list as “high performing” based on overall achievement.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the highest performers were either in higher-income communities or magnet schools that select their students through an application process. Fourteen of the total were county magnet schools run out of their vocational districts.

But several of those distinguished for high growth were from more affluent communities, including Millburn, Closter, Mendham and Bernards.

Just one charter school made the list, the Robert Treat Academy Charter School in Newark, for the second year.

Beyond pride of place, Reward Schools don’t earn much of a reward, although those receiving federal Title I funds can potentially receive financial rewards under the state’s system.

The department’s website lists the specific criteria for each category:

  • High performing: Schools in which proficiency levels for every category of students is in the top 10 percent of the state and overall proficiency rate is greater than 90 percent (95 percent for high schools). The overall graduation rate for high schools must also be greater than 90 percent.
  • High growth: Schools that have shown high levels of growth over three years. Specifically, schools must show a median SGP of 65 or higher, meaning the typical student exceeds the progress of at least 65 percent of comparable students statewide.