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May  12

Glen Ridge's Bragging Rights...

Coming in at #459, Glen Ridge.

Yes, Ridgers can now boast of placing smack in the middle of The Complete List of the Top 1,000 Schools in the U.S. Folks with free time and good eyes can slog through and see if either Montclair or Bloomfield made the grade.

May 12, 2005 in Buzz | Permalink


Wow...no wonder I did poorly in high school - my school was ranked #34 - WT Woodson in Virginia. I don't feel so bad about my C average anymore. *lol*

Posted by: Jaynee | May 12, 2005 11:18:33 AM

Montclair in the top 1000 are you serious are schools are so good all the Uppah Montclarions go private

Posted by: Ern | May 12, 2005 11:39:47 AM

Hey, I went to W.T.Woodson High School too. No wonder I'm so smart!

Posted by: The Barista | May 12, 2005 11:45:16 AM

Glanced through the list - lots of other NJ schools (Millburn, Summit, Livingston, N. Brunswick, Ridgewood, Westfield, Princeton, etc.) but no Montclair or Bloomfield. Maybe I missed 'em?

Posted by: Hate to shop | May 12, 2005 12:24:29 PM

So all they did to determine a high school's rank was divide the # of AP tests given by the number of its graduating seniors? If that's so, then one way to score high on this list would be to have a high drop-out rate, which would lower your number of graduating seniors, and therefore increase your performance index. I thought high drop-out rates were a bad thing.

On the flip side of that, you could also artificially increase the number of kids taking AP tests. What role do hyper-competitive parents (and kids) play in getting students enrolled into an AP class? Is it only a test score that gets you in to AP classes, or, as I suspect, more "subjective" measures are used?

I know these lists have to impose some type of quanitifiable measure, but Newsweek's methodology seems to oversimplify things a bit if you ask me.

Posted by: John | May 12, 2005 12:30:51 PM

I agree with john. You could have a white box room with no chairs, but great AP score counselers and have kids take practice tests all year, and you would rank as a great school. I think its crap.
I hear from my nieces now that the scholl curricullum is changed so your practicly prepping for the exams from day 1. I think 6th graders can be doing more than that

Posted by: realhawker | May 12, 2005 1:01:34 PM

Barista - I knew you'd like that. =)

Posted by: Jaynee | May 12, 2005 1:17:56 PM

All things being equal, I would rather have my local high school rank in the top 1000 in the country, or the top 100 in the state, but the ranking, by itself, doesn't really mean that much, the most I would say is that a school that appears on one of these lists is probably a pretty good school, and is probably among the top five or ten percent of high schools in the country.

Just as IQ tests tend to distort at the top (and the bottom), the various systems that they use to rank high schools are not particularly helpful in comparing "top" schools. Also, once school districts figure out how the rankings are compiled, some of them alter their program so that they "test" better, usually, this does not actually make their schools any better. The Mathews system used here is one-dimensional, and thus easily distorted.

For example: The highest ranked school in 2003 had a score of 6.323, this year the same school came in at 8.422 (an incredible 33% improvement in one year!), and yet that was still only good enough for second place

Closer to home, Glen Ridge High had a score of 1.432 in 2003, this year it came in at 1.629. Does this mean that GRHS improved 14% in one year? I don't think so.

And GRHS dropped down in rank from #401 to #459, does that mean that other "top" schools are improving even faster? Unlikely.

Is GRHS the 459th best high school in the country? I'm not sure of what that even means. What can be said is that Glen Ridge High is a fine school and the children there receive a quality education with an emphasis towards higher education.

The real crime is that the same can’t be said for so many other schools in New Jersey.

Posted by: Bob | May 12, 2005 1:37:39 PM

Bob, so you're saying I SHOULD be ashamed about my C average at WT Woodson?

Posted by: Jaynee | May 12, 2005 2:05:19 PM

Bah! The relationship between that unworthy survey and the truth is about comparable to that between Saddam Hussein's regime and Weapons of Mass Destruction. As Alexander Hamilton once said to a British Loyalist, "Such is my opinion of your abilities as a critic that I very much prefer your disapprobation to your applause." If Montclair is not represented on this inauspicious list, it is a triumph, not a shame.

The quality of schools in its abstract form relates to the 'value-added' such schools provide to their pupils. Quality should be measured by the quality of each child (however defined) upon graduation as against the quality they would have achieved without school.

Yet this faux survey would have us believe that the BULK of AP tests taken per pupil bears some relation to the net-gain in student quality in a school. It would have been one thing had they taken the average SCORE on APs--at least that would only have been subject to the general criticisms leveled at the AP and the people who do well on them.

But no. These charlatans have chosen the total NUMBER of AP tests, which is if anything an indication of the number of ambitious parents in a school district and not the quality of their children or their schools. Oakes et al (1997)* recounts the experience of a middle school teacher who attempted to add an option of extra work done outside normal hours when tracking was eliminated at her school. Parents who had supported tracking asked for a meeting with her, which she prepared for by drawing up a syllabus for the supplementary offering. But the parents were totally uninterested in the substance of this outside-hours work. Instead, they railed against the fact that anyone from the normal class would be allowed to attend.

That story reminds me of the ridiculous survey because it reflects the extent to which society is focused on school as a credentialing mechanism, with disregard amounting to contempt for what goes on in classrooms. The choice to take AP tests has absolutely nothing to do with school quality; it measures, quite accurately in fact, the extent of society's preference for appearance over reality.

Posted by: Marshall | May 12, 2005 2:38:14 PM

*Oakes, J. et al (1997) "Detracking: the Social Construction of Ability, Cultural Politics, and Resistance to Reform." Teachers College Record.

Posted by: Marshall | May 12, 2005 2:44:02 PM

Far be it from me to defend, of all institutions, Newsweek, but how are educators (and parents) to know if the schools are working? What measurement do you propose taking? Aside from your chilling proposal to compare graduates to a control group of the unschooled.

Posted by: walleroo | May 12, 2005 3:12:36 PM

No, no, I'm not actually proposing that we conduct our measurement in that way--for one thing, the control group would not be a viable cross section of the population. I formulated the issue of school quality in that way on a theoretical level; I didn't mean that to define the way we measure it.

Personally, I am a fan of very large scale regressions of tests results against various input variables, of the kind found in

Woessman, L. (2003) "Schooling Resources, Educational Institutions, and Student Performance: the International Evidence." Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics: 65 (2).

Regressions-by-standardized-test don't work on a local scale for various statistical reasons I personally don't understand, but people whom I trust believe fervently. So on a local level, I prefer either the natural experiment (arising from 'accidental' policy or circumstances that provide a breaking point between what "would have" happened and what "does" happen), or a sociological protocol of interviews about attitudes to school plus respondent test scores. As you can tell from my vague talk, I'm not the biggest statistical wiz.

Posted by: Marshall | May 12, 2005 3:38:05 PM

At the risk of sounding like Larry King: all right, Marshall, what's the bottom line here? Are Montclair's schools great or lousy?

Posted by: walleroo | May 12, 2005 4:05:08 PM

Ern couldn't be more wrong (or more patronizing) by characterizing UM residents as private school supporters. You have only to check out the number of public school buses throughout UM to know that we appreciate the quality of our schools and know how lucky we are to be able to take advantage of them! My daughter, a junior at MHS, as been in Montclair public schools since pre-K and I am thrilled with the education she's received. Even better, unlike those private school kids, she's learned how to work with and appreciate kids from a diverse range of economic, racial and cultural groups. And unlike Ern, she knows better (even at 17) that to try to generalize a whole community. Don't be such a snob!

Posted by: MontclairMom | May 12, 2005 4:10:52 PM

I'm sort of in a bind. If I don't answer your question, I look like an idiot for opining at length about education without any "beef". But I don't have any robust basis on which to answer it.

Let's put it this way: anecdotal evidence suggests that a great deal of what goes on in classrooms is not worthwhile.

Posted by: Marshall | May 12, 2005 4:22:59 PM

Okay, Marshall. I can't say I disagree. American HSs suck, we all know that. The question that concerns me at the moment is this: do Montclair's schools provide as good an education as, say, Summit or Short Hills or MKA or Newark Academy for that matter? I assume you went through the public schools in Montclair. You're at Oxford now--you're evidently not stupid. What do you think, based on your knowledge and experience? (Understanding, too, that nobody has enough information to really know.)

Posted by: walleroo | May 12, 2005 4:53:36 PM

Ha. You bring up the always-sensitive subject in Montclair of my own schooling. I did not go to Montclair's public schools for the vast majority of my schooling. I went to MKA for primary- and middle-school (my mother worked there when I began) and I went away to high school.

I assume that revelation will call down endless scorn against my opinions on education and anything else expressed here in the future, especially when I can (quite plausibly) be called a Limousine Liberal or a Champagne Socialist. Well, to all you ostensible Lamborghini Libertarians, I say this: I'm not one bit ashamed of my very good education. I was extremely, unbelievably fortunate in that, but one thing it taught me was that very good schooling is achievable, and not just for those with the advantages of a fortunate background. I absolutely loved high school, and that happy situation is available to others.

Now, if I were chosing for my own child at the moment I do NOT think MKA's high school is worth the price compared to MHS. That is an impression based on very little evidence, but I know smart kids who do well at MHS and smart kids who are bored at MKA. I think the salient issue is with those children for whom an adolescence replete with dissipative titillations might prove hazardous. My own solution would be to whisk everyone off to boarding school, but even with the financial aid available I realize that some people don't wish to evict their children at that stage. For one thing, Oxford costs considerably less than the average American private university education (though not for long with our dollar disaster. Thank you Bush!)

Posted by: Marshall | May 12, 2005 5:14:34 PM

When I moved here from the West Coast, I chose to live in Glen Ridge based on three things: proximity to NYC, historic homes in my price range and the schools.

I consulted statewide SAT test scores schools to find the north NJ school systems that produced the highest average scores. Towns in that category were Princeton, Summit/Short Hills, Ridgewood, Millburn and Glen Ridge.

I realize that SAT scores alone are not the ONLY indicator of a good school. There are many other variables, but SAT score averages are a pretty good way to narrow the choice.

The schools in GR are NOT perfect. But the standards for graduation are tougher than the state of NJ, and of Montclair for that matter.

Each student is required to take four years of English, Science (mostly lab), social studies/history and Math.

Where I think the schools fall short is in the arts, music and Foreign language.

I also found out (consulted some folks in education here in NJ) was that if your kid was either a high achiever/gifted student OR a low achiever/remedial student, the Montclair school system is great. They have tons of programs for both extremes. What they have struggled with, is providing that same
level of excellence for the middle of the pack type/average student. These kids tended not to get the attention.

Now this was true 9-10 years ago when I was looking for schools- and to be fair maybe things have changed. The population here in Montclair certainly has with the influx of NYC families.

But I have been extremely happy with the quality of education here in GR.

Posted by: Pam | May 12, 2005 6:15:15 PM

Marshall, I'm very curious. What does "went away to high school" mean? Did you do a four-year term in juvie? Did you straighten up and learn to fly right someplace like Valley Forge Military Academy? Or did you do the most undemocratic thing of all (both upper and lower case) and prep at a boarding school? Come clean now, you have nothing to lose but your political credibility. If you did go someplace like Choate-Rosemary Hall or Taft, by the way, you're the first person I've ever met like that who described it as "high school."

Posted by: cathar | May 12, 2005 10:38:12 PM

Cathar, I'm not ashamed to say the last. I went to some place "like" Choate and Taft, but better! Hotchkiss, to be precise. But why isn't that high school? That's what it is!

I know that to a certain kind of person my educational history would supercede any arguments I might make on any number of issues. And there's truly nothing I can say that would convince those people to look at what I say rather than their assumptions about who I am.

Posted by: Marshall | May 13, 2005 5:24:00 AM

I might be more inclined not to hold your prep education against you, Marshall, if you'd spelled it "supersede." But I truly have never met a prep in my life (and my ex-wife's family was full of them) who termed it "high school."
Yes, "a certain kind of person" might hold your educational background against you. But try and understand here. We really are conditioned to believe preppies have only the vaguest sense of life in the streets, of life lived on a more visceral level. In a world where, so I've heard, a year at a prep school costs more than a year at college, it's enormously tempting to imagine preppies as increasingly out of touch, wastrels in training, duffers-to-be, etc. It's surely not "high school" in the sense of being inexorably linked to popular culture (unless by "popular culture" you mean a certain sort of cop-out novel like, say, "A Separate Peace" or "The Rector of Justin"). Personally, I find it cruel that parents remove their children from their sides at this impressionable time (which is so very British), let them flounder in an environment of famously bad food and social cruelties. You, too, as a fan of Labour, should, I'd have imagined, want to dispense with prep or "public" schools. Whatever, there is a good reason that years ago a look at prep schools was so aptly titled ""A World of Our Own." And I very much doubt, given your previous postings, that you view your prep school experiences, a la the Duke of Wellington's supposed remark re Eton's playing fields, as preparation for any future Waterloos US forces may face in the future.

Posted by: cathar | May 13, 2005 9:46:47 AM

Aha! You surpass your usual literate self, my dear sir!

I assure you that a year at prep school was not more expensive than a year at a private university. I will also point out that whilst it is considered acceptable to process from public high school to a private university, my path from prep school to a state university provokes ire from many.

As I said above, I loved high school (or prep school or whatever) though the playing fields (or in my case, the swimming pool) were nowhere near as cruel as the fields of Waterloo. That quotation is also notable for the fact that Wellesley bestows credit upon.... himself (and his ilk) for winning the battle, not the grunts mowed down by skipping twenty-four pound ordnance.

I don't think private education should be crushed by the iron fist of the proletariat, as some of my Labour friends do. Though sometimes that option is tempting in my Public Economics revision classes, when the fancy Londoners bark about the fact that the UK Pension Commission Report (2005) does not calculate the private saving disincentive effect of public pensions. Were I not in such esteemed company (then or now) I might be tempted to reply with language seldom heard in Oxford's quiet quads (okay not really).

It certainly was not cruel for my parents to send me away. It was the kindest thing they could have done.

Posted by: Marshall | May 13, 2005 10:10:23 AM

Marshall, I'll refrain from further comment, though with a mildly gimlet eye, as to whether it's cruel or not for "drunken Prods" (for that is the common characterization of prep families from stuff like John O'Hara novels, I'm assuredly NOT referring to your own circumstances of which I have no knowledge anyway) or the Kennedy clan of would-be aristos to dump their kids off in prep schools.
But you might be interested to know that today's "Independent' (I get the email version) has an article about a proposal to send the UK's worst high school-aged miscreants to its best boarding schools, as a sort of last chance at social (and political, I suspect) redemption. And they're talking about real emotional hardcases here. not simply adding a few scholarship students as part of the search for "diversity." This idea I like, even if it's from the Labour government. Certainly might cast something like an assembly or a school dance in an entirely new light.

Posted by: cathar | May 13, 2005 10:36:14 AM

The chance of that happening is about the same as the chance of Oxford louts being forced to pay the full cost of their well-plumed education.

Whether I deserve to be categorized among the prep school Prods is contestable. The "drunken" part is not, however. And just you wait for my first post-21 Montclair circuit...

Posted by: Marshall | May 13, 2005 11:04:23 AM

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