New Jersey School District Produces Just 19 Students With College-Ready SAT Scores

SchoolClassroomThere is a truly alarming report out of Paterson, New Jersey that captures how far our educational system has declined. Only 19 kids in this large school district have SAT score that are considered appropriate for college. That means that less than a dozen score at least 1500 out of 2400 on the standardized test. This year, the average score was just 1,200. While meetings are held at the White House and across the country on Ferguson, I continue to believe that the greatest reform to benefit all races would be a greater commitment to our public schools. Too many families are trapped in a cycle of poverty with no real opportunities while our workforce becomes less and less competitive in the new economy.

The Patterson School District has 29,400 students in preschool to grade 12. On the high school level, only 19 of the 600 students reviewed were “college ready” – just three percent.”. That represents a decrease from last year when average score obtained by a student in the area was just 1,200. It is a decrease from the 26 (4.2 per cent) last year.

For kids in Patterson, the future seems quite bleak as they enter a workforce that is demanding more skilled laborers and greater levels of education. When you add an equally alarming wealth gap that is expanding in our society (here and here), it is not a good combination for a country seeking to maintain a high standard of living. As people lament over the death of the American Dream, we should look at our bizarre priorities in sending hundreds of billions in places like Afghanistan and Iraq while our educational system continues to decline. We appear to be working hard to create a low-tech workforce at a time of high-tech enterprises. One only has to look at the graduating class of Paterson, New Jersey to understand the implications of our lack of national focus on education. It is a curious result in a district that boasts as its motto that it is “Preparing All Children For College and Careers.”

57 thoughts on “New Jersey School District Produces Just 19 Students With College-Ready SAT Scores”

  1. Personanongrata: “Student failure today, poverty draft cannon-fodder tomorrow.”

    If those students are fortunate enough to join the military, and if they then apply themselves to excel in their military profession, it can serve to set them up for success in their 2nd go-around on the academic track as well. Soldiering is technically demanding in various ways. As such, the military has a learning culture where education is prized, and more than that, an essential part of the soldier’s job.

    It’s common for young people to join the military as lackluster students and come out of their enlistment as serious-minded college students, even Ivy-League caliber college students. For example, see the US Military Veterans of Columbia University (MilVets), which is made up predominantly of undergraduates who were enlisted in the military:

  2. New Jersey School District Produces Just 19 Students With College-Ready SAT Scores

    Student failure today, poverty draft cannon-fodder tomorrow.

  3. And 25.789 percent of those non-performing, under 1500 students missed because they spelled Paterson incorrectly. Look, New Jersey has many problems but by and large the same groups reporting about Paterson also report that New Jersey’s education system is doing quit well. This statistical cherry picking does not advance the ball.

    1. Jack – in any educational system there will be pockets of excellence and pockets of rot. The rot in Paterson is way too high.

      1. My comment was directed to Turley’s use of a New Jersey school rather than some other horribly deficient state school system(s). I can pick a bunch of places equal to or worse than Paterson. NJ schools are well regarded. If Turley wants to make a national point let him pick on some other region. By the way, have you thought that maybe other school systems keep their stats better by “encouraging” students not to take SATS? We do have ‘pockets of rot’ in New Jersey. We also have school systems that are working quite well despite some NJ politicians attempting to make people think the opposite.

  4. Take the money currently allocated to “specific public schools” and tie it to specific students instead. Allow the parents to decide what the appropriate educational venue is for their children. (Public school, private school, charter school, web-based learning, home schooling, etc.) One-size-fits-all is obviously NOT working.

    I have no problem with Nationalized standards as long as they are enforced.

    Right now, the standards are not being enforced and are therefore non-existant. Students are routinely promoted to the next grade despite not learning the material required at the previous grade… wash – rinse – repeat a few times and you end up with high school graduates that cannot read and write at the 7th grade level.

    There truly are some success stories in this country where non-public, non-unionized schools are doing a terrific job. Most have a strict dress code, strict behavior rules, advanced curriculum, and a uniformly enforced discipline policy. ALL of these things are missing from the current public school system.

  5. Max-1 – “Jim22
    Which is worse: seeking an education system that lifts all boats or… Seeking to blow it all up?”

    Definitely the all boats. Why drag down kids that would otherwise excel? Dumbing down doesn’t do anyone any good.

  6. Jim22
    Which is worse: seeking an education system that lifts all boats or… Seeking to blow it all up?

  7. Ari

    That sounds very much like my high school experience in public school…..before they became unionized. We had core courses and if you were in the college prep track you took the full listing of courses as you have detailed.

    I skipped Trig and Calculus and substituted another couple science classes. And took as my electives woodworking/shop and a drafting class. I was the only female in those classes.

    Even if you were not on the college track, you were expected to take the core ciruculm. I think we all came out pretty well from those years. We were expected to learn and the teachers didn’t proselytize us either, even though it it was during the Vietnam war era. One teacher did…..and he got fired or possibly encouraged to move on to another school.

    Today. The kids learn doo squat.

  8. InalienableWrights said…

    Government schools are not the solution… they are the problem.

    You may be dead right there. In the Jurassic of my youth period I attended a small private school, where the 4 year syllabus was on one 8.5×11 sheet of paper. You had to pass each of the courses to graduate. That was my parents preference compared to the school I was in originally where regular searches for guns and knives were conducted.

    4 years of Math, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and possibly Calculus or Logic.

    4 Years of English, language, literature and composition.

    4 years of History and Civics: Ancient, Modern, American, and Government.

    4 years of science, various disciplines: biology, chemistry, physics, and one elective…such as botany or zoology.

    2 years of a foreign language, up to 4 if you elected it.

    Miscellaneous electives like typing, if you did not participate in sports (I did both).

  9. Well, this is why charter schools and homeschooling have become so popular.

    If the public education system was the best there is, with excellent results, there would be no intense demand for other options.

    I feel bad for these kids. If they graduate ill prepared for life, they will have very difficult barriers to overcome for success.

    I really hope we improve our education system, and that includes getting rid of tenure. Poor performing teachers should be fired if they cannot improve, just like in the private sector. We need to have merit based pay, and really think outside of the box on how to give our kids the best education possible. They deserve our best efforts, because they are our future.

  10. Max-1 – “No Child Left Behind…
    … How’s that working out?”

    Don’t know, don’t care. The whole system needs to be blown up. I’m sure you are all for the steal more property from others and give it the “public” employee option. The very idea of a monopolized public education is stupid and very easy to see how it would be manipulated to become a tool for the govt. True education should be free from any govt. control.

  11. Paul C. Schulte – ”
    Jim22 – the problem with computerized teaching is that some students like it, but others, like myself cannot abide it. I like to interact with my teachers, I want to be able to ask them questions if I do not understand or amplify information. I want to be able to talk to them after class.
    When I was teaching I expected the same from my students.”

    Paul, The paradigm I’m suggesting is not for me or you but for future generations. I assume you are like me and are past formal education needs. Also, don’t assume that the technology is going to be stagnant. Online communication will only get better and better with time. Maybe all the old school carcases can be used as tutoring and lab centers that individuals pay for. A true paradigm should make us feel uncomfortable.

    1. Max-1 – where used properly No Child Left Behind has closed many badly performing schools. Those students were sent to better schools where they had a much better chance to succeed. I think the idea behind No Child Left Behind is excellent, however how it is executed with small schools is a real problem.

  12. Paul C. Schulte – “Jim22 – what you are not considering is that the P.E. needs to know as much in his/her field as the physics teacher. Actually, the two best history teachers I had in high school were the head football coach and the band teacher. Knowledge does not mean you can impart it. Teaching is an art form, not a science.”

    Paul, I’m coming at this from a free market angle. Science teachers should be payed more than gym teachers because the output of skill taught is more desirable in the work force. If science and engineering suddenly become less valuable out in the work force then make the adjustments.

    1. Jim22 – from a free market standpoint, isn’t a healthy population better than an unhealthy one. And if the PE teacher convinces the students to lifelong health isn’t that even more important than physics. There are a limited number of rockets you can put in space.

  13. TrooperYork: YES !!!

    Finally, someone with a real solution. In the interest of improving your solution, a couple of ideas:

    1. Free teachers from the yolk of performance monitoring by giving every teacher TENURE. That way they can concentrate on teaching.
    2. Forbid punishment of students for “bad” behavior. That frees the students from the tyranny of arbitrary punishment.
    3. Increase the enforcement of political correctness in speech, textbooks, behavior, and thought. That way students can not only learn but also become better citizens.

    (Kudos to TrooperYork !!!!)

  14. The only answer is to throw more money down the rathole of public education and raise the salaries and pension benefits of unionized teachers. That should solve the problem right there.

  15. All the “spend more money” answers seem to end up the same way. Government workers and crony consultants of one ilk or the other get all the money, and a few years later, you still have the same problem or worse. . . sooo the cries for more money for education go out again. Rinse and repeat.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  16. jonathanturley: “we should look at our bizarre priorities in sending hundreds of billions in places like Afghanistan and Iraq while our educational system continues to decline.”

    I agree the dollar amount we’ve spent in the War on Terror has been startlingly high. However, when understood in context as a percent of GDP (about 1%), the dollar figure we’ve spent in that area is much less of a shock.

    Which is to say, while opportunity cost is always an easy and irrefutable point for you to make, high spending in one area like the War on Terror does not automatically mean we’ve underfunded another area like education.

    Bob Long: “Missing from the article: Paterson, NJ per-pupil spending, 2012-2013 was $20,454.”

    If Bob Long’s cited Paterson $ figure is correct, then Paterson, NJ is actually spending an exceptionally high amount per-pupil. For context, the US is among the top spenders, perhaps even the top spender, on education in the world.

    While this CBS News article is from July 2013, I don’t believe the apples-to-apples comparison is stale.

    U.S. education spending tops global list, study shows:

    The United States spends more than other developed nations on its students’ education each year, with parents and private foundations picking up more of the costs, an international survey released Tuesday found.

    Despite the spending, U.S. students still trail their rivals on international tests.
    . . .

    The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the report.

    That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.

    As a share of its economy, the United States spent more than the average country in the survey. In 2010, the United States spent 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education, compared with the 6.3 percent average of other OECD countries. Denmark topped the list on that measure with 8 percent of its gross domestic product going toward education.

    Spending, of course, only tells part of the story and does not guarantee students’ success. The United States routinely trails its rival countries in performances on international exams despite being among the heaviest spenders on education.

    Professor Turley poses a zero-sum frame that falsely implies funding for the War on Terror has caused underfunding of our educational system. In fact, the American educational system is sufficiently-to-well funded, not underfunded.

    Professor Turley does a disservice by distracting attention from actual causes of lagging student performance with his focus on funding when, in fact, funding is not the cause of the problem.

    Rather, disappointing ROI in Iraq and Afghanistan nation-building, and Paterson student performance reaffirm the age-old parental wisdom that money, while a significant factor, is not a panacea.

    At this point, funding for our education system is sufficient. I suggest, in order to really help the students of Paterson, NJ and elsewhere in America, Professor Turley ought to consult his EdLaw colleagues at GWU and use this platform to draw attention to political conditions, organization, method, structure, training, and other factors detrimentally affecting American pedagogy, and family culture and other individual and social causes that are pulling down the ROI for the high $ amount we are now spending per-pupil in Paterson, NJ and America.

    Simply throwing more money at the problem when funding is already sufficient is a shallow proposal that won’t help students perform better and distracts the attention needed to solve the actual causes of the problem.

  17. I’m working on a MBA right now and the classes are all online. They are much harder than in class. I’m like you Paul I would rather go to class and ask questions. That being said the worlds information is a click away. You can learn an amazing number of things like advanced math just on YouTube alone. Also online you get one on one help if you need it via chat or video conferencing.

    1. Rio – I like to develop relationships with my teachers. If I like them, I do the work, if I do not like them, I do not do the work. I cannot build a relationship with my computer anymore than I can build a relationship with my TV.

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