Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nine out of Ten of New Jersey's Top High Schools Are School Choice Magnets

U.S. News and World Report just issued their annual list of America’s top 100 high schools and five of them are in New Jersey. Here’s the list:

  • High Technology High School (#11)
  • Biotechnology High School (#14)
  • Ronald McNair High School (#48)
  • Bergen County Technical High School-Teterboro (#61)
  • Bergen County Academies (#92)

The rest of N.J.’s top ten schools are Union County Magnet High School, Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies, Elizabeth High School, Academy of Allied Health and Science, and Princeton High School.

The Star-Ledger notes that “North Star Academy Charter School in Newark was New Jersey's highest-rated charter school (17th in New Jersey, 319th nationally).”

Takeaway? With the exception of Princeton, every one of the state’s top schools are magnet schools with strict admissions policies including admissions tests, transcripts, recommendations, interviews. N.J.’s top school, High Technology, is a magnet run by the Monmouth County Vocational School District that, according to its website, is “increasingly competitive” with 75 students selected from a pool of over 300 candidates. Tuition is covered by local districts, plus county and state taxes.

While the website claims “diversity,” its School Performance Report paints a far different picture. At High Technology, 1.1%  of students are economically-disadvantaged, 0% have disabilities, and 0% are English Language Learners. Not a single student is black, 47% are white, and 51.7% are Asian.

Yet we hear nothing from NJEA, Education Law Center, and Save Our Schools-NJ, who are ostensibly opposed to schools that “cream off” top-performing students (one of their complaints about North Star) and “siphon off” local district funds. In reality, they're not anti-choice, just anti-charter. In N.J., magnets are school choice Teflon.

Cynics have suggested that the reason for this ideological inconsistency among school choice opponents is that magnet school staff are unionized. I’m guessing that they’re right.

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