New Collaborative: Disparity in Resources Leaves Poor Kids Behind

The New Jersey Organizing Collaborative, an arm of the Education Law Center, the Abbot Leadership Institute, and the Paterson Education Fund, is charging that our newly rigorous high school graduation requirements, particularly those in science, will “drastically increase” drop-out rates in poor urban schools. According to The Record, 17 out of 25 high schools in Paterson, Jersey City, Newark and Elizabeth lack adequate science lab equipment, qualified science teachers, and educational support for struggling students.

We did a random sampling of high school eleventh-grade HSPA scores in these cities. According to the DOE database for the 2007-2008 school year, 40.4% of kids at Eastside High in Paterson passed the HSPA, 45.2% of kids at Lincoln High School in Jersey passed the HSPA, 49.8% of kids at Westside High in Newark passed the HSPA, and 42.1% of kids at Elizabeth High in Elizabeth passed the HSPA. This doesn’t mean that, for instance, 47.9% of Elizabeth High’s kids drop out; in fact, only 6.2% do so because over 50% bypass the HSPA through an alternative called the Special Review Assessment, which is impossible to fail. (See here.)

Our highly-touted high school redesign presents no challenges to wealthy districts. These schools boast well-equipped labs, plenty of science teachers, and high-achieving students who probably already take at least as many science courses as our new curriculum requires. But the kids represented by the N.J. Organizing Collaborative are stuck between what looks good on paper and the brick-and-mortar reality of an Eastside High.