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Reason for Drop in HS Rankings Due to Rigorous Standards, Fishbein Says

The Ridgewood superintendent believes the district fell in NJ Monthly Magazine's rankings of the state's high schools because students are required to take AP tests. Fishbein says SAT scores and English and math proficiency shows Ridgewood sti

According to Superintendent Daniel Fishbein, the likely cause of Ridgewood's freefall from the is because of its high academic standards, not a drop in quality.

The school on East Ridgewood Avenue fell from #20 to #28 from 2010 to 2012, just four years after being ranked the seventh best high school out of 328 public high schools in the state.

Besting the village high school were , Ramapo (17), and Northern Highlands (22).

There's no reason to panic, according to Fishbein. In fact, he said, there's good reason to believe Ridgewood's academics are as strong as ever at the high school. The school had a higher SAT score than the other three and had a higher percentage of students scoring advance proficient in language arts and mathematics.

So what happened?

"Then you look at the percent of AP test results as 3 or better, that's where we fell short of other districts," Fishbein told the school board Monday night.

Speaking with the superintendents of the three other districts, Fishbein found the others don't require their students to take AP tests. Ridgewood students – through a waiver process – are required to, all a philosophy to have RHS students "challenge themselves," Fishbein said.

Regarding the AP test scores that led to the drop in rankings, Fishbein said the district will take a closer look at it to try and improve the mark.

That doesn't mean the fundamentals will change, he said.

"I don't think we should change how kids access the courses or take the courses," Fishbein said.

School board president Sheila Brogan said what specific data NJ Monthly Magazine choose to more heavily weigh for those rankings can have a large impact on the rankings but likely not in the educational quality.

One year Ridgewood fell because of six minutes less of instructional time. The next year six minutes were added.

"Did one minute per period really make [a difference]? The next year we had a higher rating."

Regardless, Brogan said, "The quality of education is very well established in this community."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

JAFO September 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM
This is an interesting debate. Similarly, Ft. Lee dropped 25 spots and they partially blamed it on their "open enrollment" AP policy. More kids are now able to take AP exams which can have an effect on the percent of people scoring 3+. But it begs the question, do you pad your scores by only allowing advanced students take the test, or do you give more kids an opportunity to challenge themselves and take the test (even if they aren't a top student). And while RW may have higher SAT scores than GR/'Po/NH, GR had the state's second highest percentage of students attending college in the fall (99.6%). Regardless, I think this whole ranking thing is irrelevant. You're splitting hairs when comparing schools that are the cream of the crop in the big scheme of things. Who cares if you're 5 or 50 in the poll when, in fact, you're still better than 95% of the country.
Dennis Martinez September 14, 2012 at 01:21 PM
If GR has 99.6% of it's students attending college that could be interpreted to mean that GR is focused on statistics and pushing kids who are not college material in going to college; when these kids might be better served going to vocational schools or the military. Does everyone believe that almost 100% of any district's students are truly college material? I would agree that this whole ranking system is overblown.
Fercho September 14, 2012 at 01:57 PM
So having a high % of students continuing their education is now a bad thing? Truth be told any of the top 75 schools in that ranking are good schools and with the parents involvement playing a key role.
Gary Rabinowitz September 14, 2012 at 02:18 PM
@ JAFO -- bingo: the manic parents are indeed "splitting hairs." The top 20-30 towns education systems are basically interchangeable with each other in the big scheme of things. When your range of comparison is Tenafly, Short Hills, GR or similar towns, the anti-social competitive tendencies of many parents rears its ugly head and suddenly the minute and healthy differences b/t towns are magnified into some grandiose debate. Life's too short, people. We have high class problems if 10-20% less kids take AP tests compared to a few years ago. These rankings are analogous to companies obsession meeting quarterly (short term) earnings. Next topic.... @ Fercho -- Dennis Martinez raises an excellent point: maybe it's not Glen Rock's kids, but too many kids are wasting their time and treasure pursuing a college degree. Know many adults ages 22-28? Speak to them. Better yet, read up on the topic. THe student loan bubble and horrendous market for new job entrants speaks volumes about the merits of a college degree these days. Cheers. GXR
jp1 September 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Does anyone rally care what mediocre NJ Monthly has to say one way or another?
Ridgewood Mom September 14, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Come on Gary. You know Ridgewood is the best. :) I agree with you. In particular I like your usage of the term "anti-social competitiveness." While I do think that the NJ monthly rankings offer useful generalized information, the idea that a rank of 9 means superior to 10 but inferior to 8 is ridiculous. Can you imagine what would happen if school systems were to place priority on gaming the means to such higher rankings? What a sad sort of scripted rote learning school curriculum would become?
Boyd A. Loving September 14, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Ms. Brogan is spot on - the quality of education in Ridgewood is very well established. Administrators should stop devoting time to explaining the insignificant point drop and focus instead on doing whatever it takes to continue the excellent quality of education expected by taxpayers.
News Man September 14, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Stop looking at those varied forms of score boards. Ridgewood student performance after they leave Ridgewood is the only measurement to consider. Ridgewood has always been the major quality reason for new comers to come here. Our great administrators and educators will always keep it that way. -
Fercho September 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM
@ Gary, yes, I've met plenty of kids 22-28 where they will never get an ROI for their 'investment'. You also have for profit schools that have aggressive sales tactics similar to what one would find in a used car sales lot. But let's not forget that part of that mounting bubble also has to do with the lack of work/opportunities available for more than 14million Americans (many with well deserved college degrees). All in all, I would advise most kids, to continue to pursue some type of higher education. This includes non traditional schooling like vocational programs, apprenticeships, peer to peer programs, not for profit experiences in truly disadvantage areas. As long as they are not sitting as home blaming the world and playing video games in their parent's basement until they are 40, I'm good with that.

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