One week after releasing new graduation rates that his
Department of Education (NJDOE) hailed as "a
more complete and accurate way of calculating the high school
rate," Governor Christie ignored that data and made
up his own numbers to attack the state's urban public schools.
He called state aid to struggling districts "an
obscene waste of money," citing as evidence what he called the "graduation
rates" for Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, Asbury Park,
Camden and Trenton.
Instead of using NJDOE's "more complete and accurate
way" of measuring graduation rates, the Governor--often
mentioned as a potential VP candidate--made up his numbers.
He grossly understated the graduation rates
of the districts he targeted and failed to mention many other
urban districts, some with graduation rates of 80% or more.
Below are the inaccurate rates reportedly cited by Governor
Christie at a May 8 Town Hall meeting in Monmouth County,
followed in parentheses by the "more complete and accurate" rates reported
by his Education Department:
- Newark 32% (61%)
- Asbury Park 24% (59%)
- Trenton 22% (48%)
- Camden 21% (57%)
- Jersey City 41% (70%)
- Paterson 31% (64%)
Governor Christie has apparently decided that any student
who meets state standards by passing the Alternative High
School Assessment (AHSA), instead of the regular High School
Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), should not be counted as a
graduate. Although these students must meet the same course
credit and other requirements as all students who receive
a NJ diploma, they "disappeared" from the Governor's "graduation" totals.
(The Governor has been using the same bogus data for months
to misstate Newark's graduation rate, a practice Politifact
NJ debunked, noting: "Consistently repeating a proven
falsehood isn't just wrong, governor, it's ridiculous. Pants
Both the AHSA and the HSPA are aligned to the same state
standards and are developed and scored by the same commercial
test vendor, Measurement, Inc. The AHSA is given to seniors
who have not passed one or more parts of the HSPA. It allows
for extra time and some translation support for non-native,
English learners. The alternative assessment helps keep struggling
students in school and on track to graduate when they might
otherwise drop out.
Some kind of alternative assessment is also required by
the State statute that authorizes the HSPA. The statute says, "Any
twelfth grade student who does not meet said requirements
[i.e., pass the State exam] but who has met all the credit,
curriculum and attendance requirements shall be eligible
for a comprehensive assessment of said proficiencies utilizing
techniques and instruments other than standardized tests?" [18A:7C-3]
Governor Christie is apparently unfamiliar with both the
content of and the laws governing NJ high school graduation
In 2011, approximately 13,600 students earned their diplomas
by passing the AHSA. The Governor also excluded another 3,300
special education students who earned diplomas but were exempted
from the state exams by their individual education plans.
The Christie Administration and Acting Commissioner Christopher
Cerf have announced plans to eliminate the alternative test
as they phase in up to a dozen required end-of-course high
school exams. This will not only likely push thousands of
AHSA students out of school, but could dramatically lower
graduation rates and increase dropouts.
The Governor deliberately misstated the graduation rates
to justify cutting school aid to urban districts and to support
his proposals for private tuition vouchers and more charter
schools. Such misinformation undercuts the Education Department's
attempts to implement "more accurate" graduation
rates and makes a mockery of Administration claims that its
policies are "data driven."