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Chatham High Ranking Based on Wrong Data, BOE President Says

Department of Education changes, errors contributed to drop in rankings, Belding said.

Rankings from New Jersey Monthly failed to take into account errors in the state Department of Education's (DOE) annual report cards and changes in how the DOE measures data, according to Chatham's Board of Education President Thomas K. Belding.

The magazine released its biennial rankings of public high schools on Aug. 13. was ranked as the No. 20 school in the entire state. Two years ago, when the rankings were last released, the school was ranked 8th. In 2008 and 2006 the school was ranked 10th and 12th, respectively.

Chatham's former Interim Superintendent, Dennis Fyffe, reported errors in the school report card in June. One significant error administrators noticed was a misreporting of the percentage of senior students who took the SATs.

According to The College Board, Fyffe said, 93 percent of the class of 2011 took the SATs. The state report card said 78 percent of the class of 2011 took the test. "It's clearly wrong," Fyffe said, adding the administration is "confident" 93 percent is the correct number.

Belding said NJ Monthly did not take data from schools, but from the state. "Frankly I don’t think the state has responded or corrected the data. If NJ Monthly took the raw data, that creates all kinds of issues," he said.

NJ Monthly Senior Editor Eric Levin said, "Schools are the ones that report the data to the DOE." Changes in how the state reports and measures data, Levin said, affected school ratings, "in some cases a lot, in some cases a little."

Chatham High is not the only school that saw significant movement in their ratings, for example:

  • Haddenfield Memorial went from 11th to 33rd;
  • West Morris Mendham went from 26th to 45th;
  • Princeton went from 44th to 59th;
  • Montgomerey went from 10th to 61st;
  • and West Windsor-Plainsboro South went from 16th to 62nd.

Schools which saw improvements in their rankings include:

  • Glen Rock High, which went from 28th in 2010 to 4th in 2012;
  • Madison, which went from 15th to 6th;
  • Bernards, which went from 32nd to 11th;
  • and Metuchen, which went from 54th to 19th.

Belding said he has not yet studied the list or NJ Monthly's methodology in detail, but schools such as Princeton and Montgomerey, which are consistently rated highly on the list, fell by numbers more significant than Chatham's. "They're not even ranked in the top 50 at the moment," he said.

The magazine, Belding said, "might not even be aware that the data had errors in it and the state hasn’t corrected them yet."

While Belding said there have been changes in enrollment and class sizes due to continued increases in the student population, he said Chatham's pass-rate for AP tests and SAT scores speak for themselves.

"We're in the top five of those listed in the articles for SAT scores and performances on the AP tests," Belding said. "We think that we're doing a really good job."

Of the top 20 schools listed, Chatham had the fourth-highest pass percentage (3 or higher of five) for Advanced Placement tests. According to NJ Monthly, 92.2 percent of Chatham students who took an AP test scored 3 or higher. The school also ranked fifth from the top 20 in average combined SAT scores.

According to NJ Monthy's listing, Chatham High has an adjusted cohort graduation rate of 96.83 percent. The student/faculty ration is 12.3, the highest of the top 20 schools ranked by the magazine.

Duncan Munchkin August 28, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Mr. Belding SHOULD read the methodology because he sounds foolish. Of the two "errors" mentioned by Fyffe in an earlier article, one of them would have hurt the school (78% taking SATs) and one of them would have helped the school (100% taking AP courses). Neither of these numbers seem to be used in this survey. Either way, both of these numbers have been corrected on the Report Card (maybe not so in the actual data sheets) so Belding sounds like a cry-baby. Belding and LaSusa should actually comment on the things that got our school in trouble instead of making "my dog ate it" excuses.
Captain Jack August 28, 2012 at 02:52 PM
And going to a BOE meeting is like joining Scientology.
AAM August 28, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Fyffe, said ""Frankly I don’t think the state has responded or corrected the data. If NJ Monthly took the raw data, that creates all kinds of issues," In other words, he has no idea if New Jersey Monthly used the corrected data or not. He is just trying to justify a huge drop in ranking by blowing smoke. And, by the way, Chathams 12.3 faculty ratio is the highest in the top 60 not just the top 20 - Where are the scores going to be in 2 more years?
Optimist August 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM
I suggest we stop pointing the finger like bunch of kids. Forget the excuses and think of the solutions. We need to hire more and better teachers and reduce the size of our admin staff to stay budget neutral. Accountability should start on the top!
ABChatham September 02, 2012 at 03:16 AM
As someone already pointed out, a good statistician can prove anything with enough numbers to work with. That said, did anyone read the incoherent letter to parents sent by Supt. LaSusa that started with a quote from Jimi Hendrix? That's all you need to know to predict the future direction of Chatham's educational rankings. When you have such inexperienced superintendant or invisible (Groh) principal in charge, this is what you get. And yes, unfortunately, I am not just talking - we just had to enroll our child in a private school because of what we've seen so far out of CHS- poor leadership, an English teacher who was so far gone the kids even knew it, tons of underage drinking and no one owning up to the issues. It stinks because many of the Chatham parents are really nice but for those who are less involved with their kids' day-to- day activities, the fall back of the adult supervision at CHS leaves too much to be desired. And then these kids infiltrate the others which leads to this mediocrity. That is, unless your kid is really good at sports and gets the colleges interested. None of the top colleges are looking to CHS for academic talent. Or, if they are, it's because the parents poured alot of money into tutors and extra help. I wish it were better.

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