NJ graduation rate dips in 2021; check out all high schools here
TRENTON – New Jersey’s four-year high school graduation rate declined slightly last year, from 91% to 90.6%, according to annual report cards issued by the state.
Assistant Education Commissioner Kathy Ehling told the State Board of Education last week that the dip is a common trend.
“About 26 states have announced their 2021 rates, and the majority of those states – there were only six that did not have a decrease,” Ehling said. “So, we do know coming out of the pandemic that many states are going to be reporting a decrease.”
Nearly one in five graduates in New Jersey high schools’ Class of 2021 qualified for diplomas without actually meeting the state’s graduation requirements, as Gov. Phil Murphy had waived them for the 2020 and 2021 graduating classes due to the pandemic.
Around 19% to 20% of students used the waiver to graduate in 2021, up from 7% to 9% in 2020. Far fewer qualified using substitute tests such as the SAT, ACT or Accuplacer, which had limited availability due to limitations on testing centers, or through a review of their high-school portfolio.
New Jersey now runs the math on its graduation rate two ways – including one required by the federal government that subtracts around 2,200 special education students the state exempts from attendance and coursework rules.
Its federal rate comes to 88.5%, which Ehling said on the 2018-19 chart would have ranked the state seventh nationally, rather than fourth.
New Jersey students with disabilities that result in complex needs can qualify for a diploma even if they don’t meet the typical attendance and coursework requirements, if the schools and the student’s family agree on that in developing his or her individualized education program.
But as a result of federal monitoring in 2018 for compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state can no longer count them in reporting graduation rates to Washington, Ehling said.
“For all students with disabilities, this change resulted in a federal graduation rate of 67%, compared to a state rate of 79%,” she said. “And the state rate, again, that’s the one that includes all students.”
For 63% of high schools, their federal graduation rate is lower than their state one.
Ehling said another important change will be made in the coming year, now that statewide graduation assessments are back. Students whose IEPs don’t require them to pass the graduation assessment to get a diploma will also be removed from the count for the graduation rate.
Ehling said the state will work closely with districts in determining what graduation path would be best for students – the state assessment, a substitute test or a portfolio appeal.