Cedar Grove school officials are elated with a magazine’s report showing the district advanced 29 places in a poll of the state’s top high schools.
However, officials in Verona are questioning that district falling 17 places in the poll.
Both schools are cautioning the rankings are being taken “with a grain of salt.”
New Jersey Monthly’s recently released biannual 2012 ranking of 328 Top NJ High Schools shows Cedar Grove schools advancing from a 2010 ranking of 103 to a 2012 ranking of 74 while Verona fell from number 53 on the 2010 list to number 70 this year.
That’s the way to do it,” said Cedar Grove Board of Education President Frank Mandala. “We’re going in the right direction.”
“We are adjusting to changes,” he continued. “The administration is putting the right people in place. We’ve hired new principals in the high school. Everyone is working really hard… it’s finally coming together – everything is coming together.”
And though their respective rankings moved in different directions, Mandala, Cedar Grove High School Principal Michael J. Fetherman and Verona Board of Education President John Quattrocchi agreed, “There’s not a lot of concern about it.”
“We’re always ranked from the high 30s to the 70s,” Quattrocchi said, “That’s indicative of our demographic as much as it is of the schools… it’s a perceived drop.”
“It could also mean that other districts ranked below us have improved,” he added, “It could mean we have improved, but other schools have improved more.”
Quattrocchi noted earlier this year Verona High School was named by Newsweek as one of the top 1,000 schools in the country. Different organizations evaluate the figures differently when putting together lists of this kind, he said.
“There’s nothing about this ranking system that we in the education system are particularly fond of,” Fetherman said. “What have we done that has helped us rise in the rankings? I don’t know.”
“We’re instilling a greater sense of pride (in our school),” he continued. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the teachers. The teaching staff has really rededicated itself…Certainly, we feel better about 74 than we feel about 103. It’s nice to see that the efforts are being recognized quantitatively.”
Quattrocchi said the Verona administrators were not surprised their ranking fell. He said the organizations that do these surveys are constantly changing their methodology and adjusting what factors are weighted most heavily.
Verona has actually improved significantly in key areas between 2010 and 2012, Quattrocchi said. They have seen significant improvements in High School Proficiency Assessment scores in language arts and math. He said HSPA scores are closely related to SAT scores, so they have good reason to expect that the 2012 juniors will continue to score well on their SATs.
Furthermore, Verona’s advanced placement classes are getting larger and their Advanced Placement students have taken more AP tests and scored better than the 2010 class by more than 50 percent.
Quattrocchi and Mandala put the list into context.
“We’re still in the top (22) percent in the state,” he said. “We’ll see much more improvement coming.”
“A lot of school districts don’t even participate,” Mandala said. “A lot of schools gear their teaching to these surveys. We go according to our plan and what’s best for our students. I’m exciting that all our hard work is starting to show.”