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Officials Explain Fort Lee High School’s Drop in Rankings

Assistant Superintendent Sharon Amato said opening up AP classes to all students and changes in the way the state looks at dropout rates and students attending four-year versus two-year colleges impacted the school’s ranking.

Fort Lee school officials Monday addressed concerns about Fort Lee High School’s drop in rankings in New Jersey Monthly’s biennial report released last week.

According to the report, the local high school , based on data for the 2010-2011 school year.

“Of course it’s always a big concern to us when we drop in ranking and of course to the community as well,” said Assistant Superintendent Sharon Amato at Monday’s Fort Lee Board of Education meeting. “This is certainly a conversation worth having with parents, students and our administrative team.”

Amato said a major factor contributing to the drop in rankings was the fact that Fort Lee opened up its advanced placement classes to all students last year for the first time.

“Do we open up the advanced placement classes and give all students opportunities to learn and to maybe not score high on the AP test but get something out of it, or do we limit it and have stringent criteria, as we had in the past?” she said.

Another factor was that the state now looks at dropout rates differently, according to Amato.

“If a student decided in the middle of the senior year to go back to a foreign country—we’ve had a number of students do this—they’re counted in our dropout rates,” she explained. “Therefore the dropout rates were slightly higher.”

In addition, Amato said, the state changed how it rated schools based on the number of students attending four-year colleges versus those attending two-year colleges.

“These are certainly some of the reasons that could have changed our ranking,” she said. “As our test data comes available to us in [NJ SMART], which is a great tool that shows us comparisons of individual students, as well as those students from year-to-year, we’ll better be able to wrap our heads around why we dropped in ranking.”

The data upon which New Jersey Monthly’s rankings are based comes from the state Department of Education’s most recent New Jersey School Report Card, according to the publication.

But school board president Yusang Park said there are areas in which he would like to see Fort Lee students improve.

“We have to work on the average combined SAT score,” Park said. “And we can definitely improve on the HSPE Math.”

Park said those are examples of areas school officials can focus on when the board holds its upcoming, annual goal-setting session, but he also agreed with board vice president Linda McCue, who said she’d prefer to see more students given the opportunity to take advanced placement classes than to be overly concerned about rankings.

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Check back with Patch for more on Monday's BOE meeting.

Luca D. August 28, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Wonk I did not attribute the apartment issue to you. Your use of the term highjack, although not initially used by me, I find to be accurate and give new meaning to beating a dead horse. Re: Billy Mays & properties for sale / properties out of State. You prove my point. It's no one's business. I can own properties in every State, I can list 100 properties in Fort Lee, it doesn't give anyone the right to ask me if my property is for sale, where I intend to purchase next or whether I wear boxers or briefs. It's about time everyone learn their place.
William Mays August 29, 2012 at 02:02 AM
As I said, it is our business as long as he is on the Board. Do you want to have Board members who don't live in town? I'm not saying that he doesn't live in town now, but he could easily have sold that apartment and then moved out of town and still served on the Board. Thats why those questions are asked.
Edward Ma August 29, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I am a student at Fort Lee High School. I do not agree with Zachary David. The school ranking has very little to do with the Koreans... First of all, majority of the AP students are Asians and Korean. Yes, we do have a lot of "foreign" language students, but it is wrong to point fingers at the Koreans. First of all, majority of the foreign students I see are not all Korean. The Korean students are only a fraction of our foreign student population. Also, there are a huge amount of students that do not care about school at all. These students, in my honest opinion are the reason why our ranking is faltering. For example, during the practice HSPA test and the HSPA test, there were many students who rather fill in random answers and (excuse my language) BS the test. Also, there are other students who prefer to flunk school rather than enbrace it. I am Asian too. I know how hard each Asian parent works and how much they support their children. You should look at your children's report first before you point fingers. If you ask the school to give you class rankings (which I highly doubt they will hand over) the valedictorian and most of the 10th decile and the 20th decile children are all Asian. I have a friend who just came from Korea that was given a recommendation for the National Honors Society. If you are SO worried about the school ranking you should tell the Board to do something with those children who do not care about school, which in my opinion is around 40%.
silver-tongue soldiers August 29, 2012 at 03:59 AM
AP shouldn't be open for everyone. It would no longer be AP if just anyone could take it. The work load is tough, and there are certain prerequisites that need to be met in order for a student to take the class. You need to be recommended. It makes me angry that just about anyone can take an AP class if they want to. I worked hard to get the recommendations needed for AP classes and I would not like to have my education jeopardized by someone who can't handle the workload. These students who fall behind in the class usually receive low AP scores thus bringing the school down. Also, our ranking has slipped because of students who just don't care. I agree with Edward on this one. I see students who would rather just socialize in school instead of learning or listening to the teacher. If the WHOLE student body worked hard and actually cared about school, our ranking wouldn't be so low.
carol simon August 29, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I am so disappointed that Mr. Albro is leaving he was a tremendous asset to the students at the High School. Advanced Placement should be just that! Not everything is "inclusive". Edward Ma, I appreciate and agree with your response about Korean students not being a drag on ranking as the values and traditions of Korean families with respect to education exemplfies excellence. However, to categorize 40% of your classmates as kids who "don't care" is rather judgemental yet poignant in determining a factor in ranking. I believe these students do care deeply. Many students are harder to reach, more difficult to motivate and do not have the success to build upon. These are the students, along with the Ap students, that need to be targeted. English Language Learners are one factor along with other differences and challenges that impede learning that may look like "those children who don't care".

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