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Chatham H.S. Ranks 20th in State, NJ Monthly Says

School drops 12 spots from No. 8 two years ago.

 was ranked as the No. 20 high school in the entire state by New Jersey Monthly magazine.

Two years ago, when the rankings were last released, the school was ranked 8th.

Of the 19 schools the publication ranked higher, three were from Morris County.

NJ Monthly uses information from the state Department of Education to develop its rankings, which only takes into account public schools in the state. Student performance and student outcomes were the most heavily weighted to determine the rankings, followed by school environment.

New Providence High School, in Union County, was ranked No. 1. Nearby Madison and Summit high schools were ranked 6th and 15th, respectively. Madison was joined in the top 10 by fellow Morris County schools Kinnelon (5) and Mountain Lakes (7).

To see the full list of schools, click here.

Susan Snow August 26, 2012 at 02:38 PM
You are correct LS24! Chatham took away the two inservice days and put in delayed openings so teachers are working less hours. Again, they snuck this in after the budget was approved. It has nothing to do with additonal state training time, because they are putting in the same amount of training time. They may have given up trainings, such as Smart Boards or technology to do the state trainings of Bullying and Harassing, but they are not putting in more time. The two inservice days are equal in time to 5 delayed openings. All teachers were and are still required to put in 20 hours of traing equallying 100 hours in five years. Nothing changed except the teachers work less hours and the children are educated less. I am sure they will not go over 180 days and give back that day. The law requires 180 days.
charley2 August 26, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I checked the 2012-13 district calendar on the district website. There are two full-day teacher inservices: Sept. 4 and October 8. Sept. 5 is a day for building meetings, department meetings, etc. It is not considered as professional hours for teachers. On Nov. 7 there is an early dismissal for students. Teachers attend inservice in the afternoon. This early dismissal is right before a four day weekend. On Jan. 18 there is an early dismissal for students. Teachers attend inservice in the afternoon. This early dismissal is right before a three day weekend. On Feb. 15 there is an early dismissal for students. Teachers attend inservice in the afternoon. This early dismissal is right before a three day weekend. On May 28 there is a delayed opening for students. Teachers attend an inservice. This delayed opening follows a three day weekend (possibly a four day weekend due to snow day giveback) . The additional inservice hours were dictated by the NJDOE to accommodate what the state education department calls PLC's (Professional Learning Communities). These additional requirements by the state education department had many districts reorganizing calendars to be compliant with state mandates.
Susan Snow August 26, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I am really tired of people trying to justify the drop. Let's face the facts. It dropped, now fix it.
LJrocket August 26, 2012 at 03:15 PM
As I teacher, I will tell you that I do receive hourse for the opening day before school and PLC is done during staff required meetings after school. We have a meeting and then PLC. If there is block scheduling it is built into the school day. In addition, the delayed openings and half days are still equaling the same amount of time as the two inservice days. All my hours were done within the same given amount of time as in past years without taking away from the children. Again, this goes back to seasoned professionals who know how to make the schedules and figure things out the correct way so that it is fair for the teachers and children.
LJrocket August 26, 2012 at 03:33 PM
PLC hours are done during common planning time among the grades and after school for the departments.
LeAnn Tavtigian August 26, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Thank you, Charley2 for explaining the specifics of the new requirements. I knew the outline, but not the detail. Susan, the drop does need to be fixed. It is bad. But I've looked at all the measures of student performance included in the ratings (combined SAT scores, HSPA scores and AP exam scores) and even included the "student outcomes" (i.e. the 7 who didn't graduate from Chatham) and we still ranked 4th out of the schools listed in the top 20 by those measures. The reason for the fall then lies in the "school environment" category - esp. the faculty / student ratio. We had the worst ratio of those 20 schools! I pointed all of this out above. We can fix it by hiring more teachers who have graduate degrees and lowering our avg class sizes. When were the new class rooms completed at the high school? Are they done now?
LeAnn Tavtigian August 26, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Thanks LJrocket for explaining that the total time is the same either way. I'm glad there are more early dismissals vs delayed openings this year at least - delayed openings, esp 5 of them like last year, are particularly difficult for working parents as early morning childcare is difficult to come by
AAM August 27, 2012 at 01:22 AM
These ranking are based on more than test scores for a reason. There is more to life than test scores. You can't just take the categories that Chatham is the best in and declare that these are the only things that count and give us a ranking of four. By the way, even with the limited parameters that were picked there are at least 3 schools currently ranked below 20 that might be ranked above Chatham (Princeton, west Windsor and Haddonfield ). All schools use the same for formula for graduation rate , whether you agree with it or not, it is what it is and all schools have to deal with it. That graduation rate is lower in Chatham and it should be counted toward the rankings. The same goes for class size, it is a very important factor. Now is there a significant difference between in learning for a child if they have 17 or 19 kids in their class? Probably not, but there is a difference between 20 and 25. If you were moving to a new school district wouldn't you want to know how many kids were going to be in your child's class? Profiency in advanced math is the only category which, seemed to me, that Chatham could use improvement in as the were several schools with significantly higher percentages. Chatham is a very good school our children will not be at a disadvantage graduatiing from there. Is it the best school in the state? No, but it is certainly one of the best.
LJrocket August 27, 2012 at 12:09 PM
AAM - I agree with your posting. I am just concerned that we will begin to drop even more without having more teachers with advanced degrees and smaller class sizes. I am reading about individuals analyzing how our ranking dropped, but no one discussing how the Chatham schools was or is exceptional for their child. The district still does not offer a full day kindergarten program, is new to inclusion and should truly analyize and value the video "A Race to Nowhere." When parents dread children's homework, there is a problem. If you can do 5 problems, you can do 25. If you do all 25 wrong, you have just instilled the wrong concept 25 times! If you do the 5 wrong you can intervene and reteach. The abundance of HW needs to be addressed, because it is getting "out of control" and after school activities and family time must be encouraged for a well rounded child.
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Wait...so additional teachers with higher qualifications (requiring higher pay) that give LESS work so your kids can play on more travel teams is going to solve this problem? You need some educatin'.
LJrocket August 27, 2012 at 01:09 PM
My child doesn't play on a travel team and yes, I would be willing to pay more for higher qualified teachers. It is well worth it, especially at the middle school level and HS. I would rather put the money into teachers and building classrooms than a parking lot. Have you seen the statistics about HW? I have attached a website that I think everyone might find interesting. There is a significant amount of research on the negative effects of HW. What about religious education classes, Hebrew lessons or better yet, visiting grandma at the nursing home? http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/rethinkinghomework.htm
LJrocket August 27, 2012 at 01:31 PM
By the way, Duncan, my child also does a significant amount of volunteer work and I encourage that, but sometimes he can not volunteer if he has an abundance of HW. Also, I had my MA and 5 years of experience when my district hired me.
PaddleTennisPlayer August 27, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Duncan: Of course if a teacher has a higher qualifications they get higher pay than another. This Patch Article was written last year listing the teachers in the districts pay. http://chatham.patch.com/articles/avg-chatham-teacher-makes-68k
PaddleTennisPlayer August 27, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Exactly LJ Rocket, I couldn't care less about the "problems" at CHS will their overfilled parking lots. Don't waste the money on parking lots, use it for the schools. Because WE the residents of Chatham really want to see our money used to make new parking lots. We want it to be used to better educate our children.
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I agree with the first half of your comment that there are 3 (or more) schools that very well could have been ahead of Chatham, but how do you conclude that math proficiency is the only category where we need improvement? We need to improve in the areas where other schools are ahead of us if we want to consider ourselves as academic and competitive as they are. And I don't mean needlessly, superficially competitive like, "We beat you." I mean "We offer the best education" competitive. Like you implied, there are arguments for and against the importance of class size and graduation rate--but these are the factors by which our school is judged--you can complain about the rules (like many people above are doing), or you can play the game. Like others, I think it shows tremendous lack of foresight on the part of our administrators that they have not been more concerned with these two sets of numbers because, clearly, the admins at the 19 schools ahead of us were more clued in.
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Part II The SDOC loves to crow about all the ways we are better than state averages (low hurdles that they are), but with a student-faculty ratio of 12.3 we are actually worse than the state average and it has been that way since the prior Superintendent O'Neill decided it was better to hire administrators instead of teachers. So we are left with ridiculously low student to administrator ratios, higher than average student to teacher ratios and ratings that are probably going to continue to slide. Because if you ask me, the problems with Chatham's schools start in kindergarten.
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Right...to improve both the student teacher ratio, and the percent of teachers with advanced degrees would take a lot of money. So my point was, why would we hire more teachers with advanced degrees at higher salaries and then ask them to go easy on the students with no homework, etc.
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Thank you for the link to Alfie Kohn. I do like covering all aspects of the education debate and will read that at some point, but I'd just like to say that I don't think a wholesale revamping of public education can be counted on during the time our kids are in Chatham schools. Nor do I think it is necessary. I have read a lot of interviews that the principal of New Prov high school has given in response to being named a blue ribbon school last year, and being number one in NJ Monthly this year. It seems that they made a conscious and dedicated decision to create a better school. It took administrators and a school culture focused on EDUCATION and opportunity to do it, but it looks like it worked. We'll see. I think your comments about parking lots touch on the Chatham "school culture" aspect and I agree with them. But I do not agree that our school children are overworked. By the way, I generally consider surveys like the NJ Monthly top schools survey nearly totally bogus--and the blue ribbons are largely political. But I go through all of the testing reports, the school report cards, and spending reports myself and I think we are lucky to be at 20.
LeAnn Tavtigian August 27, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I agree about hiring more teachers and more teachers with advanced degrees. And that ratio may have improved somewhat at the HS already if the new classrooms weren't open yet when this ratio was calculated. But the problem of more teachers has an additional kink in it - classroom space. They couldn't hire more at the hs until the addition b/c there was no physical space for additional classrooms and the existing classrooms were fully utilized. This district has grown so rapidly that we keep literally busting our seams by outgrowing the buildings. We may still have to look into adding a school....I'm very worried, as I mentioned above, that these ratios are "leading indicators" and that we could be in for falling student performance in years to come as the younger kids have had higher classroom ratios in their early years than the graduating seniors experienced. Also, I am NOT complaining about the rules - just analyzing them. To fix a problem, you need to understand it first. If our graduation rate is hurting us AND part of that lower rate is students who moved out of district during the 4 year period now included in the calculation, then how can we track those students etc. so that families that move away don't hurt us in the future? Can we ask them to sign a form stating that they were leaving the district? The other ratios we can change by our hiring patterns etc. this we have to look at more.
LeAnn Tavtigian August 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Also, I didn't go "lower" than us in the ratings partly out of time considerations. I'm sure there are other schools in our same situation, some of which may have had better student outcomes than Chatham did. I'm still concerned that the new classrooms at the HS won't be enough, as well. The classes included on the NJ "School Report Card" that these ratings were based on were all under 300 students (the report cards come out a year after the data produced, so this is based on the 2010-2011 report card that just came out this spring). Last year's freshman class and, I think, all of the classes in the younger grades are at or above the 300 mark. So even with the new classrooms, we may be just treading water as far as the student / faculty raio is concerned.
Wiserowl August 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Seven students from that "graduating" class did not get a rudimentary high school diploma from a school system in an upscale socio-economic community rich with human and physical capital. Yes, there will always be a need for trade occupations. And yes, those are respectable careers. The Guidance Department should be encouraging and assisting interested students in pursuing those careers after graduation, not before. Anyone suggesting a high school diploma is ivy tower snobbery nonsense suited for some students and not others, needs to rethink their priorities. Just what century do you think you live in? That statistic, not the actual school rank, is "THE" concern. As I indicated, the difference in those top ranked schools is marginal. Losing seven students on the other hand is catastrophic. The notion of one student, much less seven, not getting a high school diploma in Chatham should be unthinkable; not rationalized or dismissed.
LeAnn Tavtigian August 27, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Not rationalizing - however, while the "assumption" is that these kids did not get a high school diploma, that could be inaccurate because of the way the rate is calculated. If a student started freshman year here, then moved to Alaska in sophmore year and finished HS there, they would count as not having graduated from Chatham and show up in this calculation. The old calculation only covered senior year, so it compared students that started senior year in chatham to those that finished that year in Chatham - clearly, less students would simply "move away" in a one year span (especially in the middle of senior year!), so students moving out of district during the school year was less of an issue. the change was made because students who drop out sometimes do so earlier than senior year. However, the new calculation automatically captures more students who simply move. Since this is the first year that this calculation has been used, methods to minimize the impact of issues such as students moving away still need to be developed. I have to agree that while the trades can provide a very good living, it would be better for students to get their HS diploma first. And the administration probably knows, or can find out, how many students ACTUALLY dropped out (unless they moved away first, then dropped out).
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 04:09 PM
With regard to the Grad Rate...the materials about Adjusted Cohort Grad Rate that one can read at the Federal or State education sites would lead one to believe it is very unlikely that you just "lose" people. Whether transferring in-state or out of state, dropping out, withdrawing, falling off-track, or dying...there seem to be forms and documentation that can account for everything. The schools have been aware for awhile now that when a student enters 9th grade at their school they are put into a cohort and "owned" by the school until they can document a reason for change. The NJ ed website even has the memo that had the form attached that they sent to all schools that was supposed to be used to document student transfers outside of NJ public schools. With the emphasis that the Federal and State governments have put on the implementation of this calculation over the last few years, it would be even more shameful if our grad rate turned out to be lower because of clerical error. With the abundance of administrators that we have, and the way everyone has been anticipating these numbers, you would hope that someone would have gone the extra mile to account for everyone...but maybe not.
LeAnn Tavtigian August 27, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I didn't see all of Duncan's post above. Glad there is a method to document those moving away; it's worth asking if the correct documentation took place and if there really were 7 that "dropped out".
Duncan Munchkin August 27, 2012 at 05:40 PM
This moving out of state without follow-up would be considered an unverified transfer and I doubt it is responsible for our number unless some Chatham admin blew it off and dropped the ball--which is possible. Also, though this is the first year that they have reported grad rate as the Adj cohort grad rate, the memos and guidelines were sent to districts in 2010. It is not like they didn't see it coming--Federal guidelines were published in 2008. One also has to keep in mind that aside from unverified transfers and drop outs/withdrawals, if you are held back a year you also will not count as a graduate in your cohort...not even if you graduate with the next class. Apparently, they will be publishing 5 year graduation data which will take the off-trackers into consideration. I grew up in a blue collar town where half my graduating class went to Vo-Tech school and we had our share of dropouts. While I am not critical of people who decide to drop out or leave for a trade or the military or something, it still says something about the school. Our schools are basically mandated to make sure every member of a cohort proceeds through to a diploma (ideally) in four years. They seem to be able to engage kids that require IEPs, and kids that want to take multiple AP classes, and rabid athletes--are they unable to engage kids who eventually want to work a trade or just get through? Do they not bother to encourage a transfer to a more appropriate tech school or something?
avid reader August 27, 2012 at 05:45 PM
LJ Rocket - I don't think Dunkin read your article, because I found it fascinating and have done additional research. Everything I am reading proves the negative impact of homework and there is no evidence that I could find supporting it. Absolutely, in the higher levels we need more teachers with higher degrees. The problem is that Chatham has a very high salery guide compared to other districts I was looking at and searching. They are getting large increments for only a BA. Math, Science and English at HS should at least have a MA.
Wiserowl August 27, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Am I to believe Chatham High School does not know how to properly document a legitimate transfer from one school to another? Aren't student records transferred to receiving schools from sending schools? Is this nothing more than a clerical problem Ms. Tavtigian? As for "off-trackers" taking more than four years to graduate as suggested by Duncan Munchkin; is the Department of Education being insensitive to classified students who may need more time? We, as a community, should know if our learning disabled children are being unfairly targeted as "under-achievers" by the Department of Education or that information is being misused by NJ Monthly in their school ranking methodology. Chatham's Own responded to my initial post by noting: "i can think of 5 students who dropped out to pursue careers as plumbers and electricians. as well as one other student who went to work for his dad in the Heating/ A/C business." That would suggest dropping out of school without a diploma is a concern. This warrants a response by the Superintendent of Schools Chatham Patch. Why haven't we heard from him?
avidreader August 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I suppose everyone forgets that this year the US News and World Report ranked Chatham # 7 in the state, the highest rated traditional public high school (non magnet, etc.). So obviously there must be differences in how these rankings are calculated, and there are. You can't even compare this year's NJ Monthly rankings to the previous ones because the criteria has changed. And if you bothered to look up the numbers, Chatham's HSPA scores and SAT scores have only increased. Sure, class size has too. If you notice, none of the "top" high schools in NJ Monthly are large districts. I went to a high school twice the size of Chatham and was in large classes, but most of us still did well. Large class sizes aren't optimal, but aren't the worst for a high school. I did better in college because I was used to being one of many and working hard to stand out, while the private school kids who were used to being one of fifteen did poorly because no one was there to hold their hand. Regarding the $ spent on the security system...if there were some school shooting or tragedy, I guarantee that some of you would be quick to bemoan the fact that CHS didn't have good security. And compared to many other high schools, ours has been traditionally lax. As for the graduation rate, again, it sounds like the way it was calculated was questionable. Plus, would you rather CHS just "push kids through" even if they are not meeting standards like many other high schools just to look good?
Fiona August 28, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Aesop, who did not attend Chatham High School, warned that Pride Preceeds a Fall. This inconsequential drop by a generalist state magazine lacking teeth is the best thing that could happen to Chatham High School. Coasting at the top is never the way to excellence.
PaddleTennisPlayer August 29, 2012 at 01:28 PM
So what the concern here is about the seven students who don't receive diplomas? I mean I agree with the idea of those seven students dropping out of school for a family business or a plumbing job, but still losing seven students is the catastrophic thing here. Chatham is a fantastic school district for every grade. Back to the last topic, the idea of hiring teachers with higher degrees is terrible because those teachers tend to be the those teachers who are the rude and strict ones that the students hate. Using the salary of these teachers compared to their reviews on a website that is popular to Chatham district students. The website is www.ratemyteachers.com, but the teachers who have the bigger pay usually have the lower rankings. But most of these teachers have tenure.

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