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River Dell Seeks Answers on NJ Monthly Rankings

Unable to replicate NJ Monthly's results, Superintendent Patrick Fletcher has reached out to the magazine for answers

For several weeks, residents have been outspoken about the disturbing news that in NJ Monthly's biennial report on the top 100 schools in the state. Since word got out that the Regional district went from being ranked 27th to 104th, Superintendent Patrick Fletcher has attempted to replicate the magazine's results. Unable to do so, he has not reached out to NJ Monthly several times for answers, but instead has gotten silence in return.

"I like everyone else am concerned about the drop in rankings," Fletcher said. "Taking time to look at the data associated, the administration and I came to the conclusion that there is something we don't understand about the methodology used to create the rankings. We've done some significatn analysis of the numbers, and using the magazine's data and formula, we can not replicate their number. We should be at least able to come close to what they did."

According to Fletcher, he has reached out to NJ Monthly for a full explanation of their methodology as it pertains to River Dell as the district also reached out to several neighboring districts what are also unable to replicate the magazine's results.

Part of Fletcher's analysis looked into the district's test performances for Language Arts: 63.7% of students score proficient on the High School Proficency Assessment and 30% register as advanced proficient in 2010-11. The prior year recorded students at 64% proficient and 29.3% advanced proficient.

He also looked at the scores for Mathematics: 50.6% proficient and 36.3% advanced proficient in 2010-11, while 53.7% proficient and 29.3% advanced proficient in 2009-10. Official results for the 2011-12 test scores will not be available until sometime in 2013.

"If we look at test performance, the number of students that scored advanced proficient in language arts and mathematics is lower in 2010 than in 2012," Fletcher said. "We have more students scoring advanced proficient in 2012 than we did in 2010."

New Jersey Monthly bases its results on the 2009 Class for the year 2010 and the 2011 Class for the year 2012. The magazine also looked at the district's SAT scores for 2009 (average 1643) and 2011 (1591), but Fletcher stated that the Class of 2012 recored an average score of 1643.

"There are changes in the methodology and it should impact us, but we can't replicate that significant a drop," Fletcher said. "Until NJ Monthly can explain the difference, I can't draw the same conclusion that River Dell is no longer a good school district because of the rankings. Unfortunately, it's not a good answer but I will continue trying to reach out and pursuing an explanation."

While Fletcher has so far not received any response from NJ Monthly, he hopes to get clarification from the magazine soon about the methodology and change in rankings.

Other District Factor Group I schools:

School 2010 Ranking 2012 Ranking Tenafly 3 3 Park Ridge 18 14 Ramapo 19 17 Pascack Hills 7 18 Cresskill 55 29 Ramsey 33 30 Northern Valley Demarest 14 34 Indian Hills 35 43 Northern Valley Old Tappan 30 53 Mahwah 56 55 Pascack Valley 23 73

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Michael Barry September 14, 2012 at 01:25 PM
73 cents of every one of my tax dollars goes to public schools in River Edge and Oradell and the high school can't even make it into the top 100! When Weehawken High School outshines River Dell by a hugh margine I have to ask myself where all this tax money is going?
Ed1 September 14, 2012 at 01:32 PM
why is it that every other superintendent - fort lee, ridgewood - search on the patch and u will find the article's in question - knows the answers to why they fell and River Dell's does not? another diversion by the Super - so he does not have to answer the question of why River Dell is on a downward spiral on his watch. Hoping as in all past instances that the parents will forget as he rides out the storm. I, have a few reasons - the laptops are no longer SPECIAL - how about lack of AP classes compared to other districts in our group. We come in DEAD LAST in our i district. This is not rocket science - the mask is finally coming off
TomW September 14, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Back to School Night was last night. After my visit last night I feel the HS focus more in the arts and there appears to be a lack in challenging the students academicly. Especially when your child comes home with three study hall periods in their schedule. And the only class your child can substitute a study hall with is Ceramics, Crafts or Photography. Then there is still two study halls. Our taxes should not go to paying salary and benefit increases when most of us are not afforded that increase due to the economy. There should be salary freezes in our towns gov't if everyone is facing such economic hardship.
GGT September 14, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Would we be calling NJ Monthly if the rankings stayed the same or went up from 2010? Or is it that they dropped so much, therefore the rankings must be suspect. So if we are up we do not question, but if we are down we question?
GGT September 14, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Michael: I was quite surprised that RD ranked 27in 2010, and quite frankly I just did not believe it. I was skeptical. In other words I did not think the schools were that wonderful to supposedly rank that high. So in the same vein I am not sure that we are now 104. But the huge drop from 27 to 104, is a PR disaster, and you cannot spin that away. The sad part is residents of River Edge voted to spend 26 million dollars on a massive renovation/addition project, and at the end of the day whether we are 27, or 104, or somewhere in between, the fact remains that RD is no better or worse than many of the surrounding towns schools. And if you believe the rankings that is clear on this latest survey. The difference is they are paying less in taxes, and in many cases far less, for equal and in some cases a better education. Spening all this money was a mistake and now residents are paying for it. Cheerleaders for the schools will no longer be able to point to the NJ Monthly Rankings survey as justification for the massive spending, and appressive taxes. Finally many RE residents seem to forget i that Oradell voted overwhelmingly no to the spending referendum, and River Edge's approval of it just stiffened their determination to challenge the school funding formula; all the way to the state Supreme Court if need be.
lucky September 14, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Unfortunately we all have our theories as to why the drop in scores. Until and unless that BOE starts asking questions, nothing will change. I encourage you all to attend a BOE meeting. The majority, which I have to say are from RE and one from Oradell, just agree to every and anything the superintendent says. No questions, no requests for data, no request for follow-up - nothing. Until and unless that changes, nothing will change. Our money gets spent and no accountability to whether or not programs work or don't work. It's an awful shame - a waste of our funds and most importantly a disservice to our kids. They move through this system that doesn't even care to know if what and how we do things works. And since RE has the majority of the BOE, the few from Oradell that try to change things and ask for data can get none of it because the majority just doesn't care.
blue eyed betty September 14, 2012 at 07:47 PM
TomW-as a government employee I have to say that I have taken the hit just as the private employees have. This year was the first year I had seen a raise in 3yrs. The raise was a whopping 1%. Now please also understand that the local government employee in river edge DOES NOT have this elaborate benefit packages. We have major medical and that is it, we have no dental, we have no vision and we DO NOT receive benefits upon retirement. So please do not lump all government employees together cause we r not all the same.
TomW September 15, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Betty, I am not going to get into a debate with you because I know there are differences. My coverage of town gov't includes anyone who receives a salary from tax payers. But a whopping 1% in 3 yrs is better than my 0% in 4 yrs and there is no signs things are looking better in years to come. We are all feeling the affects of this economy.
Jason Danahy September 16, 2012 at 02:23 AM
I have no children in the high school, so I can't comment firsthand on any personal experiences, but it's clear when you analyze the data that NJ Monthly's research firm took a extremely heavy position on Average Class Size and Student Faculty ratio. If you take two independent data sets apart from River Dell, the results speak loudly: Glen Rock (#4) vs Livingston (#24): Average Class Size: GR 18.4, L 23.0- As Alphonse Baretlloni mentioned on past post, this is a result of many factors. Seems to be a key cog in the NJ Monthly machine. Those in the 20s here get hit really hard. Student Faculty ratio: GR 10.0 vs L11.1- Again, school environment factors in favor of Glen Rock % of faculty with masters or doctorate- GR 62.7 vs L 76.9- That's a pretty big lift. Two spots higher than Livingston sits Northern Highlands at 81. 6. Average combined SAT score- GR 1696 vs L 1725- On the most important standardized test, Livingston performs a bit better...with 270 more kids in the school % advanced proficient: language- GR 27.8 vs. L 43.6. That's a beat down % advanced proficient: math- GR 48 vs L 51.1. That's a fair fight, but after two rounds, advantage Livingston
Jason Danahy September 16, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Number of AP Tests offered- GR 22 vs L 28 % of AP Tests with 3+- GR 81.5 vs L 94.5- Again, Livingston performs at a higher level. The graduation rates are almost equal, within a percentage point or so, meaning either 1 or 3% of kids don't graduate, which in districts like these aren't sample sizes worth comparing. NJ Monthly data management doesn't seem proper, and I work with data quite a bit. You can certainly have personal judgment, but I think the data mix is off
Dr.Doom December 28, 2012 at 02:58 AM
any updates on "reaching out to the nj monthly" or its all forgotten?

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