PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Education
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
February 13, 2018
Download PDF of Policy Brief: Weber.GraduationRates.2-12-2018
In this research brief, I explore the claims made by state and local officials that Newark and Camden schools have seen remarkable gains in graduation rates over the past several years. I find:
- Comparisons of growth in graduation rates between districts like Newark and Camden and the rest of New Jersey’s districts are invalid, as many districts have graduation rates that are approaching 100 percent and therefore cannot get any larger.
- The better approach is to compare Newark and Camden to similar districts: those in District Factor Group “A” (DFG-A), which have large populations of students in economic disadvantage and students of color.
- I find that all of New Jersey’s DFG-A districts have had rising graduation rates over the past six years – Newark’s and Camden’s gains are not statistically significantly different from similar districts across the state.
- One explanation for the rising graduation rates may be the increasing use of “credit recovery” programs. These programs, which often place students at risk of dropping out into on-line learning programs, are controversial as there is little research on their proliferation or outcomes.
- New Jersey should regulate credit recovery and similar programs to determine whether rising graduation rates truly reflect better instruction in the state’s high schools.