The New Jersey Department of Education alerted 200 elementary schools statewide in April that they were classified as needing improvement, based on guidelines defined in the federal "No Child Left Behind Act," which will take effect on July 1, 2002.
The No Child Left Behind Act called for schools to be held to the highest of standards, with the most attention being focused upon reading and mathematics.
Because of the classification, the schools included in the list are expected to receive additional funds from the federal government to enhance and improve existing programs.
Schools identified as "needing improvement" are provided additional funds and assistance to get the scores up; however, the schools face the possibility of receiving financial penalties if they don't show adequate yearly progress.
Rep. Robert Menendez said that the federal government is now debating the No Child Left Behind Act. Menendez, who voted for the act, said that the federal government has now cut 28 programs and $1 billion in funding for the act.
Three elementary schools in Union City and one school in West New York were the list, which also included 19 schools in Jersey City and a school program in North Bergen.
Defending his school
Only one of the six elementary schools in West New York, Public School No. 2, was included on the state list released last month.
According to Superintendent of Schools Anthony Yankovich, the guidelines set aside in the No Child Left Behind Act do not accurately evaluate elementary schools.
The classification was based on the fourth grade and eighth grade assessment tests given in 1999 and 2000.
"This school may be off the list based on how they did on the tests this year," said Yankovich. "As a district, we are doing very well. One school did not do very well."
Public School No. 2 is a kindergarten through eighth grade school.
Yankovich said that the school had only showed failing marks in one subject area on their standardized test.
"They received 75 percent passing in all other areas," said Yankovich. "I don't want to say that this school needs improvement."
Yankovich also added that other schools that may be failing all subject areas, but have shown adequate improvement, are not included on the list even though they are failing schools.
While Union City had three of its nine elementary schools placed on the state's list of schools that need improvement last month, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Highton agreed that those schools can do better.
"With the kind of money that the state is giving us, we should make improvements," said Thomas Highton, superintendent of schools in Union City. "I think they should expect some accountability."
The three schools in Union City that have been placed on the "needs improvement" list are Washington School, Gilmore School and Roosevelt School.
"The scores weren't what they should be in mathematics and language arts," admitted Highton.
However, on the other end, Union City has been credited with the highest standardized testing scores in all of the Abbott Districts.
Columbus School, which services sixth, seventh and eight grade students, received the highest eighth grade efficiency test scores. Woodrow Wilson School, the district's magnet school, also received high eighth grade scores as well as fourth grade scores. Hudson School, which services kindergarten through sixth grade also received high fourth grade scores.
Edison School also scored well on its eighth grade efficiency exams.
Highton said that the district is going to work with the three schools to help them get off the "needs improvement" list.
"We are going to refocus the staff and administration in those schools," said Highton. "I believe that those three schools will come on board."
The state is submitting a plan at the end of the month that will help the schools improve. According to Highton, one of the components of the plan is to allow parents to opt out of failing schools.