Superintendent Search Update #7: Measurable Outcomes

The Metuchen Board of Education is in the process of hiring the next Superintendent of Schools, at a time when the school system has been sitting at an academic crossroads. We cannot afford to continue performing at our current level and expect that all Metuchen students will have a strong academic experience.

Our district is fiscally sound; our school buildings are in good shape. Now it is crucial to focus on academics and on challenging all our students from K-12.  When the Board selects the next Superintendent of Schools, that person should have proven quantifiable academic achievement in his/her school or district, as well as experience in leading with an eye on student outcomes.

The single most important outcome of a K-12 education is how prepared graduates are for the next step in life, which for most is getting a college degree. Since 2007, members of the community have expressed a real concern about the 4-year college attendance rate of Metuchen High School graduates. Back then, we were told that that year was a “blip” year, when the rate was 62%.  But in 2010 (the last class that the public has information on) MHS still sent only 62% of the graduating class on to a 4-year college. According to the 2011 New Jersey State Report Cards, Metuchen is 48 out of 48 I-districts in that category (the average I-district’s rate is 80%).  And there are many districts of much lower socio-economic status that send more graduates to a 4-year college than Metuchen does.

This student outcome is extremely important not only to parents who have kids in Edgar School and in MHS, but for those whose kids are in 1st and 2nd grade too. It’s in elementary school that the preparation begins for the challenge of college.

In fact, the 4-year college attendance rate is important to every property owner and taxpayer in Metuchen. Our town is attractive to prospective homeowners who are willing to pay high taxes for good schools, the downtown, and the trains to NYC.  But to preserve our desirability, Metuchen must stay competitive. Let’s remember there are other towns with downtowns and trains and some whose schools have better student outcomes in certain areas. For example, Woodbridge High School’s 4-year college attendance rate for the Class of 2010 was 72%.

It is disheartening that the community’s questions about the low 4-year college attendance rate have been dismissed with “It’s the economy” or “It’s the parent’s choice.”  The real answer is that we do not know why Metuchen’s students are not attending 4-year colleges at a similar rate as students from similar districts. Metuchen needs to concentrate on available student data, consider best practices of other districts, and determine how to make a fix here. Let’s ensure that our schools and our town continue to build towards excellence by hiring a leader for Metuchen’s schools who has a desire to improve student outcomes and a track record of having done so.

To find data on student outcomes including the 4-year college attendance rate for graduates, visit Click on the individual school, then click “School Report Card (print version).”

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