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Montgomery High School Slips to 103 in NJ School Rankings, What Does It Mean?

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted July 19, 2023 and updated at 1 pm.


Regular public schools—such as Montgomery High School—are sinking in the overall state rankings while selective public schools, mostly in the form of academies or magnet schools, are rising.


In fact, the top ranking schools in New Jersey are now all selective schools, according to the latest NJ School Performance Report (2021-2022). Students must apply to selective schools, such as Edison Academy Magnet School, the No. 3 in the state. The admissions processes are similar to those of colleges or private schools.


“The process considers middle school grades and a school-developed assessment in language arts and mathematics and writing,” according to the Edison Academy web site. “The number of applicants to the academy has increased each year since the school’s inception in September 2000, and each subsequent year reflects strong competition for a limited number of seats.”

Montgomery High School Class of 2023. MHS students performed well above average on NJ state proficiency tests.


The top 21 schools in the state are all selective “exam schools,” as their dominance has increased in the past five years. Most of the top 50 are now selective public schools.

Meanwhile, regular public schools that accept ALL students have, in general, fallen in the ranks. Montgomery High School fell 52 spots, from the No. 51 public school in New Jersey in 2017-18 to the No. 103 ranked school in 2021-22. (See chart below.) The highest ranking regular public school is Tenafly High School. Tenafly was ranked No. 13 the in 2017-18, but fell nine notches to No. 22.

NJ Rankings, Based on NJ Dept of Education Criteria

​22. Tenafly High School

62. West Windsor-Plains North

103. Montgomery High School

106. South Brunswick High School

107. Princeton High School

115. Hopewell High School

122. Hillsborough High School

The Montgomery News asked the superintendent of the Montgomery Township Schools for a comment on what appears to be a slip in the rankings of Montgomery’s public schools.


“Our students’ proficiency scores in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics continue to far exceed the state benchmarks,” Superintendent Mary E. McLoughlin said. “Our schools’ scores in the [overall] report do not accurately reflect the academic success achieved by our students."

Criteria used to rank public schools

Chronic absenteeism, more than 18 absences per year, was the most significant contributing factor to Montgomery High School's change in score.


“We acknowledge that during the pandemic and post-pandemic, there were heightened health concerns leading to increased absences. As with all data, we welcome this information as it gives us targeted areas to improve student experience and performance. However, we never want to have Montgomery’s performance reflected in a concerning manner,” McLoughlin said.


Because of the pandemic, the NJDOE did not conduct statewide assessments in the 2019- 2020 and 2021-2022 school years. This is the first year since 2017-18 the NJDOE has released data that enables a school-by-school comparison. This has also enabled media companies, such as NJ Advance Media, to compile state rankings based solely or partially on the state data. Other companies that do rankings include Niche and US News & World Reports, which do not use the NJDOE data. Niche heavily relies upon online surveys that anybody can fill out. See Review Your School.


Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of the NJDOE, warns: “Our annual School Performance Reports provide a wealth of information that can be used by the community to engage in thoughtful conversations. While this data does not fully capture the unique circumstances and efforts of each school community, these reports are one important tool that can be used to identify successes and challenges, engage in dialogue, and work collectively toward improving the education and supports provided to all students.”


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Superintendent McLoughlin agrees, saying: “All data provides an opportunity to both celebrate successes and examine our educational community’s needs with a critical lens. We look forward to continuing to refine our students’ experiences while maximizing the potential for all.”


Public school students are required to take the NJ Student Learning Assessment (NJSLA), beginning in 3rd grade. Public school rankings are based on two standardized tests included in the NJSLA—the English Language Arts (ELA) test and the Mathematics test.


Other criteria include, absenteeism, progress toward proficiency, and graduation rates.


It seems that if Montgomery wants a school in the top 10, it would have to skim off the top of the class and create a Montgomery magnet school for them.


There could be a downside to segregating the smartest kids from the general school population that is not reflected in state rankings. ■


Melanie Zhang contributed to this article.


Data used in this report is available at the NJ School Performance Report website (https://rc.doe.state.nj.us/download).

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