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ESSA--Zywicki Testimony to the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, 10-11-16

Public Comment on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
October 11, 2016 - Joint Committee on the Public Schools
My name is Robert Zywicki and I am the Superintendent of the Weehawken Township School District in Hudson County. I
greatly appreciate this opportunity to comment on the state’s implementation of ESSA. My district is a member of the Garden
State Coalition of Schools and I am a member of the NJASA Legislative Committee. I will be speaking on two topics related
to local ESSA implementation as it pertains to the reporting on school and district performance.
My first comment is in regard to the reporting of the adjusted cohort high school graduation rate on the school performance
reports that NJDOE produces annually.
The current adjusted graduation rate reported on NJDOE school performance reports is a calculation of the number
of high school students belonging to a cohort who graduate within four years. This metric has had positive results for
New Jersey’s students. Schools now have greater incentive to provide dropout prevention strategies such as, Response
to Intervention, for students who are at risk of not graduating.
The cohort graduation rate currently reported on the New Jersey school performance reports is considered adjusted
because it excludes students who have transferred out of state or who are deceased. Student dropouts, unverified
transfers, and students in continuing status count against a school's graduation rate.
Oftentimes continuing students are special education students who are entitled to receive services beyond four years of
high school. Additionally, students who take longer than four years to graduate due to medical conditions are counted
as continuing status students.
The inclusion of continuing status students produces an artificially low graduation rate that is reported to the public on
NJDOE performance reports. For example, in my District in 2015-16, the attending cohort graduation rate that
excludes continuing students is 98%. Yet, the official accountable cohort graduation rate that includes continuing
status students is 93%.
I respectfully urge the Committee to consider a stipulation in the reporting regulations so that the four year adjusted
cohort graduation rate reported on that NJDOE school performance reports no longer penalizes a school for
continuing status students.
My second comment is with respect to the reporting of the postsecondary enrollment rate on the NJDOE school performance
reports produced annually by NJDOE.
New Jersey’s school performance reports for high schools currently include a category entitled Postsecondary
Enrollment Rate. This statistic reports the percentage of students who are enrolled in a two or four year college
sixteen months after high school graduation. This statistic has been used by publications such as New Jersey Monthly
as part of their high school ranking methodology.
This postsecondary enrollment statistic fails to take into account high school graduates who are serving in the military,
enrolled in a trade school, volunteering with humanitarian organizations, or working in business or industry. Further
the use of this statistic implies that military service or working to save money to go to college are somehow less
valuable than immediate enrollment in college.
I respectfully urge the Committee to consider a “Postsecondary Plans Index” that shows the number of graduates who
are reported to be enrolled in college or trade school, serving in the military, volunteering with a humanitarian
organization, or working in business or industry.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my comments regarding ESSA implemen


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828