Este año, 20 escuelas de Newark mejoran su desempeño académico.

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More than half of Newark’s public schools are no longer designated as low-performing or in need of support after a state review of high-poverty schools.

This year, 20 schools in Newark exited state designations for schools needing support due to student underperformance, among other criteria. Among them were Weequahic High School and Rafael Hernández Elementary School. Both moved out of one of the lowest designations given to schools requiring recurring support, according to Superintendent Roger León, who announced the school designations during a board meeting last month.

These schools joined a list of over 30 other schools that did not receive a designation this year.

While an improvement over recent years, the district still lags behind in graduation rates and average state proficiency scores in standardized tests. Seven Newark schools still require state support to enhance student performance next school year. The district’s goal is to have the number of schools supported by the state range from “a small number to zero,” León stated during the meeting.

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA, New Jersey must ensure that all students have access to equitable and high-quality education. Federal guidelines establish minimum requirements to measure and report school performance and mandate that states identify lowest-performing schools.

Schools needing assistance receive federal funding aimed at aiding the improvement of lower-performing students. It is also identified that high-poverty schools require additional support through the Title I program. All Newark schools qualify for Title I.

New Jersey considers a variety of factors when identifying schools needing support, including academic performance, academic growth in elementary and secondary schools, high school graduation rates, English language proficiency, and chronic absenteeism. The state then assigns a score.

Last year, the state analyzed data from the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years and identified 25 public schools in Newark needing support. The state required the district to draft an action plan and engage the community to help identify and address school challenges.

This year, seven schools entered a new state status or remained under the same designation, a significant change from last year’s state review. During this year’s review, the state analyzed data from the 2022-23 school year, a period in which Newark Public Schools’ state test scores increased by 2 percentage points in both math and English language arts, pointing to students’ slow academic recovery post-pandemic.

The pandemic had a devastating impact on student performance and mental health, particularly among Newark’s most vulnerable students, including English learners and students with disabilities. Third-grade English language arts scores remained at 19% last spring, raising concerns among advocates who view that grade as a critical year for long-term success.

Two schools, Grover Cleveland Elementary and Thirteenth Avenue Elementary, performed at or below the lowest 5% of Title I schools, meaning they will enter “comprehensive status” for the next year. Last year, Thirteenth Avenue School exited that status. High schools enter comprehensive status when they have a graduation rate of 67% or less.

Next year, Barringer High School will exit “comprehensive status II,” a designation for schools requiring intensive support again and not meeting state criteria to exit the category. The high school entered “additional target status,” indicating a group of students at that school consistently underperforms.

Barringer offers a special education program for students with behavioral disabilities, and around 48% of Barringer students are English learners, according to state enrollment data from fall 2022-23. Natasha Pared, Barringer’s principal, was previously the principal of Rafael Hernández Elementary School, which moved out of state designation this year.

“So we have confidence that she will be able to do the same here at Barringer,” León stated during the February school board meeting.

Chancellor Avenue Elementary and Sussex Avenue Elementary will continue in “additional target status,” while Quitman Street Elementary and Malcolm X Shabazz High School will remain in “comprehensive status II.”

Quitman offers a bilingual and special education program for students with autism from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Shabazz also provides a special education program for students with behavioral disabilities. In recent years, the school has seen a decline in enrollment, student performance difficulties, and safety challenges. In 2022, Shabazz reported a graduation rate of 64.2%, compared to the state’s rate of 90%, according to school performance report data. This fall, it will launch a new bilingual program for ninth and tenth-grade students.

Altogether, 36 schools were not identified for any status, and 20 schools moved out of comprehensive status, according to this year’s state review. Schools exiting a state designation this year must outline a sustainability plan, detailing how schools will continue to support students’ academic performance.

This translation was provided by El Latino Newspaper, in association with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and is financially supported by the NJ Civic Information Consortium. The story was originally written in English by Newark and is republished under a special content sharing agreement through the NJ News Commons Spanish Translation News Service.

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