The West Morris Regional High School District’s academic performance statistics have increased over the past half decade, and, according to Superintendent of Schools Mackey Pendergrast, he’s aiming to make them even higher.
Pendergrast presented charts, graphs and data to the board of education this week to show the favorable scoring trend students have achieved at West Morris Central and Mendham High schools.
Central and Mendham increased their HSPA Language Arts test-taking scores by 30 points and 35 points over a six-year period, Pendergrast said. The time range was from the 2007-08 school year to 2012-13.
“I looked at every district in the state, and from my research, there was no other school system that improved that dramatically in that same amount of time,” Pendergrast said.
The HSPA is the only test in New Jersey taken by all students, giving a baseline of continuity in scoring.
According to Pendergrast, Mendham was ranked 10th in the state in 2011-12 HSPA scoring, and Central came in at 44th.
The high achievements didn’t end there, however, as Pendergrast pointed out the district’s SAT scores were among the county’s highest. Those tests, however, were becoming less and less important, he said.
In 2012, Mendham’s SAT scores averaged 1733 – good enough for number two in the county, behind Chatham High School. Central’s average score was 1666, which ranked fifth in the county. The state average was 1504.
“About 90-percent of West Morris Regional students take the SATs,” Pendergrast said. “But more and more colleges are starting to look away from that test and consider AP, IB and ACT tests.
“There’s also a direct correlation to a student’s background and how they perform (on the SAT),” Pendergrast continued. “The wealthier you are, the better you do. I can pull an SAT out of a hat, and there’s an 80-percent chance I can tell you how much that student’s parents make.”
With that, Pendergrast shifted his focus to the district’s need to elevate the student body’s participation in advanced placement classes and testing.
In a metric called AP & IB Equity and Excellence, Central and Mendham both scored higher than its group peer average – but only slightly. The average was 42-percent; Central recorded a 42.1-percent in the metric, while Mendham scored a 45.39-percent. The tabulations include IB testing, AP testing, and AP & IB testing together.
Pendergrast sees the metric as a great way to improve and put the district head and shoulders above the rest of the state.
“It’s not about throwing kids into classes but creating enough offerings to make students want to be in AP and IB,” Pendergrast said. “We have to be passionate about our kids in the middle and increase meaning and options for them.”
Pendergrast said his goal was for the district to improve its AP & IB Equity and Excellence score by 10-percent each year for the next three years. That would give the district a 75-percent score by 2016 – an unprecedented figure in New Jersey’s public schools.
The remainder of the presentation will focus on special education and be part of the next board meeting, scheduled for Monday, September 16.