WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the New Jersey Department of Education released new data on high school graduation rates, as well as new state and school district report cards. In response, Bob Wise, president of the national Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, offered exclusive data demonstrating the economic gains associated with improvements in New Jersey’s graduation rate and made the following statement:
“Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states have the opportunity to put forward a bold vision for educational success. New Jersey is one of very few states that have seized this opportunity and one of the first states to put its plan into action; I hope other states will follow this important example.
“New Jersey’s high school graduation rate goal of 95 percent by 2030 is higher than nearly every other state. And by applying this goal to specific student groups defined by race, disability, English language capability, and income status, New Jersey ensures that the performance of historically underserved students is not hidden from parental and public view. The data released today shows that New Jersey’s approach to improving education opportunity is working, and policymakers and educators should stay the course to see continued success.
“Thanks to recent gains New Jersey has made in its high school graduation rate, more of its students are earning diplomas, benefitting themselves and the state’s economy. According to an analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education, New Jersey improved its graduation rate and produced an additional 2,718 high school graduates between School Years 2012–13 and 2015–16. With these additional graduates, New Jersey’s economy will likely see the following benefits:
- $44.6 million in increased income annually;
- $33.1 million in increased spending annually;
- $11.3 million in increased tax revenues by the midpoint of the additional graduates’ careers;
- $162.1 million in increased home sales by the midpoint of the additional graduates’ careers;
- $6.6 million in increased automobile sales by the midpoint of additional graduates’ careers;
- $70.5 million increase to gross regional product made by the additional graduates by the midpoint of their careers;
- 130 new jobs created as supported by increased spending and investment by the midpoint of the additional graduates’ careers; and
- $82.4 million in health-care cost savings over the course of the additional graduates’ lives.
“Through its new education plan developed under ESSA, New Jersey demonstrates its commitment to excellence and equity. Its plan provides comprehensive support to each of New Jersey’s thirteen high schools with graduation rates at or below 67 percent; this is a very important policy because low-graduation-rate high schools disproportionately enroll students of color and students from low-income families. For example, African American students comprise nearly 16 percent of the student population in New Jersey, but on average, they comprise 50 percent of the students in one of New Jersey’s low-graduation-rate high schools.
“In New Jersey’s system, individual schools and districts are unlikely to get high ratings unless all students are performing well. That’s because the performance of historically underserved students counts for 50 percent of school and district rating, which is more than the majority of states. I encourage New Jersey to maintain this policy and report these outcomes on its school and district report cards for parents.
“New Jersey is also making sure that more African American, Latino, English learners, students with disabilities, and other historically underserved students count in its accountability and support system by lowering its ‘n-size,’ the minimum number of students needed to trigger accountability and reporting requirements, from 30 students to 20 students.
“New Jersey’s report cards acknowledge that a high school diploma is important—but not enough in today’s economy—by providing important information on the percentage of high school students who progress to college.
“In future years, I encourage New Jersey to continue its commitment to transparency by noting on its report cards for parents whether a school is identified for comprehensive or targeted support.
“Finally, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was a significant upgrade in assessments and helping to measure the strengths and needs of all students. As New Jersey considers a move away from PARCC, it must continue to ensure that its assessment measures what students need to know to succeed in the twenty-first century, not the last one.”
 Information on how these benefits were calculated is available at http://graduationeffect.org/TechnicalNotes.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org