By: Lei Lei Wu and Shaun Robinson
In its September 2016 issue, New Jersey Monthly Magazine released its biennial state high school rankings. North came in at number 2 on the Top 100 list, out of a total 337 public high schools in New Jersey.
However, this year the magazine changed its ranking criteria. They considered, for the first time, student participation in visual and performing arts classes. Additionally, the magazine looked at, according to njmonthly.com, “the percentage [of students] taking an AP or IB class of any kind,” as opposed to the number taking an AP class in solely math, science, social studies, or English.
With North’s extensive music and art programs, as well as the popularity of language AP classes, it is easy to see how this criteria change boosted North’s ranking from 23rd in 2014 to second in 2016. Yet for head guidance counselor Lee Riley, these changes do not detract from the value of the scores. “I think including other APs is certainly relevant,” he said, “in that it reflects the culture and the drive of the student population in the district.”
That said, since the rankings are based entirely off test scores and AP classes, they do not consider other factors that contribute to a school’s success. “Generally speaking, I think that they are a nice opportunity to recognize schools over a variety of criteria,” North Principal Dr. Jonathan Dauber said. “However, I don’t believe they always tell the whole story that makes up how ‘good’ a school is. There are so many non-quantifiable things that exist around climate and culture, for example, that lend themselves to a student’s experience in a particular high school.”
Not only did North place second, but it also overtook its counterpart South, which placed ninth. But having both high schools rank in the top ten public schools in the state speaks to the drive in the WW-P community overall. Dauber said, “I know South is an excellent school as well, and collectively for any district to put both of their high schools in the top 10 is really an attribute to both schools and the high standards we both maintain.”
The seven rank gap even became a point of friendly rivalry at the annual North-South football game, as North students shouted, “Number two!” while pointing at themselves and “Number nine!” while pointing at the South fans across the field. Senior Ellen Park said, “The North-South games are always fun, and it was nice to have something else to taunt South with this year.”
Bragging rights and criteria changes aside, North’s high ranking is certainly something worth celebrating. Riley said, “When you’re looking at all of our students as a whole, and what they’ve achieved, I think that’s something that the district can take pride in.”