At SPCNJ, we like to think we give credit where it is due, and so we congratulate the New Jersey public school system for gaining the top spot in Education Week’s “Quality Schools” ranking – edging out Massachusetts for the second year in a row. Overall, both NJ (87.3) and MA (86.7) got the highest grade awarded, a B-plus.
That said, EdWeek made clear that “New Jersey retains its crown as the top-ranked state largely due to its continued strength in school finance.” NJ’s ranked second in school finance after WY, while MA was 10th. 99.9% of NJ students were in districts where spending is above the national average (which makes sense because NJ spends 59% more than the national average overall). NJ did not do so well in finance equity, ranking 31st, meaning that some districts spent a lot more than others.
In terms of the quality of the education provided to students, EdWeek’s “Chance for Success Index,” which measured how well students are prepared for adulthood, and MA got the highest grade of A-minus. NJ’s grade was not provided but NJ did rank 2nd for student achievement in the K-12 years, and 5th for success in adulthood, which were components of the index.
SPCNJ believes it is important to point out that NJ spends a lot more than MA to get similar results. In the latest Census Bureau data available (for 2018), NJ spent $20,021 per pupil, 17.4% higher than MA’s $17,058.
So, again, congratulations to NJ for its second consecutive top ranking. While the NJEA and its spokesman, Governor Murphy, tout the success, NJ citizens should remember that, as EdWeek itself said, this is largely due to how much NJ spends: 17.4% more than MA – the other state with a B-plus and the state with the highest student-chances-for-success grade of A-minus.
The Bottom line is that NJ’s public schools are very good but also very expensive for NJ’s tax-paying citizens.