Wildwood celebrates student achievements in state report

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But state targets may not be realistic for small district

WILDWOOD—Administrators at Wildwood’s schools are impressed by the rate students are improving, particularly at Glenwood Elementary, as shown in report cards for New Jersey schools the state released this week.

According to the state report cards, Glenwood students are in the 92 percentile in their peer group in the student growth category, which is measured by a student’s test scores on the New Jersey ASK tests annually.

They are also outperforming 63 percent of schools statewide, according to the reports. Last year, students only outperformed 21 percent of the state’s schools, and 35 percent within the school’s peer group or other districts.

Josepha Penrose, supervisor of curriculum, says that drastic growth is due to the amount of time teachers are spending with students individually. She said that students are working in small groups targeted to a student’s level in reading and math, which is ensuring each student’s needs are met.

“We’re meeting every student at their level is pushing everyone forward from where they are,” Penrose explained.

She added that the student growth category on state report cards is what is most important to educators and administrators at Wildwood schools. The report cards also present data on academic performance, college and career readiness, as well as graduation and post-secondary education for high school students.

“The academic achievement is just how well did they do on the test,” Penrose explained. “I want to look at, how much did they grow?”

According to the report cards, Glenwood is also growing substantially in academic achievement and college readiness. Students there are outperforming 49 percent of their peer group schools, and increase of 31 percent over last year. As for college and career readiness, the elementary school students are outperforming 74 percent of their peers, a 35 percent increase over last year.

On the report cards, schools are compared to others in the state, as well as “peer groups” that share similar characteristics, such as the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch, as well as the number of students in limited English proficiency programs and special education.

Penrose said that Wildwood’s school performance in regard to its peers are more important to officials than how the schools rank in comparison to all of New Jersey’s schools, because Wildwood students are growing in an urban environment, where many are economically disadvantaged or are learning English as their second language.

For example, of Glenwood’s 444 enrolled students 69 percent are Hispanic and 49 percent primarily speak Spanish at home. Eighty-five percent of the students are considered to be economically disadvantaged, and 39 percent are categorized as “limited English proficient.” Sixteen percent of Glenwood’s students have a learning disability, the state report card indicates.

On the state level, Glenwood’s students are outranking 5 percent of other schools in regards to academic performance, a slight increase from 2011-2012 school year. In the college-readiness category, they outperform 25 percent of New Jersey’s schools- also a slight increase from last year.

Under the state’s report cards, college-readiness in elementary schools is determined by how many students are chronically absent. The state defines a student as “chronically absent” if they miss more than 10 percent of the school’s instructional days. At Glenwood, 11 percent of the school’s children are considered “chronically absent”- which outperforms 74 percent of other schools in their peer group.

At Wildwood Middle School, students have showed a huge improvement in their college readiness, which is determined by chronic absenteeism and the number of students enrolled in algebra I.

During the 2011 to 2012 school year, Wildwood Middle School only outperformed 5 percent of schools in its peer group. This year, its students outperformed those of 57 percent of its peer group, and 27 percent of schools across the state in this category.

But despite this drastic increase, the school isn’t meeting the state targets for college and career readiness.  Nine percent of middle school students in Wildwood are taking algebra 1, and all of those students received a C or better in the class, according to the report. The state target, however, requires 20 percent of students to take the class.

Fourteen percent of the students are considered to be chronically absent, eight percent higher than the state target of 6 percent.

Because the school is on par with other schools in its group, and Glenwood is significantly higher than its peers in this category, Penrose thinks some of the state targets may be out of reach for Wildwood’s students.

“Some of the goals are inappropriate,” she said. “In some categories, we are as high as we can be, but yet we still aren’t making our targets. It seems counterintuitive to me.”

At the middle school, student growth has also increased, but not as extreme as Glenwood. Middle school students are outperforming 70 percent of their peer group, compared to 62 percent last year.

At Wildwood High School, students are outperforming 55 percent of its peer group in regards to academic achievement, a 16 percent increase over last year. But the school saw a slight drop in college readiness and graduation rates.

Penrose explained that due to the high school’s small graduating class size, (about 75 students, she said) “an increase or decrease in the performance or participation of as little as one student creates percentage changes.”

For example, the school’s drop out rate is 4 percent, 2 percentage points above the state target. But, Penrose said that 4 percent of the graduating class is just one student.

The state report card doesn’t report any data on individual student growth for high school students, but earlier in 2013, Wildwood High was recognized for its improvement and given a National Blue Ribbon award, one of the highest honors a school in the United States can be granted, school officials have said.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com.

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