McNair and Infinity Admissions Policies Might Change for 8th graders in the 2021-2022 School Year

The Jersey City Board of Education voted tonight to review admissions policies for two of its top rated magnet schools, McNair Academic and Infinity Institute. JCBOE plans to hold two public hearings on the topic. The first is expected to be a virtual meeting to be held on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The second public hearing will be scheduled after the Board returns to regularly scheduled monthly meetings in August.

Stating that the policies have not been updated in decades, the board has decided to review them with the aim of maximizing fairness, equity, and diversity. The district promises to conduct an analysis of current policies, to compare them with other large and small school districts nationwide, and to deliver recommendations that would take effect for the class of 2026, thereby affecting students entering eight grade in the fall of 2021.

The current admissions policy at McNair aims to accept a student population that is 25% Black, 25% Hispanic, 25% White, and 25% Other. Applications are sorted into groups by ethnicity and then ranked. The top 50 students from each of four groups are chosen, and an additional 40 students are selected from the remaining applications, without consideration for ethnicity. Because Asian students as a group tend to outperform on standardized tests, Asian students are likely to overwhelmingly fill those 40 race blind spots. Thus, as of 2019-2020, actual enrollment at McNair skews more Asian (42.9%), while Black students make up only 13.7% of the population. Hispanic students (20.1%) and White students (19.5%) are enrolled at rates much closer to the target acceptance rate.

What does this mean for parents and students? Fairness, equity, and diversity are qualitative and subjective terms, so it’s hard to know exactly what the recommendations for change will be. Is it even possible to be fair, equitable, and diverse simultaneously? Stuyvesant High School in New York mostly recently made headlines again, this time for accepting only 8 Black students out of 749 total. The New York City high school relies solely on a single admissions test, and although Black students take the test in equal proportions to White students (18% each), White students make up 28% of those admitted while Black students account for only 4%. Jersey City magnet schools do not have such stark differences in acceptance rates by race as a direct result of the current admissions policies. So in comparison to New York, Jersey City appears to have a smaller diversity problem.

That said, any potential changes to admissions policies seem highly likely to be designed to increase the admissions rate of Black students, and necessarily decrease the admissions rates for Asian students. The problem is reminiscent of a major case that may be reviewed by the Supreme Court. In Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, Asian American students allege that Harvard’s admissions process, which incorporates race, puts Asian American students at a disadvantage. Harvard won the lawsuit and the decision was affirmed on appeal; however, the Supreme Court may hear an appeal filed in February 2021.

PS 16 Cornelia Bradford Gets a New Building with 13 Classrooms

Superintendent Walker confirmed at today’s board meeting that Cornelia F. Bradford Elementary School (PS 16) will add 13 new classrooms at the new building at 275 Washington St. at the corner of Christopher Columbus Ave. and Washington St. Currently, the average class size for K-5 students at the school is 33 students. It is still unclear which grades will make use of the new facilities, but families in and nearby Paulus Hook should be able to count on this new facility to reduce overcrowding starting in September 2021 for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

Update 30-Jun-2021: the 13 classrooms in the new building at 275 Washington St. are expected to be used for Kindergarten and first grade. The existing PS #16 building has 14 classrooms that will be dedicated to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. Finally, Danforth Avenue Early Childhood Center has 20 classrooms that will continue to be used for Pre-K3 and Pre-K4, with 10 classrooms for each Pre-K grade level.

Analysis of Latest NJ Assessment Data Now Available

The global pandemic precluded any standardized testing and the resulting data set from the Spring of 2020, so we have gone back to Spring 2019 to ensure we have analyzed the most recent standardized assessment data available. See how schools rank in testing performance in Math and English and Language Arts here. Teaser: We help to answer the often asked question: which AEP school is “better” – Academy I or MS 4?

JC BOE Replaces Lost State Aid with an Increase in the Local Tax Levy, Passing 2021-2022 Budget

Tonight the Jersey City Board of Education passed a fully funded budget for 2021-2022, replacing lost state aid with a major increase in the local tax levy.

Find here a detailed view of the Jersey City Public School District Budget.

And find here a quick view of the state aid and local tax levy changes over a three year period.

The district’s adequacy budget will be fully funded for at least one year, but the district will face the same challenge again next year as the state continues to decrease its aid to Jersey City, effectively forcing the local community to address the funding need using its own tax base.

As the state dialed back aid, Jersey City schools have been underfunded, until 2021-2022, the school year for which the JC BOE fully funded the adequacy budget with an increase in the local tax levy

Best High Schools in New Jersey for 2021, as ranked by US News and World Report

US News and World Report recently released its rankings of best high schools in New Jersey in 2021. Jersey City Public Schools has two highly ranked high schools on the list. McNair Academic came in at 5th and Infinity Institute ranked 11th.

But how do they decide which high schools are the best? According to their high school ranking methodology, these rankings are based on the following:

  • 30% College Readiness – Percentage of high school seniors who took an AP or IB course and/or earned a qualifying score on an AP or IB exam
  • 20% Math and Reading Proficiency – scores on state assessments like the PARCC
  • 20% Math and Reading Performance – scores on state assessments like the PARCC, adjusted for the racial and economic backgrounds of the student population
  • 10% Underserved Student Performance – scores on state assessments like the PARCC for Black, Hispanic, and low income students, relative to the state average
  • 10% College Curriculum Breadth – percentage of students who took more than 1 AP or IB course and/or earned a qualifying score on an AP or IB exam

As a result of this methodology, these rankings reflect the type of students entering the high school and the selectivity of the admissions process. And it is important to note that these rankings are thus not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the instruction, but are likely a reflection of the academic environment and the abilities of the student body.

AEP and Infinity 2021-2022 Application and Exam Registration Form Available

Earlier this week, parents of public fifth grade students should have received information from their schools about the 2021-2022 AEP and Infinity application process. Students and parents of private and parochial schools in the area should also receive this information via their schools, as the Jersey City Public School District has disseminated this information to the administrative offices of these schools.

The OLSAT admissions test will be administered at 8am on May 1, 2021 or May 8, 2021 at each of the public elementary and grammar schools. Each school will choose one of the two test administration.

While parents and students received just over two weeks notice, some accommodations can be made to ensure every student living in the district as of the test dates has the opportunity to apply.

PS #3 made the following form available for PS #3 students to register to take the OLSAT exam at PS #3, but it seems clear that this form is for PS #3 students only.

Based on the AEP and Infinity application information provided by PS #3, the selection criteria for the middle school programs for the 2021-2022 school year will be:

  • Full year grades from prior years
  • Teacher letters of recommendation
  • OLSAT Exam results

Jersey City Schools to Reopen in Response to Parent Concerns

Parents of Jersey City delivered a clear message to the Jersey City Public Schools Superintendent and the Board of Education on Monday night. Upon hearing those concerns, the Board, the Superintendent, and the Teachers’ Union came together to deliver a compromise solution – a gradual reopening plan for Jersey City Public Schools for the current 2020-2021 school year.

Pre-K through third grade students will be able to attend in person classes beginning April 29, 2021. School will be dismissed at 12:45pm. There will be two cohorts of in person students and a third cohort of all-remote students. Families will be able to choose the hybrid program or the all-remote program. In person days will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and Wednesdays will be remote learning days.

On May 10, in person schooling will tentatively resume for 4-8 grade and possibly for 9-12 grade as well.

The new agreement seems to better address the various concerns of parents heard at Monday’s public meeting, while still giving the all-remote option to parents who are not yet ready to send their children back to schools. Furthermore, it provides some comfort to parents that the school district is on track for a full reopening in September for the 2021-2022 school year.

It also seems to reflect the fact that the vast majority of educators were prepared to return to the district’s schools. Parents and educators alike agree there is more work to be done, but for now, it seems like the district is attempting to address the interests of all stakeholders with the goal of educating the city’s 30,000 students.

Superintendent Walker Explains Decision to Postpone Reopening and Commit Resources to Reopening Schools in September

“We want to focus our efforts and, most notably, our resources on a full in-person reopening in September this fall for the new school year 2021-2022.”

Click here for the full transcript of Superintendent Walker’s community address on the delayed reopening plan.