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URBAN SCHOOLS SHOW IMPROVEMENTS

NEED TO TAKE ON MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL REFORM

New Jersey's urban – or "Abbott" - schools have improved at the preschool and elementary school level, but lag when it comes to middle and high school performance. These are the key findings of an Abbott Indicators Project report entitled, "The Abbott Districts in 2005-06: Progress and Challenges". The report was prepared by Education Law Center and presented to the Assembly Education Committee on March 9th. Other major findings include:

  • This school year, more than 40,000 3- and 4-year-olds are receiving a full-day, high-quality education through the Abbott preschool program.
  • Studies show that the preschool program has had a significant, positive effect on children’s Kindergarten readiness skills.
  • The achievement gap between Abbott and non-Abbott fourth graders has been cut in half in both language arts literacy and in math.
  • Many schools do not employ the professionals needed to provide one-on-one tutoring, parent engagement and education, and dropout prevention programs and services.
  • Available estimates show that graduation rates in the Abbott districts have improved in the past 10 years but remain lower than in non-Abbott districts.

The report cautions readers from applying the findings to all Abbott schools. There are important variations between Abbott districts, with some exceeding state averages in many areas.

The report recommendations include concrete actions that the legislature, the governor, and the New Jersey Department of Education can take to increase accountability, ensure greater policy and program stability, and sustain and deepen reform, including fully supporting secondary reform, the latest Abbott component to get underway this year.

"The State's investment in the education of urban school children is already paying clear dividends," said David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center.

"We issued this report to inform and energize the dialog about urban school reform. If the state is to provide the thorough and efficient education to which all children are entitled, we need to increase accountability at all levels," said Lesley Hirsch, the report’s author.

Jerome Harris, senior advisor to the Abbott Indicators Project said, "Both state and local stakeholders need to know more about the status of the urban schools and take informed action. Local engagement is a critical piece. Schools, parents, local businesses and organizations, and elected officials all must do what they can to improve education for the children."

For more information about Abbott Indicators or the report, contact Lesley Hirsch, lhirsch@edlawcenter.org.