NJ Gov. Distorts Graduation Rates for Political Gains

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is clearly having some trouble with basic arithmetic. In NJ, there are two state-approved ways of earning a high school diploma: 1) pass the regular High School Proficiency Assessment or 2) pass the Alternative High School Assessment. The AHSA measures students against the same state standards and is graded by the same testing company; it simply allows for more time or translation support services for ELL students who struggled with the HSPA, thus keeping more kids in school and ensuring they graduate on time. 

Now, if you're calculating graduation rates, it makes sense to count all the students that passed either of the exams, right? After all, NJ law mandates that the state provide this alternative exam for students who have met all the credit, curriculum and attendance requirements. But Gov. Christie has apparently found it more politically convenient to cite only the percentage of students that pass the HSPA, thereby making graduation rates in NJ appear absolutely dismal and "proving" his point that state aid to struggling districts is "an obscene waste of money." 

As Education Law Center points out, Christie's bad numbers look even worse when he repeats them just one week after his own NJ Department of Education released "more complete and accurate" graduation rates that count students who have passed the AHSA. 

"Instead of using NJDOE’s “more complete and accurate way“ of measuring graduation rates, the Governor made up his numbers. He grossly understated the graduation rates of the districts he targeted and failed to mention many other urban districts, some with graduation rates of 80% or more. Below are the inaccurate rates reportedly cited by Governor Christie at a May 8 Town Hall meeting in Monmouth County, followed in parentheses by the “more complete and accurate” rates reported by his Education Department:

  • Newark 32% (61%)
  • Asbury Park 24% (59%)
  • Trenton 22% (48%)
  • Camden 21% (57%)
  • Jersey City 41% (70%)
  • Paterson 31% (64%)"

The fact checking group PolitiFact has called the governor out multiple times for his poor addition skills, noting that, "Consistently repeating a proven falsehood isn't just wrong, governor, it's ridiculous. Pants on Fire!"

Christie is citing these wrong numbers as justification for advancing his own education agenda, which, no surprise, includes cutting school aid to urban districts, increasing private tuition vouchers and opening more charter schools. What makes the inaccuracies particularly disturbing is that cutting student aid to struggling school districts would hurt the very kids whose high school diplomas he refuses to count. Cutting school aid isn't going to do anyone any favors, Governor, and it certainly won't help your graduation numbers.  

Check out ELC's full write up of Christie's bad numbers here

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