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Millburn High School Falls From Number One

In the latest New Jersey Monthly ranking of high schools, Millburn dropped to number eight in rank due to class size.

In this year's New Jersey Monthly Magazine's list of top public high schools, Millburn fell from its place at number one, for the first time since 2008, to number eight. 

However, Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield, said, "it's an honor just to be in the top 10."

According to school officials, Millburn's ranking dropped mainly due to the rise in high school class size but Crisfield said he's not concerned. 

"We've maintained our elite achievements with fewer teachers than other schools," he said. "What matters is how our students are achieving."

An average class size for Millburn High School is 21.3. Crisfield emphasized the student average SAT scores is 1851, which is the highest of the top 50 schools, according to NJ Monthly Magazine. Also, the percent of students with advanced proficient scores on the HSPA was 51.6 in language Arts and 69 in math.

"I think the public is going to be upset that we're not number one anymore," Crisfield said. "I would counter that argument with actually our students are achieving just as much if not more than last time this survey was taken. What does class size mean, it means the cost."

“The school’s average class size is down sharply since the 2010 rankings, and its math scores in the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) have improved significantly. This at a time of state budget cuts and local belt-tightening,” according to the NJ Monthly Magazine article.

NJ Monthly Magazine made changes to its methodology this year, including a new graduation-rate calculation, eliminating student/computer ratio as a factor and increasing the weighting for data on test results, according to an article announcing the top public high schools.

Here's the top 10 rated schools:

Name 2012 Ranking 2010 Ranking New Providence    1    5 McNair Academic (Jersey City)    2    2 Tenafly    3    3 Glen Rock    4  28 Kinnelon    5  21 Madison     6  15 Mountain Lakes    7   9 Millburn    8   1 Ridge (Bernards Township)    9  12 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional  10  31

A full list can be viewed here. 

The rankings from NJ Monthly come just a day after Inside Jersey published its own list of school rankings.

In that ranking, Millburn High School was the highest ranked school from Essex County, coming in at number 17.

The categories and indicators used in the ranking by NJ Monthly, listed on NJ Monthly Magazine's web site, are as follows:

School Environment: The sum of the standardized rank scores for average class size; student/faculty ratio; percentage of faculty with advanced degrees; and number of AP tests offered, which was calculated as a ratio of grade 11 and 12 enrollment in order not to penalize smaller schools. (Senior class size is shown in the published charts for reference only; it is not part of the ranking calculation.)

Student Performance: The sum of the standardized rank scores for average combined SAT score; percentage of students showing advanced proficiency on HSPA; and students scoring a 3 or higher on AP tests as a percentage of all juniors and seniors.

Student Outcomes: A single score based on a new graduation-rate calculation (four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate) introduced by New Jersey in 2011, as mandated by the federal government. Essentially, the adjusted cohort formula divides a school’s number of four-year graduates by the number of first-time ninth-graders who entered the cohort four years earlier. For further information, visit state.nj.us/education/data/

Vocational schools: Schools defined in this category by the state Department of Education were ranked using the same methodology as other public schools, but with two exceptions. No average class size is available for these schools, since many students are shared with mainstream schools. Similarly, there is insufficient data on AP tests.

Special Notes: Some schools were missing only AP-related data, particularly the number of students who scored a 3 or higher on AP tests. For these schools (which had fewer than 10 students who took an AP test) a value was imputed for purposes of the ranking using an average of other schools in their DFG. Also, for certain districts where there were obvious errors in the data (Midland Park, Elizabeth and Paterson), corrections were obtained directly from the districts.

What do you think of all these rankings? Let us know in the comments section below.

Eliot W. Collins August 22, 2012 at 06:56 PM
The difference between #1 and #10 is most likely insignificant (except to realtors).
mark-m August 22, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Have the NJ High Schools rank the Magazine's available in NJ. Turn the tables.
CD August 22, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Sandy, That's quite insulting to me. Please re-read what I said; I think you're responding to a script that is of your own making. I did not refer to the ranking, nor am I embarrassed by it. The numbers don't matter. I was simply stating that, in my experience, the Millburn schools aren't what they were a decade ago. My opinion, based on almost three decades in town. Your opinion may differ, and apparently does. If you read what I said, you will notice that I most emphatically am NOT disparaging the C student, because he is precisely the student that I don't think the system is working for. As regards the strong, talented, and inspirational people: each of my children had some of each. My point is simply that years ago, it was the norm that the teachers and administration were inspirational; more recently, those inspirational teachers have stood out because they have become more rare. In any ranking, somebody has to be #1 and somebody has to be #8. Not a big deal, and as some of the other posters have pointed out, it's somewhat arbitrary. It is unfair, however, to ascribe views to me that were not at all expressed by me.
mark-m August 22, 2012 at 08:11 PM
The School In August by Philip Larkin The cloakroom pegs are empty now, And locked the classroom door, The hollow desks are lined with dust, And slow across the floor A sunbeam creeps between the chairs Till the sun shines no more. Who did their hair before this glass? Who scratched 'Elaine loves Jill' One drowsy summer sewing-class With scissors on the sill? Who practised this piano Whose notes are now so still? Ah, notices are taken down, And scorebooks stowed away, And seniors grow tomorrow From the juniors today, And even swimming groups can fade, Games mistresses turn grey.
Sandy August 22, 2012 at 11:01 PM
CD- My apologies for including you in my "script". I assumed you were in fact referring to ranking as it is the subject matter of the article. I'll retract my reference to you. I would, however, like to address your statement---"I honestly believe the school system has been coasting. It is still strong in the sciences. It does a pretty good job grooming the thoroughbreds and attending to the draught horses..." Now that's insulting. I know you were being metaphorical to make a point, but your word choice fails at describing most of Millburn's faculty or administration of the past 20 years. I graduated 20 years ago and returned 8 years ago for graduate work. And yes, Millburn was different each time. Difference is inevitable, but one thing has remained across the board-the majority of the faculty has always given their all. Do you know the teachers at the high school since you left? They have had to work harder due to mandates that contradict what prior mandate put in place. In 2004 when I returned to observe a class the culture was different. I also saw less of what my friends would have considered the born geniuses, but I did still see a maturity and curiosity that was familiar to me. In some classes, there were more students struggling to stay awake, but I assure you the teachers were animating the curriculum, 5 performances a day. The system was not coasting then and I know it's not now. Being the best may just have to have new parameters.
ProudAmerican August 23, 2012 at 12:30 AM
For those paying attention, SAT scores and AP numbers are everything. Don't be fooled by these rankings. When looking for a home to purchase these two numbers speak to value in education town residents put into their schools.
CD August 23, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Sandy, Over the years, I've seen incredibly high achievers and some kids with special challenges. I thought the high school did a great job with them. The point of my metaphor was simply to say that the "more average" kids didn't seem to get as much attention. I might be wrong, but that is my impression. My oldest child taught for a while, and for what it's worth, does not disagree with this view.
CD August 23, 2012 at 12:50 AM
PS. On re-reading my metaphor, I can see where it might be considered offensive, but I can promise you that it wasn't intended that way.
Sandy August 23, 2012 at 01:27 AM
ProudAmerican- Impressive SAT scores and AP scores may actually contribute to the downfall of Millburn's legacy. The AP student of yesterday was groomed for such long before high school. But this breed of student is dwindling and the student who knows the profile but can't embody it is growing. The inevitable is that in a few years, if the student body continues to reflect less of that intrinsic desire and curiosity of the AP student and we ignorantly keep riding the coattails of the past and hope for number 1 again, you're going to be very disappointed. Millburn teachers provide excellent educational experiences, but there is NOT an obvious alignment between the curricula and tests like the SAT or ACT. Most students will not go into one of these tests feeling confident because of his Math class. This same student cannot have a multi-subject tutor. So yes, you are attracting people with high numbers which traditionally means quality education, but what happens when many of those students coming for that education cannot maintain the scores? Do we continue to talk about ranking or do we support what every department in MHS has done for the last five years and that is curriculum reform. The new state mandates and evaluations will reveal truths that many parents may not want to hear. It's not the fault of teachers or administrators or even parents. We must start to prepare to be the best school for the students of now, not 10 or 20 years ago and not for NJ Monthly.
Sandy August 23, 2012 at 01:31 AM
CD- Conversations like this are good. We all need to face some realizations and hear one another's experiences. I appreciate your responses.
Melatonin August 23, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Why are SAT scores indicative of the success of a school? So many students are tutored, some starting in elementary school. SAT scores tell you how good a job the tutors did. Schools should be measured by how well they prepare all their students for post-high school education and/or the workplace. How are these students doing 10 years post- high school graduation?
CD August 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM
I agree Sandy. Well-intentioned and respectful people should be able to provide some insight to each other on how they came to hold differing views. The national political scene seems to have forgotten that, but we shouldn't let that be the model for how we interact locally. By the way, since I didn't emphasize it before, my kids' memories include very good teachers, and 4 teachers that were "life changers" for them. They are the ones without whom my kid's lives would not be as good.
bill August 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM
One thing that seems to be important here that we should be discussing is the topic of class size. All school districts in the state are facing a budget crunch, some much worse than ours. However, Millburn seems to be about the worst in the top group at using our budget to hire enough teacher. If you look at the top 15 schools on this list, Millburn is the worst in terms of class size. We are also 12th out of 15 in terms of student/faculty ratio. With a little math using these as well as the class size, one can determine the ratio of teachers to non teachers. In this ratio Millburn is 14th out of 15. So not only do we have considerably fewer teachers per student than most in the top group, but we also have significantly more administrators per teacher. Perhaps the board can discuss this with Dr. C. Are his administrators more ineffective than other school disctricts in our peer group, so we need far more of them than average? The data shows that a wise choice for MHS would be to cut some admins and replace them with teachers. If we were to just cut 10% of admins and replace them with the same number of teachers, our average class size would drop to about 18! Can anyone seriously argue that this would be a bad thing for our kids?
Noreen Brunini August 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Pretty sure a bunch of new high school teachers were included in the most recent budget
bill August 23, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I would hope that is the case, but we have not heard that from Dr C. or the MMS principal. In fact we have heard just the opposite: "“We used to say that 25 would be our maximum,” Miron says. “Now we’ve eased up on that.” That means teachers considered capable of handling larger classes might get more than 25 students". So it sounds like the admin is fully on board with packing 'em in and blaming the budget, even though all of our peer schools have found ways not to do so. In the 2010 NJ monthly survey the avg class size was 19:1, and now it is 21.3:1. It doesn't look like any other schools in our peer group had such a dramatic increase. Has this been addressed for this school year? What will be the anticipated average class size for 2012-13 school year?
GR August 23, 2012 at 10:38 PM
The rankings do not even make sense.
MrJones August 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM
This really is great news. I'd prefer to have the school we have (which is pretty great) and stay below the hype radar. Being "number 1" in a mostly irrelevant ranking just attracts people to move into town and move out as soon as their kids graduate. I'd rather people be attracted on balance to the rest of what we have. Here's to not being number 1.
Sandy August 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Well said Mr. Jones. Your comment speaks to this mentality of twisted priorities. Everyone is forgetting the incredible people that have made up this town and school district and have done so committed to keeping children safe, well educated and motivated to do bigger and better things.
Lynda August 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I taught for 10 years, not in Millburn, and left to start my own business. I put in 18 hr days for almost 2 years to get my business of the ground, but I got back that feeling of value and satisfaction that dried up the last years I taught. I mention all this because it gives me the credibility to bring up the following point. For the past few years, teachers have been demonized, ridiculed and marginalized. In every way ,teachers have been viewed as the problem for what's wrong with education. I have never treated my employees so dismissively. If I did, I would eventually them and word would spread that I don't provide a healthy place in which to work. If you, continually, "kick the dog", performance will suffer. The smug members of the BOE have stated "where are they going to go?" in response to comments about the way in which the BOE handled the previous teacher contract negotiations. Like most social ills, you don't realize the erosion & decay until it has grown deep roots. Check on the number and quality of Math and Science teachers applying to MHS. It used to be that Millburn, could afford to, hire only seasoned teachers with a minimum of 7-10 years experience. Those type of teachers don't even apply anymore. I have lived in Millburn for 20 years and am tuned to what goes on around town. We are all going to suffer, in terms of property value, when the decay in our schools becomes bad enough that salve and band aids can't hide it anymore.
JCY August 25, 2012 at 01:11 PM
This rant has nothing whatsoever to do with my post. You obviously have issues, but they aren't with me.
Sandy August 25, 2012 at 02:41 PM
JCY- Um, perhaps you had too many shots of forgetful, but did you not say the following: "...but number one is a whole lot better than number eight" and "Hopefully our school board will commit to returning us to top of the heap. Its a big draw for newcomers and helps preserve housing values." So, yea eschewed priorities very much applies to you. Check your own issues of not knowing what you typed before you react.
LDSF August 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
This brings the attention to the change of the use in methodology in school rankings. http://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2012/05/07/best-high-schools-methodology Best High Schools Methodology
LDSF August 25, 2012 at 04:20 PM
This is a study on the change in the use of methodology on school rankings.  It seems to be more measure on whole body of students outcomes and vocational readiness.   AIR implemented U.S. News's comprehensive rankings methodology, which is based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college-bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators. 
Sandy August 25, 2012 at 05:34 PM
And this goes back to CD's point about the school's attention paid to the extremes-AP or Special Ed. The average kid is left to fend for himself or herself. My issue is that all of the students need to seize the opportunities that this great school proffers. There are many teachers that teach all levels, have multi-subject degrees and know what excellence in education looks like. Stop blaming the highs, the lows, the numbers and tell your kids to own their education,advocate for themselves and get involved. I will say it again-There are FEW instances where a child is left behind in Millburn. But if we continue to treat teachers the way many in this town have done in the past 5 years or so, then you will start to see mediocrity because that is what happens when your teachers feel no support no matter how hard they work.
Observer August 25, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Superintendent: "We've maintained our elite achievements with fewer teachers than other schools," Except that the NJ Report Cards show only slight differences in the student/faculty ratios: Glen Rock 10.0 Rumson-Fair Haven 10.3 Mountain Lakes 10.5 Madison 10.5 New Providence: 10.6 Kinnelon 10.7 MHS: 10.9 Tenafly: 11.2 Ridge 11.2 McNair: not reported MHS is equidistant between New Providence and Tenafly, though both are ranked above MHS. This suggests that we may not be allocating teachers well, i.e. not effectively managing section size.
Observer August 25, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Superintendent: "What does class size mean, it means the cost." This is not so clear. Our classroom instructional cost per pupil is the second highest according to the most recent NJ School Report cards: Mountain Lakes $11,031 MHS- $ 8,631 Tenafly $ 8,269 Glen Rock $ 8,113 Rumson-Fair Haven $7,903 New Providence: $ 7,770 Kinnelon $ 7,634 Madison $ 7,583 Ridge $7,272 McNair not reported And our total cost per pupil is in the middle: Mountain Lakes $ 22,398 Glen Rock $ 18,576 Rumson-Fair Haven $18,250 Madison $ 17,310 Tenafly $ 17,415 MHS- $ 17,392 Kinnelon $ 16,692 New Providence: $ 16,217 Ridge $15,671 McNair not reported This means that we are putting our dollars into classroom instruction as compared to the other schools.
Observer August 25, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Meant to also give the source for the NJ Report Cards: http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/
WeiZ August 26, 2012 at 04:56 PM
The ranking put too much emphasis on class size. In the 62nd place, West Windsor-Plainsboro South is great in every way except class size.
Nantz August 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Nancy Siegel can fix this. Just like she did in the UAW negotiations in 1973.
Henry Jones August 27, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Could it be the change in ranking is directly attributable to the School Boards recent choice of Dr. Crisfield as the school districts Superintendent?

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