PATERSON – The city’s high school graduation rate increased slightly in 2022, reaching 81.3%, but remains below the high of 87.8% that Paterson achieved in 2017.
A district report showed that 820 of the 1,250 graduates of Paterson schools this year received their diplomas by going through the portfolio appeal process in math and 729 did so in language arts.
Officials said the numbers for students going through portfolio appeals were higher than usual because New Jersey did not offer standardized high school diploma tests, as it has in the past.
“The data presented is encouraging, but it also shows the challenges our students, families, teachers and administrators have faced since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer.
In 2019, before COVID-19, Paterson’s graduation rate was 79.5%, according to district data. The rate fell to 78.8% in 2020 when the pandemic began, but climbed to 80.2% in 2021.
The average graduation rate in New Jersey in 2019 was 91%.
Paterson officials said the number of students earning degrees through the portfolio alternative has been increasing because of changes made during the pandemic. The state Department of Education canceled its diploma tests the past two years during COVID-19, officials said.
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As a result, officials said students had to take substitute tests, such as the SAT, to qualify for their degrees. Those who did not get a passing grade through the substitute tests resorted to portfolio appeals, officials said.
“All Paterson Public Schools graduates have met the district’s requirement to earn 125 credits, five more than the state requires,” district spokesman Paul Brubaker said. “District graduates earn their credits by attending classes, passing assessments and ultimately completing courses.
“Make no mistake,” added Brubaker, “despite the pandemic, Paterson Public Schools has established a strong three-year trend of increasing high school graduation rates and is on track to continue the trend for years to come. ”
The state Department of Education has not yet released graduation rate numbers for all New Jersey districts.
In 2021, Paterson’s rate was higher than districts in Camden, 58.5%; Jersey City, 78%; and Trenton, 62.4%, according to the state’s website. But Paterson fell below the rates for East Orange, 83.5%; Irvington, 81.3%; Newark, 81.3%; and Union City, 88.5%.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Paterson school board member Corey Teague.
Another board member, Vincent Arrington, said he was concerned that Paterson’s rate would decline in the coming years as the state returns to pre-pandemic testing standards.
District data showed several city high schools exceeded the state graduation average, including Paterson P-Tech, at 98%; International, with 97%, and Rosa Parks, with 94.2%. But Paterson’s two largest high schools brought the numbers down, with John F. Kennedy posting a graduation rate of 86.3% and Eastside at 78.7%.
Joe Malinconico is an editor at Paterson Press.
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