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AP, SAT Scores Offer Evidence of Growth for Toms River Students

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Recent statistical evidence shows that students at Toms River Regional Schools are performing at a higher level than in years past.

Participation in advanced placement (AP) classes has increased rather dramatically at the three high schools in the past five years. Since 2013, the number of students participating in AP classes at High School East, High School North, and High School South has increased by a combined 157 students, a rise of 31% (from 502 to 659 students). This marked growth is of particular relevance considering that, while the number of students taking AP has gone up, general enrollment district-wide has steadily decreased post-Sandy.

Also of note is student performance within advanced placement, which has remained consistent despite the increase in students. The bar for success within AP is to score a 3 or higher on the exam.

“When a drastic increase like this happens with AP participation, it’s not unusual to see a dropoff in students receiving a 3 or higher on the exam,” said Assistant Superintendent 6-12 John Coleman. “In our case however, we’ve remained steady with about 66% of students reaching that mark. This is where evidence of growth meets substance, and we feel as though we have something sustainable to not only tout, but to build on moving forward.”

Toms River AP students also score nearly 6% higher than students across the globe– 65.8% for the three high schools compared to the global 2017 average of 60.3%.

Highlighting increased levels in student achievement can often prove difficult because there are many variables and methods by which to gauge performance, as well as cases of seemingly random year-to-year fluctuation. However, Coleman said, the district has resisted the urge to react to small sample size data and worked to capture big-picture evidence across several years, and do so from different angles. The growth exemplified by AP participation, for example, is buoyed by information pertaining to SAT scores and dropout rates.

Specifically, all three high schools currently surpass the state average for the SATs. High School East (1086), North (1106), and South (1087) each exceed the state average SAT score of 1075, as well as the national average score of 1070. District records indicate this is the first time all three high schools have simultaneously achieved this feat since at least 2010, but likely even farther back than that.

Meanwhile, dropout rates have decreased by nearly 50% in less than five years, from 2% in 2013 to 1.1% in 2016. The current 1.1% dropout rate not only represents a significant drop in a relatively short period of time; it places the district below the state average dropout rate of 1.2%. Chronic absenteeism– students missing 10% (18 days) or more of the school year– has gone down across the district by a total of 384 students, a decrease of nearly 17% from 2013-2014 to 2016-2017.

“You have to be in school to learn, and we know that when our kids are in school they’re getting the best education we can possibly provide,” said Superintendent David Healy. “We’ve worked to ensure that all students regardless of who they are feel they are supported and welcomed and therefore want to come to school. These numbers, although certainly reassuring, are not surprising considering the strides we’ve made in meaningful and timely student intervention programs, curriculum reform, student engagement, and college and career readiness. The vision of our Board and the execution of our outstanding team of teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, and administrators has generated real-life results for our students, who continue to work extremely hard to meet their personal and educational goals.”

College and career readiness has been a priority at Toms River Regional Schools under current leadership, and chronic absenteeism is one of the performance criteria the NJDOE uses in its annual district performance reports. The district has enacted a number of measures to increase college and career readiness including lunch-time SAT programs, SAT Word of the Day contests, and AP Potential, all of which challenge students while also making them accountable. Additionally, this September ushered in the opening of three Career Academies, one at each high school. The district has maintained that the increased rigor of academy coursework– which has been developed and implemented over the past several years– is not exclusive to the academies themselves, and strategically extends to all school levels. This data suggests that strategy is paying major dividends.

“These are the results every Board strives for,” said Board President Ben Giovine. “No initiatives are implemented by accident– all of our goals and efforts are focused on student success. Everything is interconnected, and we know that keeping students engaged and in school will ultimately lead to talents for college and career. I am so proud of the results we are seeing so far.”

Data regarding student performance and engagement was included in “Our Story,” a comprehensive document published by the district last month that details its strides over the past several years and plans moving forward.

For more information on secondary student performance at Toms River Regional Schools, contact John Coleman at jcoleman@trschools.com.

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