Standards and Accountability: New Jersey has a set of strong academic standards, but the state does not offer tests aligned with those standards in all subjects or grade spans, a shortcoming that lowers its rating in this section.
The state has clear and specific standards for English, mathematics, and science in elementary, middle, and high school, and at the middle and high school levels for social studies/history. New Jersey offers standards-based tests in English and math at all levels, but gives such tests only in science at the middle school level. It gives no standards-based tests in social studies.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: New Jersey ranks among the top tier of states in this category.
But the state’s grade dips because New Jersey does not use performance assessments, such as portfolios or classroom observations conducted by trained professionals, to evaluate novice teachers and determine whether they should receive a more advanced license. On the positive side, New Jersey is one of 16 states that require and pay for mentoring for all new teachers. And in a new policy this year, the state has stopped issuing emergency certificates in all instructional areas.
The state identifies low-performing teacher-training programs. But it does not hold them accountable for the performance of their graduates in the classroom, or publish passing rates or rankings of teacher-training institutions statewide.
School Climate: New Jersey performs near the front nationally in this category. Data from the background survey of the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that 92 percent of 8th graders attend schools whose officials report that physical conflicts between students are not a problem or are only a minor problem, a higher percentage than in most other states.
Equity: New Jersey has room to improve when it comes to the equitable distribution of education dollars. According to its near-zero wealth-neutrality score, New Jersey has only slight inequities related to local property wealth. But the state ranks 43rd on the McLoone Index, which measures what it would cost to bring student spending in districts below the median level for per-pupil aid to that median. The state also has a relatively high coefficient of variation of 18 percent, indicating wide variation in spending across districts. The state ranks 45th on that indicator.
Spending: New Jersey is second only to the District of Columbia in education spending per student. For the 2001-02 school year, the state spent $10,235 per pupil, which was more than 132 percent of the national average, and 4.8 percent more than it spent the previous year. New Jersey ranks fifth of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which measures how many students are in districts spending at or above the national average, as well as how far below average the rest fall.