While the number of Jersey City high school seniors deemed “graduation ready” is slowly climbing, there are many who have more work to do before they get that sheepskin.

At last night’s Board of Education caucus, the district presented the results of the fall administration of the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJGPA). According to the district, 93 additional high school seniors were deemed graduation ready in English language arts (ELA) and 40 students in math.

“The schools are still working enthusiastically to make sure all of our seniors who should be graduating in June or in August after attending summer school are doing the right thing,” said Assistant Superintendent Ellen Ruane.

The previous administration of the test last spring, in the now-seniors’ junior year, yielded 870 “graduation ready” students in ELA and 467 in math.

The NJGPA is a standardized assessment to determine whether high school students are “graduation ready” or “not yet graduation ready” in ELA at the tenth-grade level, and as to math, in algebra 1 and geometry. The test is administered in the spring and the fall, and students must score a passing score on both subjects once.

If a student does not reach proficiency on the NJGPA, there are two alternative pathways to graduation. The first alternative is a substitute competency test, such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. There are 81 ELA and 329 math students who have met the required scores on one of these exams.

Accounting for the NJGPA and alternate competency proficiency, the total number of district-wide students prepared to graduate is 1,044 for ELA and 836 for math. The senior class totals 1,394 students.

The final option is a student portfolio appeal to the NJDOE. Currently, there are 350 ELA students and 558 math students in the district completing the portfolio process, locally known as Rolling Alternative High School Assessment (RAHSA). Each school designs its own RAHSA program, which can include before-school, after-school, or weekend options.

Completed portfolios are due May 3 and must contain a Completed Education Proficiency Plan, Constructed Response Tasks in all content areas, graded responses, and a content-specific cover sheet. The district also provides various summer school opportunities to assist students with meeting requirements.

Despite a majority of Jersey City seniors being eligible to graduate this spring, Superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez made it clear that they are not out of the woods yet.

“Parents, it’s very important that you monitor your high school student’s attendance at a time when they become very independent. It is vital that they have good attendance,” even if they are “graduation ready,” she said.

In other business, the board unanimously passed a resolution urging the governor and state legislature to grant the Board of Education and the City Council authority to enforce a payroll tax ordinance intended to raise substantial funds for the district.

The payroll tax, enacted in 2019 to specifically help fund Jersey City public schools, has seen estimated contributions to the district decrease from $86 million to $65 million a year.

“Through the years, we’ve always felt this frustration that we really don’t get to speak on what is happening to our district budget-wise,” said President Natalia Ioffe, “and this would be our opportunity to make a statement and to also make a collaborative gesture to our City Council leaders.”

If municipal-level enforcement cannot be provided, “what we are asking for is for them to help with the data gathering, whether it is in the form of an independent audit or any other mechanism that would help our city tax assessor to gather the data that they need in order to ensure proper collection of the payroll tax,” said Ioffe.

This resolution comes before the adoption of the preliminary budget for the 2024-25 school year budget on March 18, a duty that Ioffe calls “one of the most heavy and important decisions that school boards have to make.”

According to Ioffe, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey expressed her support of the resolution and intends to introduce a similar action with the City Council.

Ryan Kilkenny was born and raised in New York. He graduated with a BS from Tulane University and a JD from Rutgers Law School. Ryan worked as an attorney for almost two years before switching careers and...