October 12, 2022

It’s Important to Understand What Informs School District Rankings

To the Editor:

During this election season, some have made inaccurate claims that the Princeton School District’s external rankings have dramatically declined. While school ranking systems are highly problematic in many ways, if we are going to use them to make policy, it is important to understand what informs the rankings and to be accurate about Princeton’s performance.

School rankings use different methodologies. Those based primarily on standardized test scores advantage magnet schools that have selective admission and school districts that have fewer lower-income students because of the substantial relationship between poverty and standardized test scores. If the objective is to have the highest standardized test scores in the state, the only effective strategy is economic segregation.

Unlike the majority of highly-rated school districts, Princeton is economically diverse. That diversity is valued by my family and many others when choosing where to live.

Niche, which takes a comprehensive approach to rankings, rates Princeton Public Schools as the third best school district in New Jersey with a cumulative grade of A+. Each of Princeton’s six schools are rated A+ or A and Princeton High School is the highest rated open admission high school in the state and the seventh highest overall. The six high schools ahead of PHS as well as those rated eighth and ninth are all magnet high schools that admit students based on their standardized test scores as opposed to being open to every student who lives in their region.

No school district is perfect, and we should always strive to do better in providing a high quality education for every child. That includes understanding and accurately using data.

Julia Sass Rubin
Jefferson Road

The writer is a parent of a Princeton Public Schools alum, a professor who researches and writes about education policy, and the director of the Public Policy Program at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.