However, the ranking continues a downgrade in the school's fortunes — at least by the magazine's measures. NJ Monthly ranked Westfield High as #41 in 2010, #27 in 2008 and #22 in 2006.
Nearby New Providence High School claimed the top spot. So, just what contributed to its high marks?
“The school’s average class size is down sharply since the 2010 rankings, and its math scores in the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) have improved significantly. This at a time of state budget cuts and local belt-tightening,” according to the NJ Monthly Magazine article, featured in the September issue, which hits newstands on Aug. 28.
NJ Monthly mades changes to its methodology this year, including a new graduation-rate calculation, eliminating student/computer ratio as a factor and increasing the weighting for data on test results, according to the article announcing the top public high schools.
Westfield Schools Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan believes these changes account for the shift in the school's placement.
"The Star Ledger’s Inside New Jersey’s article – “Top Performing High Schools” - based its criteria solely on academic performance," Dolan pointed out. "Using these measures, Westfield High School ranked as the top performing comprehensive public high school in Union County. (Vocational and technical schools were also included in this listing.)
"New Jersey Monthly’s rankings included not only student achievement criteria, but also non-performance indicators, such as student/faculty ratio. Focusing on the academic indicators, Westfield High School ranks 17th statewide in combined SAT scores; 12th in HSPA Language Arts (Advanced Proficiency); and 13th in HSPA Mathematics (Advanced Proficiency) among the 328 public high schools in the state."
WHS Principal Peter Renwick said he is proud of the school being ranked as the top performing comprehensive public high school in Union County in The Star Ledger’s report but added that he is surprised at NJ Monthly "placing considerable value on non-performance indicators."
"Frankly, I question a formula that places schools with lower academic performance well above Westfield High School," Renwick stated. "The bottom line is that Westfield High School students continue the long-standing tradition of academic excellence. Most important, I continue to be impressed with their accomplishments in all areas, including fine arts, extra-curricular activities, community service, and athletics.
Dolan invited readers to examine the categories in New Jersey Monthly and "make careful comparisons of each school."
"Readers will see that Westfield outperforms many of the schools that appear earlier in the overall rankings," she stated. "The data provided in both magazines confirm that the Westfield Public Schools continue the tradition of excellence in academic performance that will prepare our students well for their future."
(To see more from NJ Monthly, view the attached PDF document.)
In addition to Westfield and New Providence, several other area high schools were ranked as follows:
New Jersey Monthly Magazine Top Public High SchoolsName 2012 Ranking 2010 Ranking Summit 15 25 Jonathan Dayton 26 40 Governor Livingston 36 24 A.L. Johnson 40 101 Cranford 51 13 Scotch Plains 60 62 Chatham 20 8 Roselle Park 122 190 David Brearley 127 113 Elizabeth 148 294 Hillside 166
The categories and indicators used in the ranking, listed on NJ Monthly Magazine's web site, are as follows:
School Environment: The sum of the standardized rank scores for average class size; student/faculty ratio; percentage of faculty with advanced degrees; and number of AP tests offered, which was calculated as a ratio of grade 11 and 12 enrollment in order not to penalize smaller schools. (Senior class size is shown in the published charts for reference only; it is not part of the ranking calculation.)
Student Performance: The sum of the standardized rank scores for average combined SAT score; percentage of students showing advanced proficiency on HSPA; and students scoring a 3 or higher on AP tests as a percentage of all juniors and seniors.
Student Outcomes: A single score based on a new graduation-rate calculation (four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate) introduced by New Jersey in 2011, as mandated by the federal government. Essentially, the adjusted cohort formula divides a school’s number of four-year graduates by the number of first-time ninth-graders who entered the cohort four years earlier. For further information, visit state.nj.us/education/data/.
Vocational schools: Schools defined in this category by the state Department of Education were ranked using the same methodology as other public schools, but with two exceptions. No average class size is available for these schools, since many students are shared with mainstream schools. Similarly, there is insufficient data on AP tests.
Special Notes: Some schools were missing only AP-related data, particularly the number of students who scored a 3 or higher on AP tests. For these schools (which had fewer than 10 students who took an AP test) a value was imputed for purposes of the ranking using an average of other schools in their DFG. Also, for certain districts where there were obvious errors in the data (Midland Park, Elizabeth and Paterson), corrections were obtained directly from the districts.