More than one-third of New Jersey’s county vocational-technical school districts are reporting errors with the graduation rate data released yesterday. The NJ Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools is calling on the Department of Education to correct the errors in vocational-technical school graduation rates and work with the schools to improve the NJSMART data reporting process.
Many of these errors appear related to inaccurate reporting by the school districts that send students to county vocational schools on a shared-time or full-time basis. Shared-time students should be counted for graduation in their home high school, which is responsible for reporting them through NJ SMART. However, it appears that in some cases, shared-time students were counted, or miscounted, skewing the graduation rate for a county vocational school or district.
In some cases, the graduation rates reported are based on a small cohort of students in a specialized program, not the entire school population and the reported rates are misleading and inaccurate. In other cases, the errors are caused by inaccurate coding of student records by the local districts that send students to the vocational school. Some errors are inexplicable, such as the high performing school with a reported graduation rate of zero.
The State of New Jersey is making a significant investment in data collection and reporting, and there will be high stakes attached to this information as it drives both accountability and funding for school districts. It is imperative that the Department of Education work with county vocational-technical school districts to correct the inaccurate data published today and to resolve the complex data collection and reporting challenges for the future.