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Moms Talk: Are HS Rankings Important to Parents?

Ridge High School and Bernards High School move up even higher in NJ Monthly's list of top NJ high schools.

and Bernards High School graduates, students and the schools' future students might be pleased to know that their alma mater — or the source of their someday diploma — have moved up even higher on New Jersey Monthly's just-released list of top public high schools.

Ridge, ranked no. 12 during the last year that the list was released, in 2010, was now moved up to ninth place in the state, according to the New Jersey Monthly ranking, detailed online.

Bernards High School, located in Bernardsville and serving grades 9 to 12 for the Somerset Hills Regional School District, as well as students from Bedminster, is now no. 11 on the list. Two years ago, it was ranked in 32nd place.

Some of the statistics quoted in the study/article gave Ridge students a combined average SAT score of 1750, a top advanced proficient ranking of 43.1 percent of students in the HSPA test given to juniors, and a notation that 56.1 percent of previous juniors passed math on the test within the advanced proficient range.

The number of Advanced Placement courses offered at Ridge, a source of pride in the district, were 29, with 88.6 percent of students who took the AP tests at the end of those courses achieving a passing grade of 3, or higher.

At Bernards High, the average SAT score on which the ranking was based was 1677, with 37.6 percent of students scoring in the advanced proficient category for language on the state HSPA test, and 51 percent of students taking that test reaching a level of advanced proficient.

Bernards High was offering 24 AP classes, with 81.6 percent of the students taking those tests achieving a score of 3 or higher.

How much does it matter?

All of which may lead parents or even residents without children in the high school to ask — how much does it matter to me?

I asked one Basking Ridge resident, Dr. Joseph Murphy, if he thought such rankings are important.

He responded that he feels the top rankings are indeed important, "Because at least we know the school is well thought of for our tax dollars."

Murphy noted that the methodology such studies use may or may not be perfect — and Ridge and of course Bernards too have ranked high in more than one. However, he added, "I do think colleges have a general idea which publics are best."

I emailed him back that was my experience when my older son was touring colleges in North and South Carolina in 2007. In fact, I was specifically told by one admissions officer that Ridge was on their list of top high schools. I don't, however, believe that rankings in the East even registered at the colleges in California where he also applied.

member Bill Koch said he thinks parents moving into Bernards Township are most interested in local schools at the level where their children currently will be enrolled. He said he recently met up with a couple who had contacted principal Joseph Mollica at the for information and a tour.

Koch said he believes that the overall excellence of the school district — including its offerings, staff, administration and parents — is very important. He noted the dedication of the parents, pointing to the efforts by the Parent Teacher Organization at Cedar Hill to both raise money and help guide the renovation of the older media center at the building.

I told him I agreed — but that when I moved into the township, returning to New Jersey from out of state, I also had in the back of my mind an idea of the high schools I always thought were best while growing up in northern New Jersey. (To be truthful, I was a bit jealous of a friend who went to Bernards High!)

Naturally, Koch said he was pleased to see Ridge continue to head upwards in the New Jersey Monthly list. "We continue to provide an excellent education that's exemplified by our high school and high school students," Koch said.

Certainly, real estate agents always point out such accolades to potential home buyers looking in the Somerset Hills. How much of a concern was the local school system when you moved into Basking Ridge or a nearby town?

But even if you looked/bought here because of the school, was that because of a general idea that you believed the school systems were of high quality — or did you note an article and ranking such as New Jersey Monthly's list, that drew your attention to this area?

And does it matter if a school is high-ranked if the educational offering or "culture" isn't quite what your student needs. Or do you think a comprehensive, high quality school system is more likely to meet the needs of all, or nearly all, types of learners and kids?

Please let us know in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

BRMom August 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
We moved to Ridge this past summer specifically for the rankings of the schools. We want our kids to have a well-balanced, rigorous academic public school experience in addition to being part of a nice community. I believe this environment is key to building strong, productive citizens in the future.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 04:27 PM
BR Mom, I think many people in this area share your priorities. If you have been here a full year, have you and your children been pleased with the school system?
BRMom August 23, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Hi Linda. My kids will be starting school in Ridge this Fall. I meant to say we moved this summer, my apologies. So far, if anything, I am impressed by what the community offers for kids and families. We've made good use of the Pleasant Valley Pool and the library this summer! I anticipate an exciting school for my kids. Also, just to note, of all the families I have spoken to since we've been here, every single one has raved about the schools here. I think my kids will be in good hands :)
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I wish them much good luck. And — although the Realtors don't advertise it — you'll find the juvenile-set social life is a high point for many kids, with students with many different interests, particularly in the high school. If anything, you may find they love it a little TOO much... Parents, what do your students like/dislike most about local schools?

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