U.F. school district gets ratings boost


Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN — The state just gave Upper Freehold Regional School District’s profile a makeover.

The state recently changed the district’s factor group from an FG rating to a GH rating to reflect a higher demographic profile in the community.

A state executive summary document explains that district factor groups (DFGs) were first developed in 1975 for the purpose of comparing students’ performance on statewide assessments across demographically similar school districts. The state updates the information every 10 years based on census data.

Although census data may not accurately reflect the demographics of students enrolled in a district’s schools, the state executive summary document states that use of other data demonstrates that there are no viable alternatives to the census data.

Maybeth Conway, assistant superintendent and director of curriculum, explained the state’s criteria for assigning DFGs.

“The DFGs represent an approximate measure of a community’s relative socioeconomic status,” Conway said. “The classification system provides a useful tool for examining student achievement and comparing similarly situated school districts in other analyses.”

Conway said DFGs do not have a primary or significant influence in the school funding formula, beyond the legal requirements associated with parity aid provided to certain districts.

Based on the 2000 census, the state used six variables to determine the most recent DFG. These included percentage of adults with no high school diploma; percentage of adults with some college education; occupational status; unemployment rate; percentage of individuals in poverty; and median family income.

Schools Superintendent Robert Connelly said the influx of new residents in developments caused the change in DFG status.

“These new residents have changed the socioeconomic picture in town,” Connelly said.

“While the change in DFG was not a great variation,” he said, “it changes the benchmark on how the school’s performance is assessed. However, core curriculum aid could change to stabilization aid under the new DFG.”

Connelly said the rating could be “like a sword over our head” and that the new DFG could make the community seem wealthy enough to fund its schools.

According to Conway, the change in the factor grouping means that the district will now be compared to communities with a somewhat higher demographic profile.

The last time the DFG for the district changed was in the early 1990s, when, based on the 1990 census, it changed from an F to an FG rating.

Local communities with the GH designation include Atlantic Highlands, Freehold Regional School District, Freehold Township, Manalapan-Englishtown, Middletown, Monmouth Regional, Roosevelt, Shore Regional, Tinton Falls and Wall Township.

Neighboring Millstone Township, whose students attend Allentown High School, recently went from a GH to an I rating in its DFG, according to Conway.

Conway said in recent testing, the difference among the average New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK), the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) scores for the two districts was minimal.