By Eric Kiefer,

NEWARK, NJ — A new report found that Newark’s public schools made “substantial progress” from 2006 – the year U.S. Sen. Cory Booker was elected mayor – through the final year of state control of the city’s schools in 2018.

Test scores, graduation rates, and student growth rates in Newark rose at district and charter schools over the 12-year period, according to MarGrady Research, which carried out the study for the New Jersey Children’s Foundation.

In addition, the share of black students in Newark attending a school that beat the New Jersey test score proficiency average has more than quadrupled, from 7% in 2006 to 31% in 2018, according to “A New Baseline: Progress in Newark’s District and Charter Schools from 2006 to 2018.” pointed out that the report covers a timespan that began with the election of former mayor Cory Booker, who is now running for president.

Booker served as the city’s mayor until 2013. He also served on the City Council from 1998 to 2002.

Other key findings in the study included:

  • Newark’s citywide public school system climbed from the bottom to the top ranks of other high-poverty school districts in New Jersey, ending in the top bracket. Between 2006 and 2018, when compared to other low-income cities and towns in New Jersey, Newark’s citywide average test score rank has improved from the 39th to the 78th percentile in both reading and math.
  • Low-income students in New Jersey (including those in Newark) earned a higher proficiency rate in math and reading than their counterparts in every other PARCC state in 2018.
  • Newark’s charters have shown particularly strong test score gains, and in 2018, as a sector, they beat the state proficiency rate for the first time in both math and reading.
  • The citywide four-year graduation rate has risen from 63% in 2011 to 77% in 2018 and closed the gap with the state by seven percentage points.
  • More parents are choosing to enroll their children in Newark’s public schools. K-12 enrollment has stabilized in district schools while continuing to grow in charters, and citywide enrollment in 2018 topped 50,000 for the first time in at least two decades.

“We can debate the causes, but we shouldn’t debate the facts: the gains made by Newark children are real, and they are meaningful,” said Jesse Margolis of MarGrady Research.

This new analysis comes as Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León prepares to release his first strategic plan for the district. León’s plan will be the first since the state ended its decades-long era of state control.

The report also said that Newark has more progress to make. Despite citywide gains in both charter and district schools, more than 15,000 children in Newark – roughly 30% of the city’s students – still attend “low-growth, low-proficiency schools,” researchers said.