Education

The Final Countdown – Bergen’s Elite 5 High Schools

While students enjoy their time free from homework, many parents have been carefully planning and evaluating the next step in their children’s education. When deciding what school a student should attend, it is vital to focus not only on reputation, but also the programs available and, more personally, the school’s fit with the child and their personality. The ultimate goal is to put the student in a position where they can succeed and develop to the fullest level of their potential.

These concepts in mind, one of the sole reasons parents flock to Bergen County is because of the value the community puts towards education. Many things come and go in life, but education is a priceless venture that all children should have an equal opportunity for.

Go Places with Bergen County’s Valued Education     

BODY: Schools today are no longer for basic skill acquisition, but rather for real-world preparation. Just to name a few activities; high school students in Bergen County spend an average school day working on a robotics project, practicing for a role in a Broadway-style musical, studying Mandarin or playing lacrosse and other recreational activities. Students soon after even travel abroad to study languages, lend a helping hand to many volunteer organizations all over the word and get involved in community service in the neighborhood.

While there is much debate about common core and standardized testing, we are very lucky to live in Bergen County where there are many innovative schools and excellent educators.  Many Bergen County schools are considered among the best in the nation and we break down the masses and compile them under one exclusive list.

Although, there is more to a student’s day-to-day experience at school that a list cannot encapsulate, these 5 schools will promise more than a textbook-based education. The 5 best public high schools in Bergen County are considered based on categories such as SAT scores, college matriculation, student-teacher ratio, and a number of intensive courses or college credit opportunities.                         

Facing The Elite 5

1. Bergen County Academies

A blue-ribbon school located in Hackensack, the Academies are consistently ranked among the top 25 public schools in the entire country. The campus has a sprawling main building that features impressive facilities including a Bloomberg terminal, nanotechnology lab, and stem cell lab.

The admissions process is highly competitive and involves both testing and interviews. Only 15 percent of applicants from Bergen County are accepted and the size of an applicant’s home district is taken into account as well.

Students are required to apply to one of the seven academies (academy for business and finance, academy for engineering and design technology, academy for medical science technology, academy for advancement of science and technology, academy for culinary arts and hotel administration, academy for technology and computer science, and the academy for visual and performing arts) under the BCA banner.

Thus students must have some idea of the field that they wish to pursue. The attempt to attract these students is validated by the average 2124 SAT score that the school produced in 2014. As college preparation is a focal point of the curriculum, it is not surprising that 100 percent of students graduate and over 99 percent are college-bound. 20 percent of the teachers have Ph.D.’s and the ratio of students to teachers is 11.7-1 for its student body of 1050.

Although a variety of Advanced Placement classes are offered, the Academies do not emphasize these since they have a multitude of courses that are of a higher difficulty and more specialized nature. The ultra-ambitious culture of the school must be taken into account when deciding if a student will be comfortable, ready, and willing/able to perform in such an environment.

2. Bergen County Technical Academy, Teterboro Campus

Bergen Tech, another member of the BCA system, offers nine different majors (automotive engineering, business, commercial art, and graphic design, culinology, digital media arts, fashion art and merchandising, computer science, law and justice, and aerospace engineering) with the aim of preparing students for college.

The culinology major is unique to Bergen Tech and the law and justice major is affiliated with Fairleigh Dickinson College giving an advantage to those that want to pursue a criminal justice degree. 82 percent of students enroll in Advanced Placement classes with an average of 4.2 such exams per student.

Although generally considered less competitive than its Hackensack counterpart, Bergen Tech is still among the top five schools in New Jersey and the top 25 public schools in the country. The same tests are required for the Teterboro Campus and BCA, but applications are separate.

The student body is the second smallest on this list at 650. However, the student-teacher ratio is the second-best among the schools on the list at 9.9-1. It also boasts a 100 percent graduation rate and a 99 percent college-bound rate.

3. Tenafly High School 

Moving away from the magnet schools, we come to the more traditional and comprehensive Tenafly High School. Also considered one of the premier schools in all of New Jersey, Tenafly High School has an enrollment of 1160 students with a 11.6-1 student-teacher ratio.

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The majority of students, not just the highest performing group, can try their hand at college level classes. In these advanced placement courses, students are challenged by intense college reading lists and long analytical exams at the end of the classes. These classes allow students to prepare for what is in store for them in college. The school has an average SAT score output of 1863. Tenafly is the highest performing guaranteed-admission public school in Bergen County.

4. Ridgewood High School

Ridgewood High School had an overall average of 1785 on the SAT and 78 percent of its students scored at least 1550 (average in NJ is 1526). With a student body of 1700, this school has as many students as the top two schools on this list combined. There are approximately 12.6 students per teacher.

There is high involvement in AP’s as evidenced by the 64 percent of students who take the classes and 98 percent of students graduate. A large suburban area surrounds the campus and the music program is fantastic.     

The school was the 28th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine’s September 2014 cover story on the state’s “Top Public High Schools”, using a new ranking methodology. The school had been ranked 28th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 20th in 2010 out of 322 schools listed.

The magazine ranked the school 7th in 2008 out of 316 schools. The school was ranked 24th in the magazine’s September 2006 issue, which included 316 schools across the state.     

5.  Cresskill High School 

Classes take place in a beautiful, airy building with wide hallways and students can spend their breaks in a new courtyard that houses both middle and high school students. This is another school with both high AP participation and graduation rates, which are at 60 percent and 98 percent respectively. It also has the smallest student body on the list with 555 enrolled students, but it has the best student-teacher ratio of 8.8.

Students scored 1749 on the SAT on average. There are independent research and study opportunities with outside institutions for college credit in the context of an academy hierarchy that is similar in concept to that of Bergen Academy.

Academy admission is by application. STEM, Arts and Global Perspective academies with competitive admission allow for project- based learning with multiple guest speakers and field trips in the first year followed by sophisticated projects and finally internships and theses in the senior year. In the vein of the global education trend, there are online courses that count towards matriculation. Non-residents of Cresskill can apply to attend Cresskill High School.

Honorable mention: Northern Valley Regional High School Demarest (has the most club organizations of all qualified schools) and Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale.

Exploring Education Piece By Piece

Now when it comes to exploring education, possibilities and finding the best scholastic adventure for your children, numbers aren’t everything.

Individual experiences, teachers and students, and overall communication is one of the strongest aspects of any education and should be considered highly when sending any loved ones to start a new journey at a new school.

Educational opportunities correlate with socioeconomic status, but these schools are known for ensuring that those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds achieve at levels similar to or above that of the average student. These schools all have a significant increase in AP participation compared to the state average of 19%  and the SAT scores are all well above average in NJ. The average nationwide student-teacher ratio is 15-1, which is also surpassed by these schools even when not factoring in class sizes.   

Overall, these elite schools set aside the norms cast on education and break down barriers in Bergen County. The numbers don’t only do the talking, student achievements strongly show just how much they achieved, and continue to achieve, thanks to schools in Bergen County.     

Jacob P. / Edward Leary

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