Reporter associate: Deborah Lohse
May 1, 1990
(MONEY Magazine) – America's 83,000 public schools are spending more but educating our 40 million schoolchildren less. Last year, U.S. taxpayers paid about $4,500 per pupil, up an inflation-adjusted 28% just since 1982. Yet all those dollars aren't buying much progress. For example, only 73% of today's ninth-graders will complete high school on schedule, compared with 79% in 1969. And scores on standardized college entrance exams have slipped 6% since the late 1960s.
You may be tempted to shrug off that lamentable record, especially if you don't have children riding the familiar yellow bus each morning. Whether you acknowledge it or not, however, you have a direct stake in public education:
-- As an employer, you depend on public schools for workers -- 88% of U.S. youngsters train there for jobs.
-- As an employee, you consider how good an education your kids will receive before accepting a job in another city. In fact, nearly four out of five MONEY subscribers with school-age children rate the local schools as an ''extremely'' or ''very'' important factor in such a move, according to our latest Americans and Their Money Poll (see page 96).
-- As a citizen, you count on the schools for the civil servants, soldiers, bureaucrats, scientists and myriad others who will determine our country's place in an increasingly competitive economic world.
-- And perhaps most personally, as a taxpayer you are paying for public education. If you are like the MONEY subscribers we surveyed, you are probably aware of the schools' problems and are willing to pay more. Two out of five readers say their community's property taxes have gone up since 1988 because of rising school costs. Yet nearly 40% think too little is spent on education in their districts vs. only 10% who think spending is too high.
Given our willingness to throw dollars at the problem, it's no wonder that the national debate about how to fix our foundering schools focuses on financing. Liberals argue that children from rich and poor districts won't get comparable educations unless schools stop relying so heavily on local property taxes. Conservatives, on the other hand, contend that competition -- not cash -- will make mediocre districts shape up. Their solution: give parents cash vouchers that can be used at any area public or private school. What both sides ignore, though, is that making a school system great takes more than money. Solid funding is important, of course, but it's hardly a cure-all.
To discover what elements really foster excellence in education, MONEY set out three months ago to study two public school systems -- one that has consistently produced topnotch students, another that hasn't. To assure a fair comparison, we asked SchoolMatch, a Columbus, Ohio firm that advises relocating individuals and corporations on school quality, to identify two systems that were similar by all standard measures except for scholastic achievement.
It would be hard to imagine two communities more alike on paper than Geneva, Ill. and Delran, N.J. Both are farming towns recently transformed into bedroom suburbs for nearby metropolises (in Geneva's case, Chicago, and in Delran's, Philadelphia). Geneva's population is 12,224 and Delran's, 13,940; their median household incomes are $43,993 and $43,584; and their proportions of minorities are 3% and 10%.
When it comes to schooling, Delran spends 4% more per pupil -- $4,521 to $4,358. Yet on academic measures, Geneva triumphs (see the summary above). Geneva's students score at the 83rd percentile on a standard college entrance exam -- 33 points above the national average for schools with more than 40 students taking the test. Fully 60% of its 164 graduating seniors went on to four-year colleges last year, six won commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and one was an NMSP semifinalist. By contrast, Delran's college entrance exam scores last year ranked in the bottom half of New Jersey schools, which, as a group, are already slightly below the national average. Only half of the 170 graduates entered four-year schools. There were two NMSP- commended students and no semifinalists.
To learn why these results are radically different, two MONEY reporters first consulted with leading educators and other specialists on school quality and then spent a week in each town. The reporters sat in classes, attended evening events, mingled with students in the halls and at after-school hangouts, and interviewed school board members, administrators, teachers, parents and students. While we found good and bad in both systems, we identified six crucial factors -- described on the pages that follow -- that contribute to Geneva's success. Our aim, however, is not to point the finger at Delran (which is in the midst of shaking up its educational system) nor even to praise Geneva. Instead, this article presents guidelines for excellence that citizens and taxpayers like you can bring to any school system, beginning with your own.
The two communities
Drive into Geneva, 36 miles west of Chicago, and you immediately sense a reverence for bygone days. Victorian mansions and modest bungalows are lovingly maintained. Antique shops line downtown streets. ''This is the kind of place where kids see their teachers outside of school, swimming at the town pool or bicycling downtown,'' says Kathryn Bleck, a native Genevan who teaches first grade at the Fourth Street School.
Drive into Delran, 15 miles east of Philadelphia, and you're not quite sure you've arrived. Gertrude Stein's pithy description of her native Oakland -- ''There's no there there'' -- fits this south Jersey collection of shopping centers and cul-de-sacs. There's no downtown, just a neon strip of discount stores and fast-food outlets along Route 130. The community didn't have its own high school until 1975 and still lacks a library. Says Michael Gallucci, the principal of Delran High School: ''In a town based on automobiles and shopping malls, the schools are a lighthouse that people come to for socialization and sports.''
Establishing the right priorities
That light was shining brightly one evening in March as more than 200 boosters packed the steamy spectators' gallery above Trenton State College's pool to cheer Delran to its first state swimming championship. It was a lopsided victory: Delran trounced Scotch Plains-Fanwood 99-57. ''Being a spectator at a swim meet is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but look at how many people came out for this,'' exulted school superintendent Bernard Shapiro. Physics teacher Daryl Taylor, wearing swimmer's cap and goggles, started the crowd undulating in the rolling cheer known as the wave. Afterward, the winners climbed on the fire department's hook-and-ladder for an 11 p.m. victory parade, as is the custom when a team wins a state crown. Incredibly, this was Delran's 10th (including six in soccer) in 15 years.
This is what high school is supposed to be about, right? State championships, victory parades?
Of course it is. But it's not all that school is supposed to be about. Unfortunately, Delran's academics suffer, in part because many teachers and administrators send students the message that sports are more important than books. At Millbridge Elementary School, for example, a third-grade teacher combines her class with another teacher's whenever it interferes with her duties as a high school soccer coach. And at the high school, guidance department head Sandra Wasinda thinks nothing of mailing a student's application to Rutgers University even though it is late. ''He's a good soccer player, so his application will go directly to Rutgers' soccer coach,'' she explains with a smile. ''There are deadlines, and then there are deadlines.'' Although no administrator could explain why the school day in Delran is shorter than the state average, Daniel Topolski, principal of Millbridge Elementary School, ventured a guess: ''Transportation is probably the issue. Most athletic games begin at 3:30, and we need to have the buses free by then so they can move teams.''
To their credit, the nine members of Delran's elected school board want more attention paid to academics. Last July the board replaced superintendent Joseph Chinnici, 56, who had been in the job for 24 years, with the affable Shapiro, 51, a butcher's son who was a strong academic leader as principal of a nearby town's high school. ''The board has made it clear that they suspect there's a great deal of untapped academic potential in the district,'' says Shapiro. Yet it's also obvious that Shapiro cannot push sports aside without alienating the community. Says Ralph Clifford, the district's business administrator: ''You'd have World War III at the next school board meeting if you even suggested cutting out the championship girls' and boys' soccer teams.''
Geneva's students, on the other hand, get a clear message about what's important. Says superintendent Donald Marcotte: ''This community's mandate to us is to maintain high academic standards.'' While Geneva hasn't won a state sports title since the 1930s, the school isn't filled with nerds feigning illness to avoid gym class either. In fact, 55% of Geneva's students play interscholastic sports vs. 33% in Delran. That's because all but one of Geneva's teams have no-cut policies -- since sports are for fun, not glory.
Getting the parents involved
Geneva citizens communicate their passion for education through volunteerism. Three years ago, for example, the school system bought 80 computers with $125,000 raised from private contributions to the Geneva Academic Foundation, a nonprofit community group. The foundation was created by Warren ''Bud'' Gilligan, 60, a retired General Motors executive who has seven grown children, two of whom graduated from Geneva High School. ''I've lived in five states,'' says Gilligan, ''and these schools have more parental involvement on the academic side than any others I've seen.''
Geneva's parents give time as well as money. In all three elementary schools, for instance, five to six volunteers spend one morning each week helping kids illustrate their own stories and poems and bind them into booklets, each stamped with the imprint of the fanciful Pirate Publishing Co. The three schools also offer weekly after-school enrichment programs in February and March. At Western Avenue School, parents recently taught kids Spanish and chess. Other students brought in pets -- including two corpulent turkeys -- for show-and-tell.
In Delran, parental involvement -- as described by students, teachers and parents -- usually means sports booster clubs or helping to make elaborate floats for the homecoming parade. Students who wish to attend enrichment programs have to travel to a neighboring school district on Saturdays. Faculty members, in fact, seem pleased that the adults don't interfere. Says Charlene Burd, a middle school guidance counselor: ''Parents here are interested in their children's education, but they're not overly demanding.''
Emphasizing scholastic fundamentals
Many of Delran's brightest students say they can score good grades without much effort. ''You can get away with murder here, like cut class for two weeks but still pass,'' says Beth Carroll, a student who takes accelerated courses and hopes to attend the New School for Social Research in New York City next year. Students with high grade-point averages routinely skip final exams because the tests don't have much impact on final grades. Many kids also say it's easy to lighten up by choosing undemanding courses from a curriculum crammed with electives, including ''Science Fiction'' and ''Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries.'' Compared with Delran's smorgasbord of offerings, Geneva's curriculum is as circumscribed as the Pritikin diet. Top educators say that's a good sign. ''In the 1970s, we went too far with curriculum options,'' says Gerald Grant, professor of education and sociology ! at Syracuse University and author of The World We Created at Hamilton High (Harvard University Press, $9.95). ''Kids took 'How to Fix My Bachelor Pad' but never really learned how to write a good paragraph. We need to get back to a common standard of achievement.''
At Delran, superintendent Shapiro doesn't want to toss out the electives, but he is trying hard to enrich all the classes. He's asked the school board to hire nine curriculum supervisors to help reform the content of courses from kindergarten through 12th grade. He has also tapped Stephen Falcone, the high school's assistant principal for academic affairs, to make final exams tougher. One of Falcone's first moves: asking teachers to submit finals to him for review before they are given to students. Says he: ''Parents may be satisfied, but I'm not. Our SAT scores are inexcusable.'' Predictably, his blunt manner hasn't won many allies. ''He thinks that we're all degenerates,'' grouses a senior planning to attend a local college. One teacher has vowed to organize faculty opposition to his exam plan.
Educating teachers to educate
''Close your eyes and see if you can see a little movie of Christina's story in your mind,'' says teacher Mary Bencini at Geneva's Western Avenue School. The 17 rapt second-graders, sitting on a blue rug in her homey classroom, obediently shut their eyes as seven-year-old Christina Maley starts to read a story she has written about a fairy who gives a young dancer a pair of pink ballet slippers. Several listeners squint in concentration as they imagine the fairy's ''flowing flowered lacy dress.'' When Christina is finished, Bencini sets off a lively give-and-take by asking the class to name fairy-tale elements used in the story.
Bencini's ability to bring literature to life springs not only from her own talents but also from nurturing by Geneva's schools. Teachers are required to keep up their skills by taking college courses or serving on educational committees. Explains former Salt Lake City school superintendent Donald Thomas, now an educational consultant: ''A teacher who doesn't follow new developments is like a doctor who doesn't know how to use the latest equipment.'' Bencini has taken seminars on how to help children think more clearly by improving their reading and writing skills. And she heads a faculty committee that invites children's book authors to speak to students. The committee also gets students' stories and poems published in a local newspaper.
Delran teachers aren't required to continue their educations, and only 32% hold advanced degrees, compared with 50% in Geneva. There are signs of change, however. Says Marge Gessmann, president of the union that represents Delran's teachers: ''Since superintendent Shapiro was hired, we've seen more educational committees formed and more of a focus on staff development. Teachers are now encouraged to attend training programs during school hours.''
Maintaining adequate facilities
Gifted teachers can work their magic anywhere, but experts contend that kids feel better about themselves -- and consequently do better academically -- if their school is clean, well equipped and cheerfully decorated. ''Ill-tended buildings don't promote self-worth and pride,'' observes John Goodlad, director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Although none of Delran's schools are dilapidated, two of its elementary schools, Aronson Bell and Cambridge, look as if they don't belong in the same district with the third, Millbridge. More than 600 students, mostly from Delran's most affluent subdivisions, attend 21-year-old Millbridge, which has 29 classrooms. The two other schools serve older, less pricey neighborhoods. Aronson Bell, built in 1907, accommodates just 150 students in seven classrooms. Kids eat lunch in a dreary basement cafeteria and have music class in a corner of the gym (see the photograph on page 88). At 72-year-old Cambridge, which handles 165 youngsters in seven classrooms, a movable partition divides a basement room that's used for art and remedial courses.
No such disparities exist in Geneva's schools. Administrators were careful to create equal facilities when they added on to the Western Avenue and Harrison Street schools, on the town's moneyed west and less affluent east sides, respectively. Says Ronald Anderson, principal of Harrison Street: ''People on the east side feel slighted because the pool, high school and library are all on the west side. We made sure that this facility would be equal to Western Avenue.''
Nurturing a cooperative environment
On the playgrounds at Geneva's Harrison Street or Western Avenue elementary schools you will see a wonderful sight: specially trained pupils, called conflict managers, helping to settle disputes. They are taught by two teachers and a social worker to listen to combatants' complaints and guide them to solutions. Is the program working? All too well, in the view of bored peace officers who were hungry for action. Fifth-grader Chris Goebel complains: ''I haven't had any conflicts for two or three months.'' The program's purpose, of course, is to minimize school-time disruptions without creating a police state. Delran's administrators and teachers have been less innovative and successful at peacekeeping. You could see it during a lunch period at Aronson Bell, for example, when an aide with a whistle dangling from her neck shouted kids into silence, or as teachers stood guard outside Delran High rest rooms signing students in and out.
Sharing a vision
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from these schools has less to do with education than with consensus and purpose. In Geneva, administrators, teachers, parents and students work together to achieve common goals set down in writing in the district's mission statement, which is updated annually.
At Delran, unfortunately, the same players sometimes operate at cross- purposes because they haven't agreed upon an educational mission for the schools. To transform the system, superintendent Shapiro knows he must sell everyone -- administrators, teachers, students and their parents -- on the importance of academic success. ''We'll all have to agree that learning is important,'' he says. ''Then we'll have to convince students that learning isn't threatening.''
BOX: TWO SCHOOL SYSTEMS HEAD TO HEAD
Money alone doesn't improve education, as these statistics show. Though Delran, N.J. spends 4% more per pupil than demographically similar Geneva, Ill., its students rate lower in several leading indicators of academic success.
Geneva, Ill. Delran, N.J. Population 12,224 13,940 Median household income $43,993 $43,584
Residents age 25 and older who are high school graduates 87% 77% Public school enrollment 2,388 2,219
Spending per pupil $4,358 $4,521
Students taking college entrance exams 77% 78% Average college entrance exam scores 20.6 (ACT) 876 (SAT) State average 18.8 (Ill.) 896 (N.J.) National average 18.6 (U.S.) 903 (U.S.) Graduates attending four-year colleges 60% 49% Graduates attending two-year colleges 15% 27%
Sources: National Planning Data Corp., Census Bureau, Delran and Geneva school districts
BOX: AMERICANS and their MONEY HOW PARENTS HELP OUT AT SCHOOL
Nearly all of the 150 MONEY subscribers with children in public schools who were polled recently by the Gallup Organization said they, their spouses or both participated in programs at their kids' schools.
WHO'S INVOLVED 14% Father only 30% Mother only 43% Both parents 13% Neither parent
Note: The statistics on parental participation are based on a telephone survey of 150 MONEY subscribers in late March. The margin of error is plus or minus eight percentage points. Poll results elsewhere in this article are based on a telephone survey of 300 randomly selected subscribers with an error margin of plus or minus six points.
Geneva Schools Are In The Money
April 27, 1990|By Katherine Seigenthaler.
Ironically enough, nationally circulated Money magazine concludes in its May issue that ``intangibles count more than money`` when it comes to education-and it uses the school system in Geneva to prove its point.
The folks at Money undertook a three-month study of two school systems-in Geneva and Delran, N.J. The point was to determine whether higher spending necessarily made for better educational quality.
The two systems were selected by SchoolMatch, a ``school quality specialist`` company, which determined that Geneva and Delran are outwardly very similar.
Both are farming towns-turned-bedroom suburbs, located near major cities
(Delran is outside Philadelphia). Both have populations of about 13,000, median household incomes of about $44,000, similar school enrollments, and a similar amount spent per pupil.
But Geneva High School students scored in the 83rd percentile on a recent standard college entrance exam, while Delran`s college entrance exam scores last year ranked in the bottom half of New Jersey schools. Furthermore, 60 percent of Geneva students attend four-year colleges, while 49 percent of Delran`s students do the same.
Happily for Geneva, where school administrators have been walking on the ceiling since the article came out, Money concludes that it`s a community which has the ``right`` priorities when it comes to education.
The school system, Money found, emphasizes academics over sports (even if that means it hasn`t won a state championship since the 1930s); Geneva`s parents donate a considerable amount of time volunteering at the schools; the curriculum ``is as circumscribed as the Pritiken diet,`` meaning the fundamentals are stressed; teachers are required to continue taking college courses; the system`s facilities are top drawer in both higher and lower income areas; and teachers work with students to ``minimize school-time disruptions without creating a police state.``
By contrast, Money says, poor old Delran, which has won 10 state athletic championships in 15 years, is a place where academics suffer because students get the message that sports are more important; parental involvement ``usually means sports booster clubs or floats for the homecoming parade; the kids can take ``Science Fiction`` or ``Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries``; continuing education of teachers is not required; schools in lower income areas look shabbier; and teachers are less successful at keeping the peace.
``This was so gratifying for us because we didn`t contact them,`` says Geneva Supt. Donald Marcotte. ``It was something out of the clear blue. Since then, we`ve been getting calls from all over the country.``
Balancing Scholastics, Sports
By Joseph N. DiStefano, Special to The InquirerPosted: May 02, 1990
In Delran both school and sports are special, residents say. It's not an either/or choice.
"We don't have a center of town," said Delran Police Officer Len Mongo. ''The schools, the (athletic) fields - they're our gathering places."
Unlike neighboring Riverside and Moorestown, where intimate downtown business districts antedate the automobile, Delran's convenient commercial areas stretch for miles along Route 130. People get around by car, even in Victorian-era sections such as Bridgeboro and Cambridge.
"Sports teams and schools serve to bring new and old together," said school board President Ron Napoli. "Sports are important to people in Delran. People use them as a basis of community identity."
But Delran's treatment of both schools and sports was called into question last week. A national magazine blamed Delran's outstanding varsity sports program - which has won 10 state championships since the high school was founded in 1975 - for diverting energy from academic pursuits, citing the school's below-average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores. Delran's mean SAT score for 1988-89 totaled 876. The state average was 896, and the national average was 903.
The conclusions were widely reported and angrily disputed in Delran.
In an article titled, "Your Stake in Public Schools," the May issue of Money magazine compared Delran schools with those in Geneva, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The two districts have similar populations and per-pupil expenditures, and both have family incomes of around $44,000. The Money article emphasized the difference in scores for college admission tests, which are taken by more than three-quarters of students in both districts.
Delran's SATs are 10 percent below the national average, while Geneva scored 10 percent above average on the American College Test, which is similar. Money magazine blamed Delran teachers and parents for stressing sports over academics; Geneva was praised for innovative facilities, academically engaged parents and highly trained teachers.
Delran students, school board members, educators and elected officials last week rejected the article's conclusions and praised township schools.
Although many residents, standardized test experts and state Department of Education officials pronounced their satisfaction with the status quo by extolling Delran's virtues - and attacking Money magazine - Mayor Richard S. Knight called on residents to "improve wherever we don't come up to our own or anybody else's standards."
Bernard Shapiro, who started as school superintendent in September, said he was already implementing new academic improvement programs. "Give us an opportunity," he said. "We feel strongly that we can do better. I came here because I felt this could be a lighthouse district. It will be. Even if state dollars are lacking."
Gov. Florio froze state school district funding at 1989 levels, leaving local school districts trying to meet increased costs through local property taxes.
Shapiro promised verifiable academic improvement within three to five years.
Shapiro, who came to Delran after serving as principal of Haddon Township, Cherry Hill East and Cherry Hill West High Schools, wanted to run his own system. He was attracted to Delran by what longtime colleague Barry MacGibeny, now principal at the district's middle school, called "the great sense of pride, the absolutely marvelous tone in Delran schools. The teachers and students really want to be here!"
"He was the only candidate I listened to the whole time," said board Vice President Robert Mull, who, with other board members, grilled applicants last spring. Mull was won over by Shapiro's "progressive goals, objectives and dreams of how to improve a school district. He talked about holding staff accountable for the academic results of the students."
The board chose Shapiro to replace Joseph Chinnici, whose 35 years of service spanned the township's development from villages and pastureland to a busy suburb of 14,000.
Shapiro got right to work, quickly earning a reputation as an accessible and hands-on administrator. Staff and students were alternately delighted and suspicious of a package of academic reforms.
Those reforms included an intensive writing program, a joint curriculum committee for all grade levels, exam reviews, continuing teacher education programs, a college scholarship committee and a business-and-education committee - all of which, Shapiro and his principals say, actively solicit participation from students, educators and residents.
High school English department supervisor Dorothy Mongo, who is married to Police Officer Len Mongo, said she appreciated Shapiro's tenacity in getting the school board to approve the writing program. "We thought it was pretty much stymied when the state budget cuts came through. But he has worked wonders getting funding at a time we never thought we'd get it."
That fight over funding may not be over yet. For the first time in nine years, voters last week rejected the local school budget. The 1990 proposal would have improved the school writing program, but also boosted local property taxes 14 percent, which school board leaders blamed on state funding cuts. The Township Council has until May 14 to approve or revise the budget.
Delran's schools have become stricter, according to several seniors, many of them scholar-athletes. But Money's portrayal of sports infringing on academics had some elements of truth in the past, they said.
"The article would have been true five years ago," said student Dusty Paddock, head of the school audio-visual crew. "Our past principal, David Lamberne, was into pep rallies."
Phil Bigge, co-captain of the championship high school swim team, agreed. ''The third-grade teacher doesn't leave early to coach the swim team anymore," he said. "She stopped that last year." The coach's practice of combining her students with those in another class in order to make practice sessions was featured in the Money article.
Senior Tim Lyall, student representative on the Delran school board, believes that athletics complement academics. But Lyall thinks sports do crowd out other extracurricular activities. "Fine arts doesn't get the attention," he said.
John West, a Purdue Drive resident whose grandchildren attend Delran schools, made the same assertion. "They support sports all the way down the line," he said at a recent Township Council meeting. "The rest of student activities they leave to fend for themselves."
English teacher Kathy Russell, who was recently named high school Teacher of the Year at Delran by a committee of parents and teachers, is trying to redress that imbalance by offering course points for attending school plays, said Lyall and Paddock. "She used to do it just for girls' basketball," said Bigge.
Delran High School junior Jennifer Hall said academic standards have become stricter in the last year. A triple-varsity athlete since starting high school, Hall said teachers have returned from new instructors' training courses to implement creative methods, such as small-group debating in English class.
But senior Michael Maerten, who agreed school has grown stricter, said staff and students have been caught unprepared by the hands-on approach of the new vice principal for academic affairs, Stephen Falcone, who has called for improvements to SAT scores and an exam review program.
"There was a lot of opposition at first," said Maerten. "People were shell-shocked. He was sitting there watching over your shoulder all the time. We're not used to seeing principals in the hallway a lot. Our old vice principal stayed in his office."
Several of the seniors said history department head Michael Kennedy, who is also the swim team coach, was a prime example of the union between academics and athletics that propels Delran students to success. Swim team co-captain Dean Hutchinson and Lyall said more than half of the 17 students enrolled in Kennedy's advanced placement history and biology classes this semester are also varsity athletes. In biology, six of seven are varsity team members, and in history, it's three of 10.
"History's intense," said Hutchinson, who said he spends seven to 10 hours a week practicing during the season and a like amount on homework.
Kennedy, president of the school district supervisors' union, is a Delran graduate who attended Susquehanna University on a football scholarship. "Our whole team is Academic All-American, with at least 3.0 grade-point averages," he said. "Every study I ever saw bears out a strong correlation between athletic and academic achievement." Kennedy said his experience coaching football and basketball players, college-bound or not, showed they were ''better students when the season is in progress than out."
High school principal Michael Gallucci is worried Delran may suffer in comparison with schools that stress only academics. Just as many students believe sports compete more with other extracurricular activities than with studies, some observers fear that Delran's character as a comprehensive high school balancing academic, business and technical education may become unbalanced if too much emphasis is placed on college preparation.
Robert Gaven, township road crew supervisor and a school board candidate who came within two votes of unseating eight-year incumbent and former school board President Dorothy Oppman on April 24, said he believes in "basic functional education.
"Vocational training is a good thing. If too many kids go to college, you don't have the technical skills and computer training to repair automobiles. We put too much importance on some of the other activities. Our kids need jobs."
But Lyall and other college-bound seniors said solid academic training is increasingly a prerequisite for technical jobs as well as college.
In contrast, said Lori Davis, director of curriculum at Geneva public schools in Illinois, most technical education students at Geneva are sent out of the district to vo-tech schools, a fact not mentioned in the Money article.
"We were pleased how we were written up," Davis said. "However, we really had concern for the (Delran) school district and how it came across. We feel sorry for them. Let's hope this will be the article that helps them change to what they need to be. I hope it will help them improve."
"The article was a complete misrepresentation," said Delran senior Beth Carroll, who was quoted in the Money article as saying that Delran students could miss two weeks of class without falling behind. "They lied" about her quote, she said.
"Who's Money magazine?" said Councilman Bill Smock at an April 25 meeting of the Township Council in which the article was discussed at length. ''They're the same people who a couple of years ago were praising (insider trader) Ivan Boesky as the second coming of Jesus Christ. Now he's in prison. Our kids go to college."
Delran schools won nothing but praise from New Jersey Department of Education monitors, who do not consider SAT scores because the proportion of students taking them varies among districts. "We monitored Delran in March of 1989, and they came out extremely well," said Arthur Merz, supervisor of the department's Burlington County office. "It's among the tops in the county. Delran is a totally rounded school system."
Mayor Knight said the favorable state evaluation was remarkable because a large proportion of township youth attend Holy Cross, an academically oriented Catholic high school, and are not included in the survey.
State testing director Stanley Rabinowitz said Delran, along with many suburban districts, is comfortably above average in its High School Proficiency Test scores, its student-teacher ratio, its low dropout rate, low per-pupil cost, and its college placement rate, especially for two-year colleges.
"Districts need to be evaluated against the goals they set for themselves," said Arthur Kroll, vice president of The College Board's Program Division, the organization that administers SATs. Condemning the Money article as "pseudoscientific" and "irresponsible," Kroll said that turnover, attendance and basic skills testing - which the state measures in its annual ''public school report cards" - are more valuable than SAT scores in assessing a district's success.
But Delran's goals are clearly changing.
"We're sufficient now in sports," said Delran school board vice president Mull. "It's almost like we're a minor league team anymore. Sports has its place. That's one reason we brought Dr. Shapiro in: to improve our academics.
"If we could bring our academics to where our sports is, we'd be the best program in the state.
"And we will get there. It's just a matter of time. We will get there."