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Homework Now Frelinghuysen

Cheer up. Someone’s got things worse than you.

The cliché is so well worn, it needs patches.

Except when it comes from Eric LeGrand.

“There’s always someone who has it a lot worse than you. So be appreciative of what you do have,” he told students at the Frelinghuysen Middle School on Wednesday.

As most New Jerseyans know, LeGrand, 27, was paralyzed making a tackle for the Rutgers University football team, against Army in October 2010.

What they might not know is how hard he has worked to become a motivational speaker and aspiring sports broadcaster.

He had to re-learn how to breath. Completing his labor relations degree at Rutgers involved a painstaking process of Skyped lectures and dictated papers. It took three months to get the hang of signing autographs–clenching a pen with his teeth.

Yet one day, LeGrand insists, he will return to the 25-yard-line at MetLife Stadium, under his own steam. “I’m going to lay down, run, walk, crawl, whatever I can do, and finish that last play,” he told a rapt audience of 6th-, 7th- and 8th graders.

LeGrand’s talk was sponsored by the Morris Educational Foundation, as part of the Morris School District’s “All In” program, which promotes healthy relationships and a sense of belonging among students.

FMS pupils showed LeGrand a video they made celebrating his spirit, and gave him a signed poster proclaiming Believe.

That’s the motto of Team LeGrand, a charity for spinal injury patients he started in conjunction with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

LeGrand plans to return on March 2, 2018, to address Morristown High School freshmen and the football team.

“I just think it’s crazy how he could go through all of that and stay strong. I would be a train wreck,” said 8th-grader MacKenzie Cregan.

Sixth-grader Dillon Walker believes LeGrand will walk again, if he keeps the faith. “He’s inspiring. If something bad happens, something good can always come out of it.”

Quoting his former coach, Greg Schiano, LeGrand defined success as “the peace of mind you get knowing you did everything you could to be the best you can be.'”

He urged students to give up put-downs, and help each other through life’s inevitable hard times.

“If you’re five years old or 65 years old, you’re going to face some type of adversity in your life. How you handle it ultimately defines your character,” said the Avenel native.

LeGrand’s character was forged in hospitals and rehab centers. Days after his terrifying injury, he saw a young woman being rushed to emergency surgery for a brain tumor.

She was trailed by anxious relatives and teen-aged friends. Early the next morning, he saw them stream past his room, bawling hysterically. The young woman had not survived her operation.

“I said to myself, whatever I need to do to get better, if I need to pray, if I need to relax, if I need to work harder, I’m going to do it,” LeGrand said, “so my family, my friends, and my teammates never have to leave the hospital like the way I saw that family leave the hospital. It put a lot of things in perspective for me, seeing that happen.”

Later, at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, he became fast friends with a 22-year-old named Jermaine, who was battling a spinal tumor. Jermaine didn’t make it, either.

“I said to myself right then and there, you know what, I will never complain about anything in this world again,” LeGrand said.

“You look at my situation, I have millions of people supporting me, around me, wishing me well….meanwhile, this kid Jermaine, couldn’t even get his parents to give him a home-cooked meal…

“It made me realize … we’ve got to be appreciative for the things that we do have. Don’t focus on the things that you don’t have. And if there is something that you really want, then you’ve got to go work your butt off to get it. There’s no ways around it.”

Being wheelchair-bound, dependent on others to dress and feed him, is not ideal, LeGrand acknowledged. Those are just plain facts.

“If you know you gave it your all” — at football, or math homework, or household chores– “you should be able to lay your head down on that pillow at night and sleep at ease,” he told the assembly.

“That’s how I live my life each and every day. Whether it’s speaking, or whether it’s going to therapy, or if it’s hanging out with my friends, I try to be the best version of me, each and every day,” LeGrand said.

“And honestly, I can say I go to bed with a smile on my face. I don’t complain about things in my life. I know how I fortunate I am to be where I am.”

And that fateful tackle?

“Down the road, I feel there’s something bigger and better,” LeGrand said, responding to a student. “No, I don’t regret making that tackle.”

More than sixty-two years after the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the nation is still wrestling with how to integrate our schools. Indeed, recent evidence indicates the problem has been worsening.

School districts in some southern states that had made impressive progress under federal court oversight have seen their schools re-segregate as the courts have pulled back and even called into question the legality of voluntary desegregation plans. School districts in northern and western states never were substantially affected by Brown’s desegregation mandate because of the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to make Brown a truly national requirement. In fact, schools in northern and midwestern states such as New York, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey have consistently been the most severely segregated.

Demographic changes in the nation and in many states have made the picture more complicated, but no less bleak. As the white and black student population percentages have declined, and the Hispanic and Asian percentages have increased, the concept of diversity and the meaning of school integration have shifted. Still, the reality on the ground is that the rapidly increasing Hispanic student population has joined black and white students in their educational isolation.

We desperately need to find a way to do better at meeting Brown’s clarion call and the demands of an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. The Morris School District in New Jersey (Morris district, or MSD) may offer such a path. Largely operating under the radar since its creation in 1971, the district has achieved impressive, if incomplete, success at attracting and maintaining a diverse student population and offering them the educational and social benefits of integrated education. Morris may provide an effective counter-narrative to the story told in most of the rest of the nation over the years since Brown.

The Morris district grew out of unlikely soil, which may make its story even more compelling. It resulted from a forced merger of two school districts in largely suburban Morris County. The merger was ordered by the state commissioner of education explicitly for racial balance reasons after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that he had the power to take such action if he deemed it educationally appropriate and necessary to satisfy the state constitutional requirements for education.

To this point, the Morris district is the only one in New Jersey, indeed in the United States, to have been birthed in that manner. Its success at achieving and maintaining a remarkable degree of student diversity in a world where homogeneity is the norm makes one wonder why. By one benchmark of diversity—how a school district’s student population compares to statewide averages—the Morris district may be the most diverse school district in New Jersey. Its 2014–15 demographic profile is 52 percent white students, 11 percent black, 32 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian, and 35 percent receiving free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL, that is, low-income) against a state profile of 47 percent white, 16 percent black, 26 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian, and 38 percent FRPL.

Beyond the districtwide numbers, the Morris district has achieved remarkable diversity at the school building level. Since the district has only one middle school and one high school, these are not where the diversity rubber meets the road. Rather, the test is the elementary school populations. There, the Morris district shines. Despite the fact that students live in relatively homogeneous, segregated neighborhoods, the elementary schools they attend defy that pattern. For example, to achieve perfect racial balance between black and white students at the elementary school level, only about 2.6 percent would have to change their school assignments.

The Morris district still struggles with two aspects of diversity, however. First,—in common with virtually every diverse school district in the country—it is still attempting to bring meaningful diversity to every program and course within its school buildings, from higher-level Honors and Advanced Placement courses to special education classifications and rosters of disciplinary actions. Second, in common with some but hardly all diverse districts across the country, the Morris district is trying to cope with the explosive growth of Hispanic students, many of them in recent years economically disadvantaged students from Central American countries where they often failed to receive a solid educational foundation in their own language and culture. Understandably, these students tend not to score well on standardized tests, especially in their early years in MSD. This contributes substantially to the Morris district’s record of relatively poor achievement levels in three substantially overlapping student categories—Hispanic, English Language Learners (ELL), and economically disadvantaged students—as compared to its relatively strong achievement levels for white and black students.

As to both challenges, the Morris district is manifesting a remarkably can-do spirit and a palpable will to succeed.

In all these respects, the study of the Morris district reported on here is designed ultimately to extract lessons for other school districts in New Jersey and the rest of the nation. This report begins by exploring briefly the historical, political, and legal context of educational integration in New Jersey, and how that led to the creation of the Morris School District. It then analyzes and discusses the successes—and the challenges—of MSD’s integration efforts. Along the way, it contrasts the successes of MSD with two other districts in New Jersey—Plainfield and New Brunswick—that attempted integration by district merger, but failed. It concludes by making recommendations not only for improvements in MSD’s approach, but for school districts across New Jersey and the country that are seeking to integrate their schools and classrooms.

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The New Jersey Context and the Creation of the Morris School District

Prior to the Brown decision in 1954, New Jersey had a decidedly mixed history regarding school segregation and broader issues of equality. Unlike the southern states, it never had a formal and generally applicable state law requiring school segregation; nonetheless, the state actually had segregated schools into the 1950s. They resulted from formal policy or less formal action of local school districts. Ironically, though, in 1850, the state legislature adopted “permissive legislation,” on petition of Morris Township, to enable it to establish a separate school district for the exclusive use of “colored children,” and the result was the opening of the segregated Spring Street school in Morristown (at the time and until 1865, Morristown was part of Morris Township).

New Jersey also had a bizarre episode in the late 1860s in connection with ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment includes the equal protection clause, which was the basis of the Brown decision. To become effective, the amendment had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. New Jersey and one other state initially ratified, but then rescinded their actions. Nonetheless, they were counted as ratifying and their support was necessary to achieve the requisite three-fourths. It was not until 2003 that New Jersey formally ratified the 14th Amendment (actually revoked its 1868 action to rescind its earlier ratification), the last state to do so.

To demonstrate that it was not “small-minded,” however, in 1881 New Jersey became one of the first states to enact a statute barring segregation in the schools, and the state courts strongly enforced that statute a number of times. In 1945, the legislature acted again to adopt the Law Against Discrimination. Two years later, in 1947, New Jersey became the only state to adopt an explicit constitutional amendment barring segregation in the schools.

Still, at the time of the Brown decision in 1954, some New Jersey schools, especially in the southern part of the state, were formally segregated and many others were de facto segregated.

This dichotomy has continued to characterize New Jersey’s record regarding school segregation—strong laws on the books and feeble action on the ground.

This dichotomy has continued to characterize New Jersey’s record regarding school segregation—strong laws on the books and feeble action on the ground. Indeed, thanks to several landmark state court decisions in the 1960s and early 1970s, New Jersey is in the distinctive position of having the strongest state law in the nation barring school segregation and affirmatively requiring racial balance in the schools while it regularly is listed as having one of the country’s worst records of school segregation.

New Jersey’s state court decisions in the seventeen years following Brown—culminating in the 1971 state supreme court decision paving the way to the Morris School District merger, Jenkins v. Township of Morris School District—are worthy of specific reference. They came during a period when federal court enforcement of Brown was best characterized by the oxymoronic phrase used by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1955 follow-up decision to Brown—“all deliberate speed.” The enforcement was slow and limited, with the federal courts seeming to erect more obstacles to meaningful nationwide enforcement than to clear away obstacles imposed by the states.

The New Jersey courts, by contrast, acted boldly. Two decisions of the state supreme court were especially noteworthy. In 1965, the court ruled in Booker v. Board of Education of the City of Plainfield that there was no meaningful state constitutional distinction between de jure and de facto segregation, that both were equally harmful to black students and, therefore, equally offensive to the New Jersey constitution. The federal courts’ repeated unwillingness to adopt that view was perhaps the main limitation on Brown’s remedial scope.

In 1971, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in the Jenkins case that the state constitution required the achievement of racial balance in the schools “wherever feasible,” and that school district borders were not an impediment to that right of students and obligation of the state. As with the de jure-de facto distinction, the federal courts’ unwillingness to extend desegregation remedies across district lines, absent evidence of unconstitutional discrimination by all the school districts involved, sharply limited Brown’s reach and made it primarily a decision of regional rather than national scope.

The Jenkins case was brought to the New Jersey courts by eight residents of Morristown and Morris Township after they had unsuccessfully petitioned the state commissioner of education, both informally and formally, to take action to prevent the Morris Township school district from terminating its longstanding educational relationship with the Morristown school district. The petitioners’ claim was that the departure of the township’s predominantly white students from Morristown High School, likely coupled with the departure of other white students from Harding Township and perhaps from Morris Plains that also had sending relationships, would quickly lead to the high school becoming a predominantly black school, to the educational and social detriment of all.

The commissioner, Carl Marburger, expressed agreement with the petitioners’ position, but concluded he lacked the legal authority to provide the remedies sought—either requiring Morris Township to continue sending its high school students to Morristown, or ordering the creation of a regional district, preferably K–12. The New Jersey statutes did provide a voluntary mechanism for regionalization of districts, but it required approval by referendum of all the constituent districts, an unlikely occurrence here.

Not that the township was adamantly opposed to merger. In fact, opinion was closely divided on the subject. Remember that until 1865 Morris Township and Morristown had been a single municipality and school district, and for more than a century thereafter, township students attended Morristown High School, often without benefit of any formal legal agreement. As both the commissioner and the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized in their respective legal opinions in the Jenkins case, in many ways the two continued to function as a single municipality. Still, a modest majority of those who voted in an “advisory” referendum had preferred that the township build its own high school and thereby become its own K–12 district.

That prospect led to the litigation, to the landmark Jenkins decision, and to the merged Morris School District. It also led to opponents of merger predicting that the main result would be massive white flight from the merged district and a predominantly black Morristown High School. The failure of that prediction to materialize is at the heart of the study of the Morris district reported on here. If we can distill from the Morris district experience what enabled diversity to work there in a substantial if incomplete way, perhaps we can fashion a template that might enable other districts in New Jersey and in the rest of the country to achieve more diverse schools within their own boundaries.

Before this report proceeds to a deeper description and analysis of the Morris district, and to recommendations drawn from that effort, there are two more contextual points to address briefly. The first has to do with two other New Jersey school districts that were in the queue for a similar merger remedy, but whose turn never came. They were Plainfield and New Brunswick. Both, like Morristown, were relatively urban and diverse school districts whose high schools received predominantly white students from adjacent more suburban districts. They, like Morristown, were confronted with the departure of those white students, and sought to obtain remedial assistance from the commissioner of education to maintain their student diversity possibly by merger with their sending districts. Unlike Morristown, however, they failed to obtain that assistance.

Why the difference in result? Certainly, there were demographic and other distinctions at play, but there was a political dimension that may have been dispositive. Carl Marburger, the commissioner who ordered the Morris merger, failed by one vote in the state senate to be confirmed for another term as commissioner, and that failure was widely attributed to his merger order. Not surprisingly, successor commissioners became wary about acting as Marburger had.

Whatever the explanation, Plainfield and New Brunswick had to go it alone, and as a result, their current demographic profiles, as compared to Morristown’s, are startling. Whereas the Morris district has about 52 percent white students currently, Plainfield and New Brunswick each have less than 1 percent. They also have dramatically higher percentages of low-income students. It is unlikely we can establish a direct causal connection between the denial of merger and the degree of student segregation in those two districts, but the correlational evidence is powerful.

The second contextual point to be made about the Morris district is in the nature of a wall of honor. To the extent that the district is a success story, who are the primary authors? As with most success stories, there are many contenders. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least a village to author a transformational success story such as this one.

While there are a number of worthy contenders, three people can be singled out as the main forces behind the success of the Morris district—Beatrice Jenkins, Carl Marburger, and Stephen Wiley, with the top billing going to Wiley, who passed away in October 2015 after a long life of distinguished service to New Jersey and to the Morris School District.

Beatrice Jenkins gave her name to the legal case and is otherwise worthy of recognition. She was a longtime black resident of Morristown, one of three Morristown residents who joined with five Morris Township residents to constitute the “Morris Eight,” the petitioners in the legal case that paved the way to the Morris School District. In collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and the Urban League, these residents lent their names and efforts to the lawsuit.

Carl Marburger was certainly one of New Jersey’s most progressive and accomplished commissioners of education. He came to Trenton from Washington, D.C., where he had served on the education group of the Task Force on Poverty, the forerunner to the Office of Economic Opportunity, the federal antipoverty agency. Before that, he had been an assistant superintendent of the Detroit public schools. After Marburger’s premature departure from New Jersey, he became one of three cofounders of the National Committee for Citizens in Education, where he spent fifteen years advocating for the rights of parents. Notwithstanding his progressive bona fides, Marburger agonized over what to do in connection with the Morris district. As it has on so many controversial education issues over the years, the New Jersey Supreme Court got him off the fence by its decision in the Jenkins case.

Finally, there was Steve Wiley. Wiley was born, raised, and public-school-educated in Morristown and Morris Township. He came by his lifelong commitment to the Morris district schools the old-fashioned way—his father, Burton, was a longtime superintendent of the district. Wiley graduated from Morristown High School in 1947. He went on to Princeton and Columbia Law School, became a successful lawyer, businessman, politician and public benefactor. He also was a nature lover, a woodworker, a gardener and a poet. As lawyer for the Morristown school board, he was instrumental in the Jenkins case, and he founded the Morris Educational Foundation. A comment about Steve Wiley in an article celebrating his life captures the essence:

Anyone who wants to appreciate the late Steve Wiley’s impact on Greater Morristown should attend Saturday’s homecoming game at his alma mater, Morristown High School. . . . Today, we live and work and go to school in one of the only truly diverse communities in New Jersey. . . . Look at the football team, the cheerleaders, the band, the kids in the stands, the supervisors and coaches on the field and you will see something really beautiful and I think unique. We all play together and celebrate together and solve our problems together. We like each other. Steve Wiley did that. And I am so grateful.

An equally fitting statement comes from Wiley himself:

Our schools teach the ABC’s with distinction, but young people in Morristown High and the grade schools also learn the D’s, E’s and F’s. By association and experience they learn about democracy and diversity, about equal opportunity and ethnic strengths, about freedom and fraternity, about the whole alphabet of America.

A Case Study of the Morris School District as a Remedial Model

To move beyond the unique history and status of the Morris School District (MSD) to its potential to be a remedial model for New Jersey and the rest of the United States requires a deeper understanding of the district. This section of the report describes MSD from a quantitative perspective sketching out a demographic profile of its constituent communities and its student population, the degree to which its individual schools mirror the diversity of the district at large, and the educational outcomes of its students, both overall and by relevant subgroups.

A Demographic Profile of the Morris School District Municipalities

The Morris School District is located in Morris County, New Jersey, and includes, as a formal matter, Morris Township and Morristown. Although adjoining Morris Plains sends its high school students to Morristown High School in MSD, it maintains its own schools for kindergarten through eighth grade. The educational relationship between Morris Plains and the Morris district is a close and longstanding one, though, so Morris Plains and its students will be included in the demographic profiles of the MSD’s municipalities and schools. Henceforth, for ease of reference, Morris Plains will be treated as one of the MSD’s constituent municipalities.

As shown in Figure 1, the Morris School District’s location in northern New Jersey is approximately thirty miles east of New York City. Much of the district is comprised of detached suburban housing, although there are more dense areas at the core of the district in Morristown. The most dense areas of the district are located in the open attendance zone at the heart of Morristown, which is a centerpiece of the district’s successful effort to diversify its elementary schools (see discussion of the student assignment policy in the Analysis and Discussion section; see Appendix B for a discussion of the quantitative methods).

The total population of the municipalities that we include in the Morris School District is 46,764—22,549 people live in Morris Township, 18,580 people live in Morristown, and 5,635 people live in Morris Plains. As shown in Figure 2, 70 percent of the total population of the three municipalities is white, 17 percent is Hispanic, 8 percent is black, and 4 percent is Asian. The median household income for the three municipalities is $98,424 per year—the median household income is $127,074 in Morris Township, $110,167 in Morris Plains, and $75,696 in Morristown. The child poverty rate is extremely low in both Morris Plains (1.3 percent) and Morris Township (3.9 percent); however, the child poverty rate in Morristown is a much higher 20.9 percent. As Figure 3 shows, 92 percent of the population over the age of twenty-five in the three municipalities has a high school diploma or a GED and 57 percent of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree. However, only 46.3 percent of the population in Morristown holds a bachelor’s degree or more.

The interactive map shows the distribution of the population in the Morris School District municipalities by race and ethnicity. As it illustrates, there is a lower concentration of white people in Morristown than in the other two municipalities, few white residents live in the open attendance zone, and several census blocks throughout the Morris School District are exclusively white. It also shows that an overwhelming majority of the Hispanic population in the MSD municipalities lives in Morristown, and there is a particularly high concentration of Hispanic people in the open attendance zone. The map indicates that the black population is more dispersed, but that there is a high concentration of black people living in Morristown and in the open attendance zone. Finally, it illustrates that the Asian population is also dispersed throughout the MSD municipalities, but there is a very low concentration of Asian people in the open attendance zone.

Figure 4. Proportion of Population by RACE/ETHNICITY

NOTE: DASHED LINE INDICATES OPEN ATTENDANCE ZONE. SOLiD LINE INDICATES MUNICIPAL BOUNDARIES.

Given the correlation between home ownership and both social and economic stability, Figure 5 provides some useful insight into neighborhood variation across the school district. As seen in Figure 5, a large proportion of the population in Morris Township and Morris Plains owns the homes where they live. By contrast, a large proportion of the population in Morristown, particularly in the open attendance zone, rents their residences.

FIGURE 5. PROPORTION OF HOUSEHOLDS THAT RENT

NOTE: DASHED LINE INDICATES OPEN ATTENDANCE ZONE. SOLiD LINE INDICATES MUNICIPAL BOUNDARIES.

Overall, the Morris School District is composed of three municipalities with notably different demographic profiles. Morris Township has a population that is largely white, highly educated, and economically stable. Morris Plains has a similar profile, though the median household income and educational attainment levels are a bit lower. On the other hand, Morristown is a majority-minority municipality with a median household income that is more than $50,000 lower than that of Morris Township, a child poverty rate over 20 percent, and a comparatively low level of educational attainment.

Population Change: 1970–2010

Between 1970 and 2010, the population of the MSD municipalities increased by 8.6 percent. While the overall population increased, there was a dramatic decrease in the white and black population during this period (see Figure 6 and Table 1). Conversely, there was a dramatic increase in the Hispanic and Asian populations.

Table 1. Percent Change in Morris School District Municipalities’ Population, 1970-2010
1970-19801980-19901990-20002000-20101970-2010
Total Population-5.2%2.4%10.2%1.5%8.6%
White-10.8%-2.6%1.2%-5.2%-16.6%
Black 4.8%-4.4%-12.3%-10.7%-21.6%
Asian 80.9%54.5%24.9%248.9%*
Hispanic/Latino/Spanish281.4%137.6%120.1%37.8%2648.8%
*This accounts for the population change from 1980-2010.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau Decennial Census.

The largest percent decrease in the white population took place between 1970 and 1980. This coincides with the period when MSD desegregated its schools in accordance with the 1971 merger order by the state commissioner of education. While the white population decreased by 10.8 percent between 1970 and 1980, the black population increased by 4.8 percent and the Hispanic population increased by 281.4 percent during this ten-year period. The degree to which the decrease in the white population is connected to the merger order is unclear. Between 1970 and 1980, the white population of New Jersey as a whole decreased at a comparable rate (8.4 percent). One may hypothesize that the decrease in the white population of the Morris School District is related to a statewide trend; however, unlike in the state as a whole and the Morris School District, the white population of Morris County as a whole increased by 1.4 percent. Given that the change in the white population of the Morris School District differed greatly from the overall trend of the white population in the county, it is possible that a portion of this population shift occurred in response to the merger order. While a quantitative analysis fails to either confirm or deny a causal link between the merger order and changes in population, qualitative data from Morristown residents who lived through the merger indicate that there was a degree of white flight in response to the merger.

Demographic Profile of the Schools in the Morris School District

The Morris School District has an operating budget of approximately $112,000,000 and employs 427 teachers, 107 other certificated staff, and 371 non-certificated staff. This equates to per-pupil spending of $21,089, which outpaces the average per-pupil spending across New Jersey. The teaching staff is overwhelmingly white (85.5 percent) and female (76.6 percent). 4.9 percent of teachers are black, 7.0 percent are Hispanic, and 2.6 percent are Asian.

The district serves 5,226 students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. Morristown High School serves 1,672 students and the district’s single middle school serves 1,144 students in grades six through eight. Normandy Park, a district magnet school, serves 368 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Finally, there are three pairs of kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade sister schools that serve students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Table 2 provides a summary of student enrollment by demographic group for all MSD schools, and Figure 7 shows the locations of schools across the district.

Table 2. Morris School District Enrollment (2014-2015)
Hillcrest/Alexander HamiltonWoodland/ Thomas JeffersonAlfred Vale/SussexNormandy ParkFrelinghuysen Middle SchoolMorristown High SchoolDistrict Total
Number of Students589622655368114416725226
% Male 50.3%49.7%51.0%48.6%52.1%51.9%51.1%
% Female 49.7%50.3%49.0%51.4%47.9%48.1%48.9%
% White51.4%50.8%53.6%45.1%51.7%56.8%52.3%
% Black10.2%9.0%10.4%10.1%11.9%11.4%10.9%
% Hispanic35.3%34.2%31.5% 39.4%30.4%27.0%31.8%
% Asian 2.7%5.9%4.0% 5.4%5.6%4.3%4.6%
% Free Lunch34.8%31.4%31.6%34.2%28.0%20.9%29.0%
% Reduced-Price Lunch5.1%5.8%5.5% 3.0%6.6%6.0%5.8%
% Free/Reduced Price Lunch39.9%37.1%37.1%37.2%34.6%26.9%34.8%
% Not Qualified for Free/Reduced Price Lunch60.1% 62.9%62.9%62.8%65.4%73.1%65.2%
% Limited English Proficiency13.6% 13.0%7.8%21.5%4.0%8.2%9.1%
% Not Limited English Proficient86.4% 87.0%92.2%78.5%96.0%91.8%90.9%
Source: New Jersey Department of Education (2015), 2014-2015 School Enrollment File.

A majority of students in the Morris School District identify as white. As Figure 8 shows, 32 percent of students identify as Hispanic, 11 percent as black, and 5 percent as Asian. As Figure 9 shows, 35 percent of students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and 9 percent of students are classified as limited English proficient. While the distribution of student subgroups across the four schools serving students from kindergarten through fifth grade is comparable, it is worth noting that the magnet school is the sole majority-minority environment and that there is a larger concentration of ELL students at this school (21.5 percent) than at the three K–5 sister schools (7.8 percent to 13.6 percent).

Similar to other areas throughout New Jersey, a portion of children in the Morris School District attends private schools. While the proportion of children in the Morris School District who opt out of the public school system is close to the state average at both the elementary and secondary levels, the proportion of students who attend private school is not evenly distributed across the three municipalities that make up the district. As shown in Table 3, 3.2 percent of elementary school students in Morristown attend private schools, while a much larger 17.5 percent of children in Morris Township opt out of the public school system. A similar trend exists at the secondary level, where 7.5 percent of children in Morristown and 22.1 percent of children in Morris Township go to private schools. The proportion of children in Morris Township who go to private schools is nearly twice the average for New Jersey as a whole and much higher than the rates in Plainfield and New Brunswick. Given that Morris Township has a much higher median income than Plainfield and New Brunswick, the fact that its private school attendance rate is comparatively high is, perhaps, unsurprising.

Table 3. Distribution of Students Who Attend Private and Public Schools
Kindergarten through Grade 8Grade 9 through Grade 12
% Public % Private% Public % Private
Morristown96.8%3.2%92.5%7.5%
Morris Township82.5%17.5%77.9%22.1%
Morris Plains95.1%4.9%92.6%7.4%
Morris School District*87.9%12.1%85.6%14.4%
New Jersey89.4%10.6%88.6%11.4%
Plainfield92.3%7.7%89.5%10.5%
New Brunswick96.5%3.5%95.1%4.9%
* This includes Morristown and Morris Township for K through 8 schools and all three municipalities for Grades 9-12.

Source: 2014 American Community Survey.

Measures of School and Neighborhood Segregation

The three pairs of kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade sister schools and one magnet school serving children in kindergarten through fifth grade are effectively integrated by race and economic advantage/disadvantage. As illustrated by Table 4, which provides a range of segregation measures (including dissimilarity, isolation, and exposure indices), there are extremely low levels of racial and economic dissimilarity among MSD schools serving children in kindergarten through grade five. However, Table 4 also highlights the fact that there is persistent residential segregation among municipalities and neighborhoods delineated by census tracts. For example, while only 2.6 percent of black or white students would need to move schools to create perfectly proportional populations of black and white students at the K–5 schools in the Morris School District, 42.1 percent of black or white residents would need to move neighborhoods (as delineated by census tracts) in order to create perfectly proportional populations of black and white people across neighborhoods.

Dissimilarity indices between white and black students, white and Hispanic students, black and Hispanic students, and students who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and students who do not are all less than 5.0. In other words, less than 5 percent of these populations would need to move schools to create student populations that are perfectly proportional by these demographic groups. Isolation indices and exposure indices produce similar results indicating that black, white, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and non-economically disadvantaged students attend schools where they are exposed to students from each demographic group in a manner that is proportional to the total population for the school district.

Dissimilarity indices between Asian students and each of the other racial/ethnic groups are slightly elevated (11.2 to 15.5). Similarly, the dissimilarity index for students classified as limited English proficient and students who are not is slightly elevated at 13.6. This means that Asian students and students classified as limited English proficient are not proportionally distributed across schools, and, therefore, are more isolated.

Table 4a. Measures of Segregation for White Students and Population
K-5 Schools K-8 Towns K-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with blacks2.633.742.135.143.8
Dissimilarity with Hispanics4.448.451.047.849.6
Dissimilarity with Asians15.210.314.110.313.6
The average white is in a space with
a % white of51.2%72.7%76.3%74.2%77.3%
a % black of9.9%7.8%6.7%7.16.2
a % Hispanic of34.515.012.214.211.7
a % Asian of4.44.54.94.54.7
Percent White51.068.568.570.470.4
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4b. Measures of Segregation for Asian Students and Population
K-5 SchoolK-8 Towns K-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with whites 15.210.3 14.110.3 13.6
Dissimilarity with blacks 15.523.440.624.840.1
Dissimilarity with Hispanics11.238.147.937.545.2
The average Asian is in a space with
a % white of 50.669.274.070.874.9
a % black of9.88.67.38.06.9
a % Hispanic of34.817.713.216.812.8
a % Asian of4.84.55.54.45.4
Percent Asian4.44.54.54.44.4
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4c. Measures of Segregation for Black Students and Population
K-5 SchoolK-8 TownsK-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with whites 2.633.742.135.143.8
Dissimilarity with Hispanics4.314.720.814.320.1
Dissimilarity with Asians15.523.440.624.840.1
The average black is in a space with
 a % white of51.061.352.762.454.3
 a % black of10.010.313.610.013.1
 a % Hispanic of34.623.429.823.228.8
 a % Asian of4.44.43.84.43.8
 Percent black10.08.78.78.08.0
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4d. Measures of Segregation for Hispanic Students and Population
K-5 SchoolK-8 TownsK-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with whites4.448.551.047.849.6
Dissimilarity with blacks4.314.720.814.320.1
Dissimilarity with Asians11.238.147.937.545.2
The average Hispanic is in a space with
a % white of50.856.345.658.148.1
a % black of9.9 11.414.210.913.5
 a % Hispanic of34.827.936.926.735.1
 a % Asian of4.54.43.34.43.3
 Percent Hispanic35.018.218.217.217.2
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4e. Measures of Segregation for Limited Language Profiency Students 
K-5 School K-8 Towns K-8 Census Tracts 9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with no LEP13.6
The average LEP child is in a space with
a % LEP of14.6
a % no LEP of85.5
Percent LEP13.0
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4f. Measures of Segregation for Free/Reduced Price Lunch Students 
K-12 School K-8 Towns K-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with no FRL2.3
The average FRL child is in a space with
a % FRL of37.9
a % no FRL of62.1
Percent FLR37.9
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

 

Table 4g. Measures of Segregation for Child Poverty in Students and Population
K-12 School K-8 Towns K-8 Census Tracts9-12 Towns 9-12 Census Tracts
Dissimilarity with non-child poverty43.052.746.454.7
The average child in poverty is in a space with
a % child poverty of17.027.616.727.1
a % non-child poverty of83.072.483.372.9
Percent Children in Poverty21.021.021.021.0
Sources: NJ DOE Enrollment File 2014-2015 and 2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

Educational Outcomes in the Morris School District

Educational outcomes in the Morris School District are mixed. Table 5 shows mean scale scores and the percent of students who score at a level deemed proficient on the 2014 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math New Jersey Assessment of Skills (NJASK) for students in the third, fifth, and eighth grades. It also shows mean scale scores and percent proficient on the 2014 ELA and Math High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).

When compared to students across New Jersey, students in the Morris School District score close to average at all grade levels on both the ELA and math exams. When compared to students at schools with similar socioeconomic profiles,

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