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Pre-K through 12

What is a Goal?


Goal is an ideal future condition that describes how Trenton should be in 2042. Goals are shaped by the Guiding Principles. Together the Goals help the City achieve its community-driven Vision.

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Trenton’s diverse adult residents – including those previously involved in the correctional system - will have access to a wider range of quality jobs and high-demand career pathways


Trenton’s increased prosperity and vibrancy depend in large part on the education and training of its residents. Education (for both youth[1] and adults[2]) is a powerful force for promoting economic opportunity and growth. Unfortunately, poor performance in Trenton’s schools and limited opportunities for adults to develop occupational skills or participate in lifelong learning activities threaten the viability of Trenton’s future workforce and economy.
Trenton’s public and charter schools lag behind statewide performance statistics, and graduation rates remain considerably lower than that of comparable communities.[3] Faced with a $19 million budget gap, Trenton Public Schools has recently closed one of its 13 elementary schools and continues to struggle to fund critical capital improvements and academic enrichment programs for its students. This challenge is, in part, due to a dependence on limited State funding.
At the same time, the City of Trenton faces a larger obstacle to educating its residents than many of its wealthier neighbors. The concentration of poverty in Trenton’s public schools makes providing high-quality education to all of its students especially difficult. For example, researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.[4] As such, the City must also work with the understanding that solutions must explore new ways to abate the negative impact of concentrated poverty on students.


To meet its Pre-K through 12 goals, the City needs to improve quality educational opportunities and attainment for residents. This can be accomplished by:

  • reforming the pre-K through 12 education system,
  • reducting absenteeism,
  • improving literacy and technological skills,
  • diversifying the public school’s revenue sources, and
  • connecting the public education system to career and post-secondary educational opportunities.
Through distinct goals, these strategies are closely related. Reducing the City’s dependence on the State for educational funding by expanding its tax base will give the City more flexibility to implement education reform. At the same time, the City of Trenton must understand that improving Pre-K through 12 education will require close coordination with multiple entities (most importantly, the school board) to overcome the barriers associated with highly concentrated poverty. By better connecting its public education system to post-secondary education and workforce opportunities, the City will demonstrate to students the value of its offerings. Trenton graduates will be motivated and better prepared to succeed in college and beyond.
Improving education in Trenton will be one of the most effective ways to support the goals and objectives identified in this report. Despite national reports on the reduction in family size and the fact that millennials are having fewer children than previous generations, building a strong Pre-K though 12 education system is one of the most effective ways to make Trenton a choice destination for residents and to attract high-quality employers. Moreover, a more educated citizenry will equip Trenton residents to make sharpened decisions and formulate solutions for community issues.
[1] The Hamilton Project, “A Dozen Economic Facts about K-12 Education” (2012) from:
[2] Online Journal of Workforce Education and Development, “Influence of Workforce Education and Development on the Growth of Today’s Economy” (2009) from:
[3] According to New Jersey’s 2013-2014 School Performance reports, when compared to peer schools, every school in Trenton, including elementary and middle schools, lags or significantly lags behind statewide statistics in at least two of three indicators: Academic Achievement, College and Career Readiness, and Student Growth. When compared to peer schools, (as defined by schools with similar demographic characteristics, such as the percentage of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch, limited English proficiency or special education programs), 71.4 percent are lagging or significantly lagging in academic achievement, 90.5 percent are lagging or significantly lagging in college and career readiness (76.2 percent of TPS schools are in the bottom 19.9th percentile for this metric), and 47.4 percent are lagging or significantly lagging in student growth performance. According to Trenton Public Schools 2015-2018 Academic Plan, just 52.9 percent of high school students graduate, compared to a 60.7 percent graduation rate in New Brunswick and a 67.7 percent graduation rate in Newark. As of 2014, 88.6 percent of students statewide graduate high school.
[4] Reardon, S.F., Robinson, J.P., & Weathers, E.S. (Forthcoming). Patterns and Trends in Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Academic Achievement Gaps. In H. A. Ladd & E. B. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy (Second ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Initiatives that support this Goal

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