Paterson HistoryPaterson Public Schools

District Backgrounder

Paterson Great FallsEducating Paterson’s youth is the function of the Paterson Public School District. With more than 40 languages spoken in its classrooms, it is one of New Jersey’s most diverse school districts. This urban district enrolls 25,000 students in grades kindergarten through twelve and an additional 2,900 pre-kindergarten students with community providers. Its 56 schools are largely configured as pre-K, K-8, and 9-12 with a small number configured as grades K-4, pre-K-5 or 6-8. The district, one of four that is state-operated, has been managed by the New Jersey Department of Education since 1991 because of its previous fiscal mismanagement and poor student achievement. It is making progress in this area with local control of “Operations” returned to the district in 2014, and “Personnel” and “Fiscal Management” returned in 2016.

With the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in place, all Paterson students receive free breakfast and lunch. Approximately 3,300 students receive special education services and 3,500 students are English Language Learners (ELL) who receive bilingual/ESL services.

The student population in the Paterson district mirrors the trend of urban communities across the nation and in New Jersey. Sixty seven percent of its students are of Hispanic origin, twenty three percent are African-American, and approximately ten percent are of Caucasian, Middle Eastern or Asian descent. Nearly fifty percent of all students in Paterson speak a primary language other than English, with over 40 languages spoken in district schools. Its diversity among residents and the students enrolled in the district is an asset. The city’s population has included residents from numerous cultural and ethnic orientations since its inception. The rich diversity in the school district provides an opportunity for students to learn firsthand about other cultures and develop an appreciation for similarities and differences as they prepare for success in a multicultural world.

Since 2009, The Paterson Public School District has been engaged in a major effort to improve student achievement at both the elementary and secondary levels. During the 2009-2010 school year, the district developed an ambitious five-year Strategic Plan for transforming itself into a high
performing urban school system. The Plan, known as Bright Futures, was driven by an urgent need to improve student academic outcomes, school and district culture, family and community involvement, and operational functions.

After completing the goals established in “Bright Futures,” the district developed a follow-up plan for the 2014-2019 timeframe, and its goals continue to be focused on the same top priorities.


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