Allison Cuttler, an AP Computer Science teacher at Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy College Preparatory High School in Newark, attended the State of the State address Tuesday as a special guest of Gov. Chris Christie.
In December, Cuttler won the prestigious national Milken Educator Award for inspiring her students and helping them see themselves as the future scientists they are to become. The award came with a $25,000 prize. The trailblazing teacher also founded an afterschool “Girls Who Code” club, which has become one of the school’s most popular organizations.
Allison Cuttler, an AP Computer Science teacher at Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy College Preparatory High School in Newark, with Gov. Chris Christie before his State of the State Address.
In his address delivered from the Assembly chambers in the Statehouse in Trenton, Christie called Cuttler “an inspiring teacher who embodies everything we could wish for from our education system.”
“She’s done incredible work to get more students at North Star interested in STEM subjects and careers,” Christie said. “Today, for all her transformational work, she receives the thanks of a grateful state. Thank you Allison.”
The governor said the state must continue to “improve our charter school system" in New Jersey to support teacher’s like Cuttler. “If we choose to keep investing in and supporting innovation in our education system, there’s no reason we can’t achieve many more success stories,” Christie said. “There’s no reason we can’t have great schools in every community.”
Cuttler’s impact on the students at North Star has been invaluable. In only her second year teaching the challenging AP Computer Science course at North Star, all of her students passed the exam. That stands in contrast to a national pass rate for that subject of 64 percent.
All of Allison’s students are black or Latino and most of them qualify for free or reduced price lunch, making their success even more noteworthy. Across the country, nine states didn’t have any African- Americans take the AP Computer Science exam last year. In New Jersey, there were just 39 African- Americans who passed the AP Computer Science exam – 10 of whom were from Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy.
What’s more, black female students of Cuttler’s made up two-thirds of all black female students who passed the AP Computer Science exam in the state of New Jersey. The percentage of North Star Academy graduates who have declared majors in the STEM fields has more than quadrupled in the past two years, and most of these students credit Cuttler as their inspiration.
“I am honored to be at the State of the State representing Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy and the teaching profession,” Cuttler said. “North Star teachers reflect constantly on their craft, and the high bar we set for each other ultimately results in our students’ tremendous achievements. I am incredibly lucky to work at a mission-driven school with such dedicated teachers and leaders.”
At the the time she won the award, acting state Education Commissioner David C. Hespe said Cuttler “has demonstrated the innovation and creativity that inspires great teaching and learning in the Garden State. New Jersey students are fortunate to have educators like Allison who help to build a culture of learning and serve as an inspiration to those around her.”
Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy Charter School serves over 4,000 students in Newark. About 94 percent of its students are African American or Hispanic, and 87 percent qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
“We are so proud of Allison’s accomplishments and the positive impact she has made at our school,” said Michael Mann, Head of School at North Star’s high school. “Allison has changed the life trajectories of many of our students. She reminds us every day what is possible when there’s a great teacher in the classroom.”
Uncommon Schools is a network of 44 high-performing charter schools operating in three states: New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. According to a 2013 study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, attending an Uncommon School “completely cancels out the negative effect associated with being a student in poverty.”
Across the three Uncommon high schools, students showed much higher participation and passing rates than the national average in AP exams. More than half of Uncommon 10th, 11th and 12th graders took an AP exam last year, and of those who took an AP exam, 55 percent passed with a “3” or higher.