Along with many of its sister towns like West New York and North Bergen, schools throughout Hudson County have been classified as State Benchmark Schools for the last three years, and have been the subject of study on how to employ their better practices throughout the state.
So how does a school district ranked among the state's top urban districts continue to achieve and excel?
According to those at the Union City Board of Education, it's by continually monitoring its students and teacher progress, and by regularly adding new programs designed to build upon success.
"We take a great deal of pride in our accomplishments, but we're working every day to develop new ideas and new programs to build upon our success," said Superintendent of Schools Stanley Sanger.
The Union City School District serves approximately 12,000 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade with more than 90% of its student population being Latino, and of which 75% do not speak English at home.
More than 90% of it students qualify for free lunches according to federal poverty guidelines.
On last year's state Standardized Assessment Exams, the district's third grade general education students had among the highest test scores in the state's 30 Abbott districts in Language Arts, and finished only a fraction below the statewide average for all students.
On the state's Limited English Proficient Exam (LEP), third graders finished second among all Abbott districts, and similarly fourth graders in Union City achieved the third highest scores on the Language Arts exam for general education students in Abbott districts, and finished only a point behind the statewide average.
"We're very proud that we are able to have sustained achievements in many academic areas," said Sanger. "We realize based on our assessment evaluations that we still have great gains to make in serving students with special needs and limited English proficiencies."
"We in the district are gathering all our resources in order to service these [special needs and ELL] students to provide them with the same service, and provide teachers with the same professional development to help all our students be successful," he added.
Union City student test scores are regularly ranked among the very best scores in the state. Some of the recent programs administrators have implemented include the institution of individual student assessments every eight weeks. The implementation of Small Learning Communities (SLCs), which is a recent state mandate, has begun in both its high schools, as well as using iPods as an ELL teaching tool.
Learning by listening
A pilot program for the iPods entitled "POD people" was implemented toward the previous school year at Jose Marti Middle School by Grace Poli, who started the program to help her English as a Second Language students learn through music, audio books and voice recorder.
"I definitely thought the iPod would be a useful tool because a lot of people learn foreign languages by listening to music," said Poli, last June. "There are a lot of benefits with the iPod because the kids could listen at their own pace."
Poli was named Technology Teacher of the Year in 2006, and was named a top "2006 Innovator" by The Journal, a national magazine for technology in education for her use of the iPod.
"The iPods has proven to be very effective with bilingual students," said Sanger.
Another program they are concentrating on this year is their Reading First Program, which is funded by a state grant.
"It allows us to address the needs of all our students in the primary grades, which are first through third," said Sanger. "What it allows us to do is give more individualization and a prescribed reading program for each student and have the progress of the student assessed on a regular basis."
As a result of the district's many innovative programs and high-test scores, the Union City School District has received numerous recognitions including the State of New Jersey - Governor's School of Excellence Award, National Title I School (one of only 54 in the nation and one of only two in New Jersey), and the Alliance for Excellence in Education, in a report to the Carnegie Foundation, cited the district as one of only three districts in the nation "with research-based approaches and promising practices."
The district also recently received the results from the New Jersey ASK (Assessment of Skills and Knowledge), which is taken in March, and once again brought in third and fourth grade test scores well above and at the state average.
New Jersey ASK is a state assessment of student achievement in language arts, math, and science that was implemented in 2003 to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
General Education students in third grade scored 90.8, which is two points above the state average, and Limited English Proficiency students scored a total of 62.9, which is well above the state mandated average of 48.2.
Fourth grade General Education students scored an average of 87.4, and are ranked third among the Abbott Districts. Their average is only 1.3 points below the entire state average.