Friday, January 15, 2010

Lies, damned lies, and statistics


So in both today's Gazette and Amherst Bulletin we have the perfect example of warm and fuzzy emotional arguments trying to undermine that cold cruel scientific world of statistical data. As Commander Spock would say, "fascinating".

Two young ladies (editors of the school newspaper no less) poke Catherine Sanderson's assertion that ARHS needs Advanced Placement courses next year while she simultaneously does not bemoan the cutting of ceramics, woodcutting or gay/lesbian literature ("Vagina Monologues" anyone?) in a Guest Editorial aptly headlined "We're Students, Not Statistics."

"Simple statistical analysis cannot be the answer," the young women insist. Yeah, woodcutting is w-a-y more fun than advanced calculus, but now that Cowls Building Supply is closing down their lumber mill...

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And in the Amherst Bulletin former School Committee Chair--you know right up there with being Captain of the Titanic--Elaine Brighty decries Stan Gawle's Bulletin column from last week that used a devastating comparison between Amherst and Northampton school industries. Mr Gawle dared to ask the question:

"Why does it cost Amherst $12,344,000 more to educate our students than Northampton? Northampton has a comparable school population; has more kids in special education; zero study halls while we have two; and more advanced placement course offerings than we have."

Brighty insists "Comparing the cost to educate students in different towns and cities is more difficult than it should be." She goes on to suggest that some towns hide education costs (retirement, health insurance, and other benefits) in the town government budget rather than schools.

Even if true it would not make up a $12 million difference! And doesn't address the BIG difference in forced study halls and AP courses offered.

Mr Gawle also pointed out: "The town employs approximately 920 employees. Ten earn between $100,000 to $157,000; 24 earn between $80,000 to $100,000; and 433 earn between $50,000 to $80,000." And in the current Fiscal Year "Amherst gave $2,171,526 in raises and had only $1,459,084 in projected revenues to cover those costs."

Ms. Brighty declares: "Our employee compensation is comparable to that of other communities." Maybe, but apparently not Northampton where--according to the Mass Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education--teachers earn an average salary of $54,000 compared to Amherst Regional High School's $62,500. And 100 teachers at a $8,500 difference adds up.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Larry, I love you.

I will never call you "old man" or "tough guy" again.

LarryK4 said...

Gee, thanks. As everyone knows: I just love my Anons.

Max Hartshorne said...

Larry in your new gig as collegiate investigative reporter for Amherst, can you dig up an apples-to-apples comparison that shows how Amherst so ridiculously exceeds its neighbor in spending on schools? $12 Million??

WOW!

Anonymous said...

From here on the Starship Enterprise, there appear
to be parallels between the rapid rates of growth in the cost of educating students (in Amherst) and in the cost of healthcare (in America): in both these cases
it might logically be attributed to a proliferation of
less-than-productive middle managers, as well as to a serious failure in determining whether new methods of teaching (or medical treatment) offer any measurable benefits.

- Commander Spock \\//

Anonymous said...

too many vaginas

Anonymous said...

Too many vaginas?

Spencer is a boy's name...

Ed said...

There is another wild card being missed here - Amherst has a higher level of parental education than the still-blue-collar Northampton (at least amongst those with children).

So even if Amherst has a similar educational outcome, it is starting from a weaker place. Amherst is a college town with parents who largely are well educated, Hamp not so much....

Anonymous said...

more vaginas

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, the editorial was written by a female and a male. Larry Kelly, you need to stop involving yourself with things that don't concern you. You just LOVE going against the grain and stirring up trouble- It is very obnoxious. Give up with the Vagina Monologues. You lost that fight, and you will lose again.

LarryK4 said...

Oh, I don't know if it lost that or not. Why don't you ask Mark Jackson if the HIgh School will be doing 'VM' this year?

I got a gender wrong and you spelled my name wrong, so I guess we're even.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the misspelling. But I can tell you from an inside source that the high school is not performing the VMons this year because of personal choice, not because of you. You are not a threat- you are simply an obnoxious man who needs a new hobby.

LarryK4 said...

And they did not perform it last year either. Probably had nothing to do with little old obnoxious me (or BIG old obnoxious Bill O'Reilly.)

Of course they also have not done 'West Side Story' since 1999. Come to think of it, they NEVER did 'West Side Story'.

Anonymous said...

"I can tell you from an inside source..."


I BET you can...