Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mediocrity Confirmed

Left to rt: Superintendent Maria Geryk and Chair Rick Hood. Center (of the storm): Catherine Sanderson, (empty chair: Rob Spence), Irv Rhodes, Steve Rivkin 12/14

The dissident wing of the Regional School Committee (all three from Amherst of course) and the highly paid regional administrators--Superintendent, High School and Middle school principals--reenacted the Civil War clash of the ironclads: lots of cannon fire, but no real damage.

Unless of course you are student in the system or parent who subscribes to the theory "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

The full committee--by not taking action--endorsed the concept of quiet time in a room with no actual teaching taking place, supposedly valuable simply because a certified teacher is acting as traffic cop.

According to the written opinion of attorney Regina Williams: a directed study can count toward time in learning so long as a teacher is present, and “where the teacher is available to assist students academically”.

The study may be held in “a classroom, computer lab, media center, etc.” However, it cannot cover a “large group of students with no clear educational focus who are housed in a cafeteria or auditorium where a teacher is present to monitor but is not interactive…”

As far as a I am aware, the last time the Department or the Commissioner issued any advisory on Time in Learning was in 1999 after the regulations’ amendments. The regulations have also included directed study as part of the “structured learning time” necessary to meet the 990 hour requirement."
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But even with this lower setting of the bar (assuming it is indeed legal--and this attorney has been wrong before), the Amherst Schools just barely meet the minimum state requirement for time on learning. No real reason given as to why this seems to happen 'Only in Amherst', the Happy Valley's supposed flagship of public education.

Northampton and Hadley manage to get their teachers to actually instruct while in a room with students. And their average cost per student is--Hadley just under $11,000 and Northampton at $11,699--considerably lower than Amherst's $16,909 (state average including those upstart Charter Schools is $13,062.)

About 90% of the Amherst schools operating budget goes towards employee salaries and benefits. Hmm...

24 comments:

Mazur lobbied hard to save Gus. said...

Membership has its' privileges. Even when you move to another town.

Gus Sayer, for example.

Anonymous said...

Cap'n R.H.



Useless as predicted.

LarryK4 said...

Unfortunately for us he's a lousy navigator, and is currently steaming full-speed-ahead in frigid North Atlantic waters.

But like a good captain, he will go down with his ship.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you Larry.

Anonymous said...

What does Hood bring to the table?
A mirror?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....

Someone will have to check and see what DESE has to say on all of this.

Wonder who might be drafting that email as we speak....

Anonymous said...

Larry --

Do me a favor - post the lawyer's opinion. It is finals, I am busy...

Ed said...

IF the teacher is "interactive" then there is documentation of that. And the teacher's contract specifies this as a TEACHING duty -- and not something else.

What does the contract say? Is study hall listed as a teaching duty for which the teacher's contract is reviewed?

Checking out the roadkill: said...

Yep. The amherst schools suffer miserably from mediocrity. They get beat out by the Hadley and Noho schools every year.

That's why people with kids in the amherst schools are running from town, for their very lives, to get their kids into schools anywhere but here.

God help us!

LarryK4 said...

And in some cases, even those who work in the schools.

Ed said...

a directed study can count toward time in learning so long as a teacher is present, and “where the teacher is available to assist students academically”.

And when I had a student who was interested in learning and was struggling, I would eat my lunch with the students, sitting next to this student and trying to help the kid not so badly mangle the English language.

Hence there was "a teacher present" in the cafeteria (albeit eating my lunch) who was "available to assist students academically" -- and I usually did this just before something was due and other kids would ask for help too.

Likewise when I had cafeteria supervisory duty, I would "assist students academically" -- much easier to do this with the peer pressure from the assisted students to their buddies to not cause trouble when I was helping them than to play cop.

With all due respect to this attorney, her answer does not add up. Taken to its logical extreme, a teacher with IPhone or laptop may "assist students academically" during the bus ride to an away game, so we include that as instruction time?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I would kinda like to see a second opinion on this as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned that the private MacDuffie school will be moving to Granby, just a short drive from South Amherst. A very smart move for them to attract more Amherst students.

Anonymous said...

I have a simple question perhaps someone can answer. Does Hadley or Northampton have any students in study halls? Even optional study halls?

Currently, the only students in study halls in Amherst are those who have chosen to have a study hall in their schedule. I watched the regional meeting where this was discussed and it sounds like study halls are useful to many students for a variety of reasons. They are not a time where everyone is sitting twiddling their thumbs. Many students are making valuable us of the directed study time.

Anonymous said...

If Obumba had his way kids would be in school all year. Then those study halls would have to count.

Anonymous said...

My daughter has no choice--she has to take a study hall.

So if a student chooses to take 3 study halls a day, that would be okay because she could make useful time out of it?

The point of the learning hours requirement is that it's not up to students to make questionable decisions like taking 3 study halls (or sorry, I mean "directed study"--ipods and all). Nor is it up to the school to decide how many hours it chooses to teach kids. This is for the protection of the kids! C'mon Mark Jackson, let's be honest here!

Anonymous said...

Yup- yet another two products of our mediocre schools:

http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/12/17/arhs-standouts-opt-williams

LarryK4 said...

Yup. I just love anecdotal evidence.

Anonymous said...

Many students are making valuable us of the directed study time.

And nine months later, we all see the results...

Anonymous said...

Yup- yet another two products of our mediocre schools:
http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/12/17/arhs-standouts-opt-williams


It is called Title IX and the rule that for every male athlete they have on campus, they have to have a female athlete playing something. And the two girls are good softball players (we don't know anything much about their schoolwork) and Williams grabbed them and probably can afford to provide enough tutors to prevent them from flunking out...

Anonymous said...

Okay. Enought about the girls. I know one of them and she's not only smart, she's a phenomenal athlete. NO ONE is more critical of the public schools than I am. I moved my kids out of them, and still am very angry at the schools and the administration. I just wanted to comment on the fact that one of the girls is really a super star and comes from a very nice family. It isn't an accident she turned out so well. She has caring parents who work their butts off to make sure their kids get whatever they need. Ali

Anonymous said...

What's anecdotal about that post?
Fact 1- the girls both went from k-12 at Amherst schools.
Fact 2- both are outstanding students
Fact 3- they will both be attending one of the best colleges in the country next year.

What's anecdotal? Maybe your argument that the schools are mediocre?

LarryK4 said...

anecdotal /an·ec·do·tal/ (an″ek-do´t'l) based on case histories rather than on controlled clinical trials.
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And are you sure no kids from Hopkins Academy or Northampton High School have ever done the same?

Because "controlled clinical studies" show their cost to educate was about 25% less than Amherst Regional High School.

Anonymous said...

How low can you go on this blog?