Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Highlighting success, a few at a time

Maria Geryk (far left) Amherst Regional School Committee to her left

Last night the Amherst Regional School Committee (representing Amherst, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury) heard a polished presentation from a small group of High School students concerning the Minority Student Achievement Network conference they attended in Columbia, Missouri courtesy of Maria Geryk, who found the money in her Superintendent's budget to cover costs.

The well dressed, polite students apprised the committee of their "action plan" to give back to the system they had learned to negotiate (some of them the hard way) and actually thrive, by becoming mentors to Middle School kids--teaching by example the benefits of hard work, discipline and family teamwork.

Proud parents swelled the audience demonstrating how invaluable family involvement is to academic success.

When asked what style of teaching worked best: challenging or coddling, a young woman responded in favor of the former. Another young man articulated how poverty plays an important role in disrupting education, something parental oversight helps to overcome.

Committee Member Steve Rivkin picked up on the benefits of higher expectations, even for poorer kids, by bringing up the $16,413 average student cost of education in Amherst--not known for a tough disciplinarian style-- compared to state average ($13,052), with relatively modest test scores to show for it.

Math results were particularly disappointing--especially among low income students.

He also criticized the deteriorated physical condition of Wildwood and Fort River elementary schools, calling them "substandard," while floating the idea of temporarily moving more grades (5-8 rather than current 7-8) into the underpopulated Middle School so renovations could occur at those older, less inviting schools.

Human Resource Director Kathy Mazur gave a brief presentation on Regional enrollment projections for the next five years showing a steady decline from the current 1,592 in 2011-12 year to 1,425 in 2016-17. The Regional school system enrollment peaked in 2001-02 with 1,668 total students.

Steve Rivkin

This dark drizzly evening, the Amherst schools hosted an Open House. Crocker Farm Elementary School, where my daughters attend, was packed with staff, students and parents. Maybe one reason Crocker Farm tested better than state average in math.


Anonymous said...

Once Steve leaves, we are back to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Amherst and Regional School Committees made up entirely of compliant pod people. Once again, everything is fine.

All vestiges of dissent have been air-brushed out of our political picture on education.

Until, of course, parents of poor kids in Amherst realize that they (and their children) have been duped once again by the "My kid is alright, Jack" crowd.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:10,
Don't forget to add that you will be there every step of the way reminding everyone how lousy these schools are, which is probably why they keep sending kids to the top colleges in the world.

Yes, poor children are living much different life, at home, in the neighborhood and in school, than other kids.

But did Amherst, MA create and sustain the plight of the poor in our country?

Wake up, or double the dose of whatever anti-reality pill you're on.

Anonymous said...

I am tired of the tyranny of low expectations for the low income children of Amherst. The message to poor children every day is that the schools can't educate you to your highest level (as many other schools do in much poorer communities) because you come from a poor family. It's your fault you don't do well because you are poor. What a thing to tell our children.

Isn't the message really Amherst schools don't know how to educate poor children -- unlike other schools. And Amherst won't find out how they do it, just keep hiring more overpaid administrators to lament the fact that poor children just can't learn.

Cheers to Steve Rivkin for caring, bringing up the facts over and over and for keeping the heat on. Everyone else on that school committee should be ashamed, as should the school administration. If they had 1/10 the spirit, intelligence and concern of the students that spoke to them.

Anonymous said...

Larry, CF did not do better than the state average in ELA (CF=64, State=69), barely did better in math (CF=61, State=58). You might want to look at the MCAS data yourself on DOE. 6th grade probably did so well because they had nice small class sizes (<16 kids/class). I see no call for a pat on the back.

LarryK4 said...

Nicer building helps as well.

Anonymous said...

Do the realtors use the logo: Amherst Schools-Above State Average. Is that enough for you? For the kids? Maybe we should do a movie: Race To Above State Average.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the superintendent stop a film about low expectations and discrimination made by students from being shown to hs teachers? Because it would upset them. Am I right on this?

LarryK4 said...

If so, the kids should have called in the ACLU--like they did before.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard such a load of crap in my life! Now poverty is the key to why parents don't focus on their kids education! I grew up in an single parent enviroment where ketchup soup was not uncommon and we were luckey if we had a whole chicken for Thanksgiving. Many of these kids families need to wake up and face the reality of the world. My kids get the attention they need and I provide them with most everything they need. How does this happen? I work my ass off by working (2) jobs at 65-70 hrs. a week then spend all my spare time with the kids, and will continue to do so as long as I'm needed. Please people don't cry me a bucket full of misfortune especially when I went to drop a freind off at one of our less fortunate housing communities we have subsidised and see way to many adults hanging around like their still teenagers. I really love the assortment of fine automobiles I saw cruising through like the sweet Lexus 450LS with the aging "boys in the hood" leaning all over it trying to stare me down as if I had no right to be there. Let's face the facts some of the kids do come from households that don't give a damned if they succeed, and their parents don't succeed because they like their life style and see nothing wrong with sponging the system and blaming the world holding them back. sorry for the long rant but I think it's a shame that we use poverty as a crutch for not trying in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Steve Rivkin is part of the problem...not part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Maybe those kids in anon 8:45 should just stay home from school since there is no chance they can learn. Think of the tax money we'll save.

And yes, the aura of Steve Rivkin is so widespread he is single-handedly driving down MCAS scores and keeping them low for poor children. When he leaves, it will all get better.

Anonymous said...

"But did Amherst, MA create and sustain the plight of the poor in our country?"

I know of at least one person they did that to.

Anonymous said...


"Rick Hood"