Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Cost Of Education (In a College Town)

Amherst School Committee: in the hot seat

Town Meeting went pretty much as planned Wednesday night.  The Elementary and Regional School budgets all passed rather handily after a fair amount of discussion, but not a whole lot centered on cost -- as reflected in the (not so)average cost per student.

The Elementary Budget of $21,490,563 represents an average cost per child of $19,136 and the Regional Middle and High School budget of $29,618,478 represents $20,328 per student.  State average is dramatically lower at $13,636 per student.

Or another way of looking at it is Amherst spends at the Regional level $6,692 more per pupil than state average.   Thus the 1,457 students projected next year cost almost TEN MILLION DOLLARS ($9,750,244 to be exact) over state average.

One reason for the high cost (which are fast approaching private school price points) is "administration cost"  is 66% over state average.   And even though an overhead showed a slight increase in the percentage of the elementary budget eaten up by administration, it generated no discussion from the floor.

Overhead used at Town Meeting

Mass Dept of Education data base

Early in the Elementary School budget discussion Town Meeting member Walter Wolnik read a statement praising the financial prowess and presentation skills of Rob Detweiler, the Schools Director of Finance who mysteriously disappeared three months ago.

Wolnik wished to know if and when he would return to his duties? 

School Superintendent Maria Geryk and Sean Mangano (Dettweiler's replacement) listen to Walter Wolnik's statement

Detweiler was on paid Administrative Leave for six weeks (costing taxpayers $15,000) and is still on unpaid Administrative Leave.  School Superintendent Maria Geryk confirmed that he, "will not return in his role ... I appreciate your support of Mr. Detweiler, however I will not be speaking further about the reasons why he is no longer in this role."

Typical layout of classrooms at Wildwood. "Temporary walls" (going on 25 years now) don't go all the way to the ceiling

Article 17 was also an expensive school item, a $1 million Feasibility Study of Wildwood Elementary School (built 1970)  with 60% of that picked up by the state.   As usual some folks had sticker shock over the $1 million price tag even though it's really only $400,000 of town money.

But the motion passed with a solid two-thirds majority, solid enough that no standing or tally vote was required.  And the very next article, to rescind a $400,000 appropriation from last year for new boilers for Wildwood School, passed after a long discussion, thus covering the town's share of the feasibility study.

Since that study will eventually lead to a new school or major renovation (with the state picking up 60%) it doesn't make sense to replace the boilers now at 100% town cost.

 Amherst Elementary Enrollment Trends (going down, down, down)


Dr. Ed said...

Whom, exactly, do you think is paying that 60% that the "state" pays? This isn't free money that drops out of the sky...

Anonymous said...

Do you know which positions are being cut this year, and what the final count is?

Anonymous said...

Is M Geryk as nuts as her husband?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if people in Amherst will ever realize that the cost of an education in Amherst is coming close to the cost of private school. Only without the quality of a private school.

Anonymous said...

And where, oh Ed, do you think that money goes if we don't get it?

It isn't "your money" that stays in your pocket.

It gets spent somewhere else in the state.

You live by your own set of myths, Ed.

Anonymous said...

Amherst is paying almost $7,000 per student more than the state average? What is that money being spent on?

Larry Kelley said...

Admin costs are pretty high.

Dr. Ed said...

And where, oh Ed, do you think that money goes if we don't get it?

I'd say it decreases the state budget shortfall a little bit

It isn't "your money" that stays in your pocket.

But the tax increase that is required to make up for the shortfall sure does.

It gets spent somewhere else in the state.

And a lot of guys justify beating up their girlfriends because "everyone else does it" as well.

At what point do we say "No Mas!"

Dr. Ed said...

You know it is a good thing that the Wildwood walls don't go all the way to the ceiling. This is a legacy of the asinine "open classroom" design of the 1970's & 1980's where walls were considered confining and classrooms too square so we wanted to have one big open area with each classroom free to see the entirety of what was going on.

Yep, they discovered walls and damn fast. And having taught in a school where the walls went all the way to the ceiling, with the resultant "sick building syndrome" from the screwed up HVAC flow, you are lucky that those walls don't go all the way up.

Knowing that, it may well be cheaper to take the wrecking ball to Wildwood. Besides, we can name the replacement after Maria G.

Anonymous said...

Ed is an idiot. For the life of me I don't understand why Larry keeps publishing his comments...unless it's for the entertainment value.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of telling numerous and highly paid administrators they are too many and too expensive? Will two or three get up and leave their jobs? there are more central adminstrators than 10 years ago--and about 25-30% fewer students and one less elementary school. The same amount of building administrators as when there were hundreds and hundreds more students. Go figure.

How about getting a highly competent superintendent, an assistant superintendent, a finance director and hr director (someone who can hire a principal who will stay for more than 2 years)? It''s a sad mess but not if you listen to Appy and Geryk. It's all new programs and initiatives every year. Put this on the school committee, it's their responsibility not town meeting's to run the schools.

Anonymous said...

The private schools are either cheaper or almost the same amount.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to ask this question of all School Committee candidates next year: At what point does the Town begin to see a savings in expenditures from steadily declining enrollments? At some point, fewer kids being educated has to cost less!

Larry, I hope you will post the bar graphs, for others to see, showing the decline in enrollments in both secondary and elementary schools. It's striking.

OMR said...

Not quite Private School Prices yet...

Upper School Day Student...............$35,900
Middle School Student……………$29,200

Deerfield - Day $39,685

Northfield Mt. Hermon
day students - $37,300, plus $1,990 for mandatory fees.

Anonymous said...

They don't have the Special needs students.

Kurt G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Walter Graff said...

"And even though an overhead showed a slight increase in the percentage of the elementary budget eaten up by administration, it generated no discussion from the floor."

Simple answer Larry. When you live in a town of educators, no one is going to put down an educator. It's taboo to say anything against the brethren. Many are disgruntled and will tell you privately but no one will speak up.

The only thing Amherst increases for the cost are more administrators in that building where everyone is hired and no one is fired.

Larry Kelley said...

Well apparently Rob Detweiler has been fired, since Maria said he would not be coming back.

Although she also said he's still on "administrative leave". Curious, very curious.

Walter Graff said...

Larry, there is not a place in this country where administrative leave means someone is ever coming back. It means the perosn is accused of something and pending an investigation, is gone temporary although in many cases that can end up being limbo forever. Geryk's acknowledgement means he will be terminated as most administrative leave cases end up.

Walter Graff said...

They have one of those classrooms without walls at Fort River too. Very difficult to teach in according to the teachers. I guess that is temporary too. Too bad the school budget isn't bigger so they can use the money to fix these things that directly affect learning. :)

I hope no one looks into Geryk's past when she moves on to her next disaster or they will find just how incompetent she is.

Dr. Ed said...

Come now, you gave a summary of the "silver-spoon" private schools without including either BB&N or Phillips in there?

Wakeup Call: the "top-level" elite prep schools are no more competitors to Team Maria than Harvard & Yale are to Planet UMass. Remember that UMass' "peer institutions" are places like UConn, and I'd argue that looking at anything other than the "peer" institutions to the Amherst Public Schools is equally misleading.

You also kinda-mighta added that the elite prep schools have Financial Aid & Scholarships and that, like Amherst College, not everyone pays that much!

Reality Check: Exactly how much "diversity" would they have if they didn't? (I can add the 10-20-30 paragraphs to justify that statement if necessary -- I do have a graduate degree in not only education but student affairs.)

Do not forget that the Cosbys are outliers in many ways -- I not only have a great deal of respect for Bill Cosby but had to overcome many of the same things he did, significant things that I don't feel like discussing -- but they very much are outliers.

Yes, we do have a Black middle & upper-middle (6 figure income) class in this country now -- parents with the economic ability to make choices on things other than cost -- and if you speak to these parents (and I have), you will realize that lead them to make different choices.

And as this is a free country and it is their money and what they truly believe best for their children, who are we to say otherwise? But I digress...

Note too that I don't make an issue the Obama Girls going to Sidney Friends -- beyond saying that their Secret Service detail (men & women with guns) in any DC Public School would turn the school around overnight -- it would instantly become a "safe" environment where children (and teachers) felt safe, which is a very necessary prerequisite to learning.

But Sidney Friends is not the same thing as a District Public School. It's like comparing a BMW to a Ford.

I met Black parents in DC who were very much not happy that Michelle Rhee had been fired -- but again, I digress...

Anonymous said...

I guess the people in charge of the several recent recruitment attempts at her for much higher pay in far more sane environments didn't look into her past and background first.

Anonymous said...

"It means the perosn is accused of something and pending an investigation, is gone temporary although in many cases that can end up being limbo forever."

Trying to reel in all the spending would be my guess

Anonymous said...

It's Sidwell Friends Ed. Damn it, facts matter.

Dr. Ed said...

"It means the perosn is accused of something"

No, it actually can be more than that in the public sector. Civil service rules apply -- and protect (most) public employees from the arbitrary whim of their boss.

I didn't know it, and no fewer than five MA-licensed attorneys neglected to tell me it, but public employees can't be arbitrarily fired in Massachusetts -- even if they aren't in a union.

Above and beyond that, and in addition to the various forms of discrimination (race/sex/etc) that the MCAD is supposed to at least pretend to pay attention to (but often can't be bothered), there are other reasons you can't fire a public employee.

A public employee can not be fired for refusing to do something illegal. To a large extent, the reasons that prohibit a private sector employee from being denied unemployment also preclude the public employee from being fired in the first place -- if he knows it.

We have a "whistleblower law" which basically means that you not only can tell management about things of significant public interest but if they don't act, you can tell the public. And in situations where it is to the point where life or property is in jeopardy, you can go public immediately.

It gets even more interesting when you have an elected board -- a Student Trustee once told me that he had the legal right to get *anything* from *anyone* at UMass and I believe he did. My gut feeling is that any member of the school committees -- any of them -- has the right to ask for financial figures. I would interpret that to include an explanation of them, and without that having the numbers alone means nothing to most laymen including elected SB folk.

There are certain "generally accepted accounting practices" that CPAs know and the rest of us don't -- and I view this exactly like how I once asked a couple of IT folk why they didn't think it was a good idea to "split a pair" of wires in a copper cable as part of the Peoplesoft mess -- I didn't even know why they were twisted together (beyond the color of one helping identify the other).

Walter, Maria G is many things, but there are things about her I very much respect and her political ability is something I very much respect (and wish I had). My guess is that she knows she won't get away with firing him -- she knows that the folks in Boston would reinstate him if she ever did. So she has to keep him on so they can't -- as they can't act on merely a leave -- and I'm thinking she's hoping he finds another job somewhere else.

And we know that this is not FMLA because she say's he's not coming back, and that, particularly said at town meeting relative to the budget, might come back to bite her.

Walter, this isn't private sector -- it's not necessarily about quality of work done because I had a 100% rating on a SEMAP matrix that was (nationally) considered so "impossible" to "pass" (i.e. obtain a 70% score) that HUD actually abandoned it.

My gut feeling -- he told someone something he ought to have, but which Maria wasn't happy with that person knowing.

What the AFD guys did relative to the illegal/unsafe bedrooms on Hobart last year is different, but think of a member of the selectboard going to a firefighter and asking "is this a big deal?"

Imagine said firefighter explaining why it is -- and then imagine folks in town not being happy about that. My guess is that is pretty much what happened here...

Anonymous said...

Private schools are typically a bit "diverse" in terms of race and ethnicity (albeit very few are 51% students of color like the Amherst Public Schools) but less so in terms of socio-economic status and even less so when it comes to kids with physical or emotional or intellectual disabilities.

Some parents consider Amherst's very diverse population a detriment to their kid's education and upbringing, others consider it an imperative.

Dr. Ed said...

"It's Sidwell Friends Ed. Damn it, facts matter."

Yes they do, and I thank you for pointing that out. "Sidney" is a town in Maine -- my bad.

As to a reasonable comparison to ARSD, may I suggest the Parochial (Catholic) schools -- and remember that Massachusetts has a Blaine Amendment which precludes any public assistance going to them. Remember too that the Catholic Church neither has the financial resources nor the number of nuns it had a half century ago -- I'm told that the parochial schools still open are pretty much paid for by their tuition dollars.

Hence St. Joseph's in Wakefield -- a community economically similar to Amherst in terms of cost-of-living and such in a way that Holyoke is not.

St. Joseph's charges $4,656 per year.

Let's look at Maine Central Institute which is somewhat unique in that it is also the public high school for the town of Pittsfield, Maine (which is located between Augusta and Bangor).

charges $10,000 per year to attend classes. Yes, it's $42,000 if you wish to live there 24/7 in a dormitory, but that's something completely different -- Team Maria has no dormitories....

So comparing products -- day student status -- it is $10K at a world class basic private school -- and how much for ARHS?

Dr. Ed said...

"Trying to reel in all the spending would be my guess."

No -- I think it was simpler than this.

My guess would either be what got me into trouble -- refusing to do things which were illegal and/or simply doing his job qua job.

I'm really thinking that someone -- and maybe someone trying to plan the town budget for one of the towns that fund this largess (and most likely NOT Amherst) -- asked him something that he was obligated to answer and he did.

I say "other than Amherst" because small towns have dedicated public servants (including Selectmen) who don't always have the expertise that the Amherst folk do.

Take a hypothetical -- Say Shutesbury was considering borrowing money as towns do for stuff towns do, and they wanted to know what their credit rating was so they'd know how much interest they'd likely pay -- and as the schools are a big chunk of their liabilities, they may have asked a few general quetions or maybe a few kinda specific ones like what they might anticipate for expenses over the next few years, and Maria might not have liked having those answered.

Anonymous said...

While you guys sit around painting a false picture of ARHS, students keep going on to Harvard, Yale, etc. Why don't you try an be more reality based.

Anonymous said...

My kids go to the ARPS's and my property taxes are not close to $10,000 a year, and they also pay for a lot more than just the schools. People in Amherst who send their kids to private schools have to pay for a public education and a private education in order to send their kids to school.

How do the kids whose parents choice them into Amherst get paid for? Do the residents of the town they reside in have to pay our town for them through some tax funded account?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:53

You make a strong claim. Can you back up that each year many students go to Harvard and Yale or was that a couple of kids in the last 10 years.

Can you show that those kids did not have parents who were alumni, did not get tutors, go to Kumon, etc.

That ARHS benefits from all of the well educated and or wealthy people in town giving their kids an advantage in school acceptance. It is certainly not because of the high quality education that all of the kids receive.

Show me that low income kids go to Harvard on a continuous basis and then I will admit that Amherst is a good school.

Anonymous said...

ARHS benefits from all of the well educated and or wealthy people in town giving their kids an advantage in school acceptance. It is certainly not because of the high quality education that all of the kids receive.

Can you back that up with some evidence?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:37 Show me that low income kids go to Harvard on a continuous basis and then I will admit that Amherst is a good school.

Show me that academically strong students from ARHS still get into Harvard and Yale, regardless of income. That's what is important.

Anonymous said...

Larry, ask geryk for information on all of the consultants she has hired. She is incompetent. When she needs work done or Cohen needs work done the district hires another consultant. What do we need to pay geryk and Cohen for?

Let's just hire people who actually know how to do these 6 figure jobs!

Anonymous said...

"You make a strong claim. Can you back up that each year many students go to Harvard and Yale or was that a couple of kids in the last 10 years.

Can you show that those kids did not have parents who were alumni, did not get tutors, go to Kumon, etc."

Come on, get out of your bubble. Amherst schools are among the top-ranked in the state. You have been listening to too many axe-grinders that are not connected to reality.

Anonymous said...

Top ranked by who? It all depends what site you go to. US news has them at #54, while neighboring Hopkins Academy is way up at #36. It all depends on what data is used. For the amount spent per pupil they should be top ten on every list.

Anonymous said...

Amherst is ranked #9 in Massachusetts and #1 in W. Mass in the Boston Globe's DreamSchool: Top 15 High Schools in Massachusetts.

Like mosquitoes on skin said...


Anonymous said...

The Boston Globe dreamschool site is the perfect example of different results depending on what data you use. Switch the percentage on any of the choices and it can change dramatically.

Squeaky's penetrating radar said...

"A conspiracy exists as long as measures are taken to conceal evidence of the crime. A person who did not participate in the original agreement can become a coconspirator after the actual criminal act if the person joins in the concealment of the conspiracy. Whether a coconspirator received personal benefit or profit is of no importance."





Anonymous said...

Huh? You asked for facts and now that you have them you don't like them. Meanwhile, Amherst children are getting great educations.

Anonymous said...

Maine Central Institute is one of the handful of Maine private schools that also serve as public schools. They're called "town academies", and they pre-date public education in Maine

The public-side tuition is set by legislature as "the average per student cost in all public high schools in the State" =about $10,000/student
The private-side tuition is free market=about $40,000/student

There are some Maine public high schools, that are developing private sides (the reverse of the town academies). That would be the equivalent of ARHS charging free-market tuition, that it would get to keep, for out-of-district (non school choice) students.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about whether these "town academy" schools admit kids with a wide variety of special needs or disabilities.

Anonymous said...

2013 MCAS score state ranking, Hadley vs. Amherst

10thGrade English
Hadley = 1st, Amherst = 126th

10th Grade Math
Hadley = 24th, Amherst = 117th


Anonymous said...

If the Hadley schools are so good why do people from Hadley choice into Amherst?
Next question. How many sped kids are the in Hadley. How many on free or reduced lunch. How many readers of this blog want to choice into Hadley?

Dr. Ed said...

I'm curious about whether these "town academy" schools admit kids with a wide variety of special needs or disabilities.

They do if they don't want to get sued -- remember that the ADA requires "Reasonable Accommodations" and then there's IDEA.

HOWEVER they don't have a lot of SPED kids but that doesn't mean that the kids they do have wouldn't be SPED elsewhere.

Case in point the Catholic Schools. They didn't have behavioral disorders, did they Larry? And I am going to offend a large number of "creative" teachers but there is a LOT of evidence that the structured approach is far better for children with lots of disabilities.

One of my many issues with Mitchell Chester is that while you can identify the number of students who have been IDENTIFIED as being SPED, what you have absolutely no idea of is how many more could be but are doing so well in the regular classroom that no one has ever thought of doing an assessment.

Anonymous said...

Hadley has a small and very homogeneous population which works for them. Amherst educates kids who comes from homes that don't speak English. There are more than 20 languages spoken at ARHS. Amherst's MCAS scores and rankings are really quite remarkable if you take all factors into consideration. But most parents in Amherst don't really give a hoot about MCAS.

Just because Amherst and Hadley share a border doesn't mean a comparison will do any good, the SC identified towns with similar demographic make-ups years ago, such as Newton, if you want to compare.

Anonymous said...

A former school committee member made those "similar" demographic comparisons, but nobody wanted to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:37, nobody said they dont like it. They just pointed out that there are different results with different criteria.

Anonymous said...

The Amherst is better or worse than other schools debate is a lost cause. Those who like it find stats to prove their point. Those who don't like it find stats to prove their point. In the end the only winner is the Administration.

A town divided will never question where the money is going and if it is being spent well. Enjoy the taxation hemorrhage Amherst because the ride has only just begun.

Anonymous said...

It is embarrassing that Ed has an Ed.D. and is unaware of the prevalence of common and severe disabilities that could not have/would not be accommodated in a parochial school setting.

Anonymous said...

Remember one thing -- the reason you have 20+ languages at ARHS is because back in the late '80s, UMass imploded.

Brittany Manor (now Boulers & Southpoint) couldn't find enough UM students to rent to -- so they started renting Section 8 instead. As did other folks. And Amherst changed....

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your ignorant, racist, and factually incorrect post. Amherst over the past 3 decades has opened its arms to a number of disadvantaged communities, including taking in a large number of Cambodian refugees after the genocide in that country left them living in refugee camps in Thailand. This process had nothing to do with UMass.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:52

For those of us who were not around in the late 80's can you describe what was the implosion of U-mass. Lower student enrollment with the recession of the late 80's or something else.


Leaving no penny behind said...

"Thank you for your ignorant, racist..."

Yeah, these friggan racists...

God damn savages.

I mean, you KNOW they understand what "variety is the spice of life" means...



Anonymous said...

The Boston Globe's DreamSchool ratings were based on a number of factors, including school expenditures per school. Since that ARPS district spends so much, it's not surprising that our schools ranked highly.

Anonymous said...

Saying that Amherst ranks high on the Boston list is a complete joke. They use statistics only.

Amherst statistics are completely out of whack. The low income groups don't take a lot of the standardized test unlike a town like Northampton. As such those kids without the resources statistically score lower and bring Northampton scores down while Amherst looks great because those kids don't test as much.

Pretty sad when a town like Amherst so devoted to making everyone a lifelong learner can't get as much of their student population to take all the standardized test like Northampton.

It must be the institutional affluence or something, inadvertently telling kids without means that they are not good enough to take those test.

This is good for Amherst, because to the untrained eye they look pretty good. In fact it is only because the less able they preach to help, are being left behind year after year. What a bunch of hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you naysayers even have children in our schools? My daughter loves it and is getting a great education?

Anonymous said...

Responding to May 9, 4:51 p.m. re MCAS scores:
This is one of the problems with just hearing numbers, such as those from the Boston Globe, with no context. Multiple schools can receive the same ranking, such as #1, by the newspaper, giving the reader of this blog the impression that 123 schools scored higher than ARHS. This is not true. (Perhaps one reason why the Commonwealth does not rank schools based on MCAS scores.)
If we look at the State site , we see the following for 2013:
In English: ARHS tested 244 students, of whom 87 were classified High Needs’ (a combination of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, & low income students). 95% of students (including 87% of High Needs students) scored Advanced or Proficient.
Hadley tested 40 students, of whom 6 were classified ‘High Needs.’ 100% of their students scored Advanced or Proficient.
Similar comparisons can be done against other schools, and within all subgroups, in all subject areas.

Anonymous said...

3:40 p.m.: 'Low income groups don't take a lot of the standardized tests unlike a town like Northampton.'

What are you talking about? I-n 2013, 94% of Amherst's low income students (63 kids) took the Math MCAS; 93% took the English and 99% took the Science.

Anonymous said...

I have to correct what I wrote at 5:05 p.m. I said it's incorrect that 123 schools scored higher than ARHS (if ARHS is scored 124, for example). What is correct is to say that there were only 5 scores available higher than that scored by ARHS in English: Ex. If ARHS scored 95%, the schools scoring higher received either 96, 97, 98, 99, or 100%.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:20

Good catch. I should have said SAT and AP courses as the standardized test I spoke of. In the Boston Globe article is uses those types of numbers to show college preparedness. Amherst looks great because a smaller more prepared group takes those tests when compared to Northampton. Amherst should have at least as large a percentage taking those test as Northampton. Amherst does not.

Could this be a results of the institutionalized racism that Hood speaks of.

Dr. Ed said...

"For those of us who were not around in the late 80's can you describe what was the implosion of U-mass. Lower student enrollment with the recession of the late 80's or something else."

It wasn't the recession as much as the end of the Cold War that caused the initial problem -- but the state came real close to Bankrupcy circa 1989-90. Needless to say the legislature cut the funding to UMass -- and instead of cutting expenses, UMass started instituting fees. It became the most expensive public university in the country.

Concurrent with this, the Baby Boomers had "aged out" of college -- there was a national shortage of 18 year olds. Enrollment at now-much-more-expensive UMass plummeted, even though UM lowered admissions standards -- lowering them so much that the legislature stepped in and set minimum ones.

In the 1992-93 academic year, two of the Southwest Towers were vacant (and having sprinklers installed) -- there weren't enough students to fill them.

Brittany Manor, built in the 1970's, had gotten really bad and students -- the smaller number there were -- stopped renting there. The higher numbered half becomes "The Boulders" but is largely vacant -- and Northland, who now owns it, wants someone in all those vacant apartments. This may also have encouraged them to be willing to take Federal rent subsidy and other monies available to anyone willing to house the Cambodian refugees.

In come some noble-minded people and we have the Cambodian refugees living in Boulders. That's how it happened.

Please understand that I am not saying if this was good or bad -- only that this is how it happened.

Anonymous said...

Just take 2013 10th grade Math MCAS as an example, Amherst has 13% students failed to reach proficient Math requirement. Please remember MCAS is minimum state requirement for grade level. I would like to hear Team Maria to explain how each of the other 116 towns have higher per student spending, and have more affluent community, and everybody speaks English.

Team Maria paints a picture that in Amherst, most of our students don't speak English, come from poor families and have special needs, and tell the town people to give them the money (now $20,000 per student). Team Maria pat each other in the back and congratulate each other having done a great job here. Then team Maria turns around to the public and tell the town people: shut up, or get out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23pm this is an interesting point you raise but I wonder if it is an example of a priori reasoning.

If it is true that disadvantaged or minority students are not taking SAT or AP exams in high numbers, it is worthwhile to ask "Why not?" But to assume "institutional racism" as the cause is a great leap of faith and not based in any facts in evidence. So far as I am aware.

Does anyone have information on who is excluding or dissuading these students from taking the tests, and how they are succeeding in suppressing participation? And among the students in who do take the tests, do we know how they are performing?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23 p.m. re the percentage of (low income) ARHS students taking SAT & AP tests vs. Northampton:

The percent of students taking the SAT in both schools who are categorized as low income is the same: 18% (33 out of 160 in NoHo; 40 out of 216 in Amh).

One thing that has made Northampton's AP participation rates soar is their involvement with Mass Math & Science Initiative (partially funded by Bill & Melinda Gates). This program offers financial incentives to faculty and students, offers special Saturday sessions, and involves professors in offering special support.

Amherst was not eligible for the program because the school had better AP participation and performance rates. We would love to be able to offer financial incentives to our teachers and low income students, as well - for one thing, it could help students explore higher-level academics while still being able to bring money in - many must work in after-school jobs.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:14 a.m. How are students from underrepresented groups doing on SATs & APs?

It is not possible to do comparisons across all areas, because statistics for groups made up of less than 10 students are not reported by the State. However, we can find the following comparisons between ARHS and Northampton:

Last year's SAT: In the High Needs category, Reading: 495 ARHS/ 477 NoHo; Writing: 480 ARHS/ 466 NoHo; Math: 510 ARHS/ 490 NoHo. The percent of students taking the SATs who were in the High Needs category for both schools was about 27%.

Last year's AP: Scores are available to compare in Science & Technology. For students in the High Needs category, the percent with a qualifying score of 3-5: 100% ARHS/ 75% NoHo. ARHS had 6 High Needs students taking Science APs; NoHo had 13.

Anonymous said...

Ask team maria how many kids have withdrawn since the school year started. And not because of relocation. Rumor has it another is bailing now.

Anonymous said...

So what does "institutional racism" mean in regard to test participation? It seems irresponsible to throw that term around, a means of changing the subject and shutting down legitimate questioning. I don't understand so I'd really like Rick Hood or any commenter on this thread to say how, specifically, institutional racism is actually producing these specific results. Precisely how?

Two-fifty-two said...

As long as we're talking numbers, let's talk attendance. Apparently these 27 duly elected Town Meeting members have no interest in education, or anything else on the warrant. They have failed to attend a single session. I urge all to vote them out next time around. From the official "attendance" list on, and sorted by precinct:

PCT Name

Anonymous said...

I know some of these folks are away on sabbatical. Maybe others are not well. Be nice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:56 -
I am sure that some of the non-attenders have good reasons for not being able to make it to Town Meeting, including not being physically present in Amherst these past two weeks. Attendance isn't everything.

Anonymous said...

Attendance isn't everything? People on sabbatical? Why run for the seat if you don't plan to show up?

Walter Graff said...

The bigger enemy that many other towns other than Amherst are now fighting is Common Core. Even as incompetent as Geryk is, she can't compare with this disaster.

Nina Koch said...

Here is a link to the Common Core standards for High School Algebra:

Common Core High School Algebra

Can you please point to some statement on that page that you find objectionable? The Common Core is controversial for a variety of reasons, but I am curious to know what in particular you objected to when you read the standards. What problem do you see in the language of the standards?

Anonymous said...

I think the private elementary schools are now cheaper than the Amherst elementary schools at $19K/kid. With smaller classes.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know how I feel about the Common Core standards. I've read a variety of things about them, though. One of the criticisms I've read about them is that some of the standards at the elementary grades are not grade-appropriate. Can you comment on that?
Also, I think many are opposed to the Common Core because of the high'stakes testing that is part and parcel of their implementation. I am vehemently opposed to the high stakes testing and think it has done enormous harm to our schools and to our students. As long as the two are linked, there will be many people in opposition to the Common Core. Again, I am not opposed to appropriate grade level standards and if the Common Core standards are just that, than I would not be opposed to them. But the high stakes testing really needs to go.

Nina Koch said...

I agree that the students are being over-tested and it's about to get worse as the frequency of testing will be increased. Diane Ravitch makes the case very effectively:


Ravitch's critique of the Common Core is very different than what you might hear from someone like James Milgram or other veterans of the math wars:


I have a critique of my own about the content standards of the Common Core. They were supposed to fix the problem of the "mile-wide, inch-deep" approach to instruction, but I feel the standards have not done that. In fact, they may have made it worse. You should see how many different topics are in the textbooks that purport to implement the Common Core. If you just do the arithmetic for number of minutes, you quickly find that it's simply not possible to include all of those topics. Certainly not in a meaningful way.

I see more value in the practice standards of the Common Core, although I feel that the pre-existing NCTM Standards had addressed those standards more effectively and did not need to be replaced.

So I was curious about what Anon 11:51 pm was referring to when he or she said the Common Core was the enemy.