Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ARPS: The Drama Continues

Props from a recent Shakespeare play adorn the front lawn at ARHS

Perhaps someday the Amherst Regional Public Schools can can synthesize the past year long racial "event" -- for lack of a better term -- into a teachable moment school play.  Or better yet, a Hollywood movie.

Maybe we can get Meryl Streep to play Superintendent Maria Geryk and Oprah Winfrey as math teacher Carolyn Gardner.

Clearly we are in a full blown Us vs Them situation divided along racial lines.  And now we can throw Ferguson into the volatile mix.  

The Amherst-Pelham Education Association and heavyweight Massachusetts Teachers Association just issued a statement supporting Carolyn Gardner while trumpeting their "commitment to confronting racism."

But do we really have any proof that these unsettling acts perpetrated against Ms. Gardner were genuinely racist, as opposed to kids being kids, or an adult trying to stir up racial turmoil?

Or what on the all powerful Internet is simply known as a Troll. 

Either way, the case is now before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, who will spend the next 18 months deciding if indeed there is merit to the charge.

Until then candle light vigils, long winded comments at public meetings (with a side order of hissing) and press releases designed to win the hearts and minds of citizens are a waste of time and energy.  

Not to mention a monumental distraction to the sacred mission of educating all our children.

 Jean Sherlock reads NAACP letter of complaint to Regional School Committee

The NAACP issued a press release, err, I mean statement at the tense Regional School Committee meeting last week charging the schools with "illegal application of disciplinary measures" against the non-white student population.

Maybe they have not been paying attention but last year Maria Geryk presented to the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee statistics from the 2011-2012 school year showing 65% of the out-of-school suspensions were given to non-white students at the high school (who make up 35% of the student body) and in 2012-2013, 58%.

Back in July the Schools announced major changes to address these racial disparities, replacing two secondary school deans with "climate control coordinators".  Geryk also told the RSC last December that the plan was to pretty much eliminate suspensions as a form of discipline altogether (except in extreme cases of assault or weapons possession).  

So why now after the schools have been addressing this racial disparity for the past year is the NAACP suddenly bringing it up?  And where were they for the previous 20 years or so, if indeed the Schools have been out of compliance since 1993?




74 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not just the past year that the schools have been working on equity issues. Ms Geryk has a 35 page long 5 year equity plan andi think we are in year 3 of the plan.

Anonymous said...

Exactly 6:18 .......... many strategies for creating a more equitable school environment and closing the achievement gap, based on Harvard Professor Ron Ferguson's work, have been steadily implemented over the last 2-1/2 years under Geryk's leadership. For some reason "they" can't stand that the issues are actually being addressed.

Anonymous said...

http://www.artrenewal.org/artwork/344/344/21764/christ_carrying_the_cross-large.jpg

Anonymous said...

Oh God, here we go again. Whatever happened to "...without regard to race, color, creed, national origin...?" Now all we DO is regard these things. And are we any happier? What, for instance would it have meant to view Michael Brown as a 'teenager' rather than a 'black teenager?' Or Wilson as a 'policeman' rather than a 'white cop.' Please stop the madness and division.

Anonymous said...

Jason Riley(WSJ) "The Left is seelling us a false narrative."
Happening here,?

Anonymous said...

So, what percentage of suspensionable acts were being committed by non-whites when the 35% non-white students were receiving 65% of the suspensions?

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs to watch this video from a young black man addressing other black people about taking responsibility:

http://youtu.be/gPUcA7yrErg

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note that Amherst school counts on Ron Ferguson's research to direct its work to close achievement gap.

Here is an article on Prof. Ferguson's talk in Hamilton College on educational achievement gap:

http://www.hamilton.edu/news/story/harvard-scholar-discusses-educational-achievementn-gap

The following is an extract from that article:

Ferguson’s anticipated focus on racial inequality gave way to concern for the academic achievement of American children of all races. In order to replace the baby boom generation with a skilled workforce, Ferguson warned, our schools must train that skilled workforce. “This is not just about closing achievements gaps. This is not just about student of color,” Ferguson said. “Even our white students have to do better.”


Ferguson shared the stories of two school districts with superintendents who struggled to close the racial achievement gap. These superintendents eventually alienated parents in the community who felt that the success of above-average students was compromised by the district’s attention toward below-average students. In order to avoid situations like these, Ferguson explained, American schools must work for the betterment of all students. He encouraged districts to stop worrying about gaps within their districts and set benchmarks externally, so that everyone can celebrate when the district meets its goals.


“We’re not training kids to compete with their classmates,” Ferguson noted. “The goal is to have them compete with the world.”

It is interesting to see that, Prof Ferguson, a black scholar, shares the view with many Amherst parents that closing achievement gap should not be narrowly focused on specific race, or benefits one specific race, at the expense of everyone else.

Isn't is time to stop the infighting, or set the limit on what the students are allow to learn at school by quoting "equity" goal?

"To compete with the world", I don't know whether that is too big a goal for Amherst school right now. At least we can compete to become a high performing school in Massachusetts. And set a external goal, and bring the best out of each of our students, and share the success in that journey.

Anonymous said...

Loved the bit about "yo' ass was never a slave."

Anonymous said...

You get what you subsidize.

Follow the money.

There are people making a living out of racial division. Just watch CNN.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the problems is that everyone assumes that the word equity only applies to a racial focus. That is not how the Amherst district sees it. They are basing their work on Ron Ferguson ' s work. The Amherst equity plan, while it does address some issues around racial equity, goes much further. It also addresses issues around socio economic equity. And it does not do all this and ignore the kids who do well in school. The district firmly believes that when all kids do well the gap will diminish. Equity is not about black/white. It is about all kids achieving to the best of their ability. It is about all kids succeeding. That is equity.

Anonymous said...

Massachusetts recently released a report stating that boys of color are suspended far more than whites state wide. Look, the problems we are facing are not only Amherst's problems. These are america's cultural problems. One of th ebig reasons boys of color get suspended more is that they misbehave more. No one has taught them the value of school. What message do you think the hissing,booing and yelling at th e school committee meeting sent?

People want kids of color to be in school learning and not getting suspended should start to tKe responsibility for raising these kids to value learning.

Anonymous said...

Huh? Where has the NAACP been? Are you serious? Where have you been? As far back as 1993 the NAACP has been concerned with racial issues related to ARHS. In December of that year they filed a lawsuit pertaining to students of color disproportionately being placed in lower level classes. Maybe you should do your homework.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:22 AM

Good to know. You sounds like someone from school. We want to hear the school leadership take the stand and openly discuss their belief of the principle.

We want to see concrete action plans from school, too.

Nina Koch said...

9:05 am, can you please explain exactly where you see a limit being set on what students are allowed to learn, in the name of equity?

Anonymous said...

Socio economic equity. Isn't that what the Communists were after?

Nina Koch said...

to 9:37 am, I am troubled by your statement about black male students not being taught the value of school. When I work with those students, that is not my experience.

Certainly, there are teenagers who have yet found the motivation to work hard as other students do. But in my experience, those kids do not belong to a particular demographic group.

Anonymous said...

I am not saying socio economic equity means we all have the same amount of money. Instead we all have the same opportunity to get ahead. It is evening the playing field. For example, universal pre school. So all kids have the pre school experience and not just those who can afford it.

Anonymous said...

We want to see concrete action plans from school, too.

There's a comprehensive equity plan available and it has been steadily implemented for over two years, seek it out, it's not hidden away in a vault in the central office.

We want to hear the school leadership take the stand and openly discuss their belief of the principle.

Before school child care, full day pre-school, the family center, the hiring of an administrator specifically charged with hiring and retaining teachers of color, are just a few of the recently implemented programs designed to make public education more equitable in Amherst. The administrators actions speak louder than the words they say (all the time.)


I want to see some real productive action from the angry "we's" and less "open discussion" of their beliefs and "principles"!

I want to see the "we's" behave in a manner that makes people of color (who have historically applied to teach in Amherst at a very low rate) want to come and live and work here!

Anonymous said...

The significance of the MTA throwing it support behind Carolyn Gardner should not be overlooked. They have acknowledged what many of us in the community have known for a long time. Racism is an endemic problem in the schools in Amherst.

Carolyn Garner has suffered terribly as a result of this. Many of you who have never suffered racism try to minimize this, but she has been diagnosed by a professional with PTSD and can no longer work. This is a valid, professional diagnosis, so those of you who disavow that, consider that you are NOT in a position to do so. You do not have the training and have not evaluated her.

The issues surrounding this case are too important to ignore. In fact, the more we speak about racism, the better. This case can be a turning point for our schools and our community and maybe beyond, but only if we honor its importance. The MTA said they want this resolved "with clarity" and we agree.

That is why I am throwing my support with those who want this case to see the light of day in a court of law where ALL the issues will be aired and placed upon the table. This is the only venue where we will achieve the "clarity" the MTA asks for.

We are forming a new organization called "True Justice for Carolyn." Our goal is to support Carolyn's right to fair hearing and her day in court. A court is the only "True" venue to settle this publicly and fairly.

We have worked too long in this country to achieve Equal Protection Under the Law to see this case pushed aside and settled with some sort of "confidential" agreement. We call this "checkbook justice" or hush money, where those in power, those with Privilege, simply write a check and make the problem disappear.

Checkbook "justice" is not justice with dignity. It does not advance the dialogue.

We call on those asking for a confidential settlement to step back, and join with us to bring this case to trial. We don't believe you speak for Carolyn.

Carolyn, we ask you to stand strong and be patient. Justice will prevail if you let it. Don't give in to the pressure groups. You deserve nothing less than your day in court.

True Justice for Carolyn is THE correct course. Please support our effort to elevate this issue. It is the right way for Carolyn, the schools and the community.

The True Justice for Carolyn Movement










Anonymous said...

Should "reduce achievement gap" be a district goal?

Professor Ron Ferguson is actually arguing a different goal:

"Ferguson’s anticipated focus on racial inequality gave way to concern for the academic achievement of American children of all races. "

Everyone is different in their learning style, their learning abilities of different academic subject, and their aspiration, and their ambition. This is human nature, regardless of race, or social economic status. There is no way you can force everybody to be exactly equal in all aspect of their ability, aspiration, on each academic subject. It is even inhuman to force everybody to be equal in every academic subject.

To list "Reduce achievement gap" as a goal, is actually comparing a student with another student in the class, and argue that they should perform similarly in every academic subject. I would argue this goal and practice refute the difference of human ability and aspiration. It is thus, inhuman.

What I see a better goal is to bring out the best each person can be and excel in each academic subject this person aspire and passion about. If every student learns what his/her passion and ability allows, and succeed in what he/she is passioned about and good at, and become a person he/she aspire to be. Is it the ultimate goal of our education? After we achive this education goal, why do we need to worry about "achievement gap"? Do you care whether Michael Jorden knows Math or literature as good as his classmates, if he is destined to be a great basketball star? I don't know Michael's high school academic performance. But should his classmates be required to learn academic subject only as much as Michael, but not more, if this classmates want to become a professor in the future? Will the achivement gap matter?

What I am more concerned about is the underachievement of each student to his/her best that can be. One of the education goal of the district should be to "eliminate the underachievement of each student".

"Reduce achievement gap" by comparing one student from another student is merely serve political correctness, its implementation can be divisive, ineffective, and troublesome.

Adopting a district goal of "Eliminate underachievement from each student" will bring out the best from our students and improve the whole district performance.

Let's hear what Professor Ferguson talk about this,

"Ferguson explained, American schools must work for the betterment of all students. He encouraged districts to stop worrying about gaps within their districts and set benchmarks externally, so that everyone can celebrate when the district meets its goals."

Anonymous said...

Before things get more out-of-control, we need to have a fully open, inclusive, and respectful community-wide dialogue about the disenfranchisement (by race, gender, disability and by socioeconomic status) of students, parents and teachers who tell us they do not feel safe and included within our schools. Kharma is a bitch!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1149.
It is being handled in a court of law. Where have you been?

Anonymous said...

But do we really have any proof that these unsettling acts perpetrated against Ms. Gardner were genuinely racist?

Of all the points and incidents in Ms. Gardner's MCAD complaint ONE is racial in content: one incident of bathroom graffiti that uses the N-word.

There was ONE racial incident that involved Ms. Gardner last year and it was anonymous graffiti.

Anonymous said...

"or an adult trying to stir up racial turmoil?"

Gee, isn't that the definition of a racist act?

Anonymous said...

With Ferguson and Amherst, it's all complaining all the time in the media. You can't get away from it.

Anonymous said...

What do those MacBeth props have to do with all this? I must say I like 'em a lot.

Anonymous said...

We all have access to public school, why shouldn't money buy us more? Did we not earn the money to do with as we want? Public pre school is a fine idea, but am I not free to rise above?

Anonymous said...

Too much of this agend being crammed down the throats of students in biweekly harangues based on how we "feel." I didn't feel this, or They felt that. Funny to try and discipline but not offend others. Where does it say you have the right to never get your feelings hurt?

Anonymous said...

Let's hear what another black neurosurgeon says about race.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is black, said Tuesday that race relations in the United States have actually gotten worse under the nation's first black president.

"I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race," Carson said


"In the incident with Henry Louis Gates, Skip Gates and [Obama] calling out the police, and you know, how they always do this kind of thing, and the Trayvon Martin case, you know, if I had a son, this is what he would look like, rather than trying to take the balanced, objective look at things, and then, you know, what’s happened here," Carson said. "And then the way, which really irritates me to some degree, the way he and a bunch of progressives manipulate, particularly minority communities, to make them feel that they are victims. And of course if you think you’re a victim, you are a victim."

The prominent black conservative further disagreed with the president over whether America still suffered deep, structural problems because of racism.

"No. Now is there some? Of course, there is some," he said of racism. "There will always be some, because there’s always going to be people with small minds who are easily influenced. But you know, for the most part, you know, that’s a thing largely of yesterday. Does it mean we should stop making attempts to create total fairness in our society? Of course, it doesn’t. That’s something that will be a constant task for all of us."

Anonymous said...

Anon 1149.
It is being handled in a court of law. Where have you been?


I think 1149 is referring to recent attempts by Justice For Gardner Activists to try to sit down and "work it out" with her union (being on leave she is still a union member and her old job is still there if she wants it.) But I have to admit I have no idea how that would work since she already had her lawyers file a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Yeah right, one incident of the N-word being used in bathroom graffiti in Amherst is comparable to a cop shooting an unarmed kid in Ferguson. Nice try 1252.

Anonymous said...

Here is the original post about Ben Carson on race relation under president Obama.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/26/ben-carson-race-obama_n_6225322.html

Anonymous said...

No one said your child can't go to private preschool. If you have the money you can send your child to private school from the moment they are born till the day they die. Universal pre - k does not preclude that. What universal pre-k does is give children the opportunity to attend pre-k who would otherwise not have the opportunity because their parents could not afford it.

Anonymous said...

That has no relevance to this.

Anonymous said...

What difference does their color make? Don't you just want good people withou regard to their race, creed or color etc.?

Anonymous said...

You have to do better than at more than the thing(s) about which you are passionate. And maybe You're not particularly passionate about anything. (Incidentally, "passioned" is not a word.)

Anonymous said...

Why should we care about the neurosurgeon's race?

Anonymous said...

The man was not a kid. And he'd be alive today if not for his theiving and brutal actions.Brown was18. And a suspect who was not only non-compliant but threating to the life of the policeman.

Anonymous said...

What 'that?' The Macbeth props??

Anonymous said...

OK, fine, Michael brown wasn't a "kid". He was a "college aged youth".

Anonymous said...

Just recently, the strip club bartender lost her case in court. She claimed PTSD, and had a doctor diagnosis. Her diagnosis was totally tossed aside by another doctor, in a very embarrassing way. Ya think CG's supporters didnt notice that and are now hoping it wont go to court?

Anonymous said...

Too late. It's already in court. CG took it there.

Anonymous said...

A lot of local "college aged youth" could be described as "thieving and brutal" as well as " non-compliant" and "threatening to the life of a policeman" but they don't get shot 10 times to death.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of age, Mike Brown was a violent criminal - that's what you call someone who robs and assaults a storeowner (a felony), defies police order to vacate the street, resists arrest, assaults a police officer (a felony), and tries to wrest the officer's gun from him in a physical struggle.

Look at the destruction of that community, and the militant anger and confusion of progressives and social justice warriors - well-meaning and otherwise - all because Mr. Brown, his family, his community and so many others are unwilling to take responsibility and place it where it obviously belongs - on the broad and burly shoulders of this young "college-aged" thug.

Anonymous said...

First off, Michael Brown was shot six times, not 10. Try reading the three autopsy reports. Second, the ironic thing is if he actually had raised his hands and surrendered instead of charging at the cop, he'd be alive today.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:48 & 6:18,NOV, 25

Nice try. Maria and company do write lots of documents with lots of information. They are meaningless and a smoke screen. MCAS does not support the improvement of the achievement gap. I'll look it up up next year and the year after to see if anything changes.

So keep holding on high all the hard work the administration is doing and I will keep pointing out that the hard work amounts to no benefit to students.

Anonymous said...

A very happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Let's count our blessings and look at the good things and we've got.

Anonymous said...

Did they grab for a policman's weapon? And then charge at the guy "like a bull?" Did they assault the policeman? If so, then they Do deseve whatever they get.

Anonymous said...

And when you screw up the true justice for Carolyn group with more hissing and booing and childish temper tantrums, the. You can start the "no, really this is the real justice for Carolyn " group. You people are beyond pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion for closing a schloastic achievement gap racial or otherwise: whichever race is achieving less needs to step up the studying.

Anonymous said...

If we were all suspended at an equal rate, would we then be happier?

Anonymous said...

Good one. I think if the kids have much more left-wing agenda stuffed in their heads, it's gonna stunt their growth.

Anonymous said...

You know something else they're not taught? Love of country. When's the last time a class said the Pledge of Allegiance with or without the "God?" Thank you middle school music for at least teaching the national anthem.

Anonymous said...

Forget about "social." All I care about is Real justice. I have no doubt the grand jury provided that.

Anonymous said...

Lol. Funny. And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

Anonymous said...

Great, the knucklehead Masslive regular commentators have discovered Larry's blog.

Walter Graff said...

You are wasting your time and money if you think you are going to change he achievement gap. It will always be. I guess no one looks at the extensive research on the subject.

Anonymous said...

And you thought you'd keep all this fun to yourself?

Anonymous said...

All ya gotta do is study, kids. We can't make you achieve. Ya gotta wanna.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... we seemed to have somewhat closed the achivement gap as it concerns women having access to the same rigorous coursework as men, the same access to college admissions as men, and being hired at jobs they historically were not allowed into, over the last 50 or 60 years. Looks to me like closing the achievement gap is not only doable but proven, and it didn't close because women learned how to study as hard as men, either.

But I will defer to Walter, he knows which is the "right" research to look at.

Anonymous said...

Visiting from out of town: so Gardner got a note that threatened but never mentioned race, and then her phone got stolen, which of course hopes to anyone who leaves a phone out in sight in most high schools. And then her tire was low on air, but never slashed. Hmm, my tiee is low on air too. And then screws came out of her chair, which the head cutodian says happens all the time. And now Gardner wants a million dollars from the town? Is that the story? I'm pretty sure that's what I read in her mcad.

And when the town pays her, I want the next spot in line.

Walter Graff said...

Actually it's far more complicated than studying for blacks. The gap appears before kindergarten and persists into adulthood for blacks and science offers some intriguing answers. And that science shows the reasons are multifaceted. Part comes from the widespread discrimination in housing, education and employment that grandparents of blacks faced, something that affects families today related to the home and the environment for learning.

And as Harvard's Richard Herrnstein found in his work, part is due in part to genetics. Blacks aren’t less intelligent but they seem to have more difficulty in testing according to his work.

Stanford's Claude Steele describe what he call "stereotype threat" aka a student who feels he is part of a group that has been negatively stereotyped is likely to perform less well in a situation in which he thinks that people might evaluate him through that stereotype than in a situation in which he feels no such pressure. In fact if you simply present a test in a different way, blacks inherently do better. In their work they discovered that if you present the test and simply say "do your best" rather than the notion that "this is a test to measure your ability" blacks had notably better results.

That test worked even for whites. In one study whites were pitted against Asians in a math test. Prior to the test whites were told in past results, Asians always dd better on the test. And that alone became fact as whites could not achieve as well as the Asians - a racial psych out. Yet if they weren't told this, they did equally as well.

If Geryk and her contemporaries in education want to make a difference they will have to not only make radical changes in schools but in society doing everything from making anti-poverty efforts to school desegregation to class-size reduction to more demanding coursework implementation. Right now Mass is number two in education as a state. That is two yeas behind math results in China.

We need far more rigorous education in this country as a whole, we need to stop dumbing down the system so that everyone is equal. We need to return to the educational system and methods of the 60s and 70s that was rigorous, not complacent, and that turned out far smarter students than today.

Walter Graff said...

You ought to read this months Harvard Business Review and the article on the study that addresses women in the workplace "Rethink What You 'Know' About High-Achieving Women" which uncovers some myths that most people believe. Truth on achievement and women turns out is not far from my post on minorities.

Anonymous said...

The nail has been hit on the head here. The dumbing down of America. I don't know how I ever earned the lessons of "To Kill A Mockingbird" without having my old teacher Mrs. Bachman perform a black-culture-appropriated rap "song." The idea I imagine is to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Or for the teaching to somehow appear to be more 'relevant.' Gag.

Walter Graff said...

Our children's future is dim. Unless you are doing far more than the school system with your children, they will be left in the dirt.

This new program based on Conditions of School Effectiveness (Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2010) which Amherst is embracing is nothing more than a dumbing down of the entire educational system.
What they call striving for ‘fair
comparisons’ between schools, known under the label of
’value-added’ is nothing more than making sure no one exceeds and everyone is equal aka average students and results are required. Welcome to the future folks. Our school systems are failing our children.




Anonymous said...

Too many "experts" on this blog these days.

Anonymous said...

You'd prefer people who don't know what they're on about?

Anonymous said...

Sarcasm font, anon 501 PM. We caould all do this

click

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=closing+the+achievement+gap&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ei=9FJ6VN6HJPLIsQTZj4Jg&ved=0CBsQgQMwAA

all day, it doesn't make anyone an expert.

Anonymous said...

If I were a district leader, and you gave me only one goal of social justice, i.e. reducing the achievement gap. There is no excellence as a goal, I would tempt to find a easy way. i.e. ignore the above average student and focus on below average student. Teach everybody bare minimum. Nobody will call me racist, or elitist, and I have a stronghold in political correctness. I am only guilty of crashing every student to rock bottom, which is not part of district goal.

Don't blame on me. I was given a sole goal of social justice.

Anonymous said...

I hear a lot about social justice. What's the difference between that and just plain old justice? I'd settle for that any day.Let's stop all this appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Nina Koch said...

Who says that excellence is not a goal? It's really frustrating to spend lots of time giving students feedback on their work so that they can make it better, only to be told that we don't care about excellence. Why should teachers work so hard if we are going to be seen as dumbing everything down? It sure would be a hell of a lot less work to do what you are accusing us of.

Anonymous said...

The highest paid state employee at $994,500.00 a year currently has a success rate of 62%. Or is that oversimplifying things?

Anonymous said...

Never did find out what the Macbeth props had to do with all this.