Friday, May 15, 2015

We're #51!

Amherst Regional High School

Ever since websites discovered digital consumers love lists the "Top ten", "Top 100" and every odd number in between has become a standard cliche of publishing.

But for parents who take education seriously, the US News & World Report education ratings has been the gold standard for over a generation now.

Indeed, Amherst Regional High School coming in shy of the top 50 for Massachusetts is cause for concern.  Two other Western Mass schools came in higher, Greenfield (#43) and Palmer  (#49).

And in the most recent financials published by the state Amherst comes in a #35 for average (high) cost per student.

Click to enlarge/read


Anonymous said...

Larry, good information, but a little hard to draw conclusions without knowing how many schools are in these lists. We're #51 out of how many HS? Also, I am surprised to learn that there are 34 schools ahead of Amherst in cost/pupil. I know that the state average is well below our figure, but again how many school districts are ranked in total?

Larry Kelley said...

That's kind of the point. US News looks at all the high schools in the state.

And the state rankings for cost per pupil is also based on all schools in the state.

Considering the cost of living in the eastern part of the state, being #35 overall is nothing to cheer about.

State average cost per pupil in 2013 was $14,021.

Nina Koch said...

The idea that you can take high schools and line them up along some single dimension of comparison is ridiculous.

(By the way, notice that Hopkins Academy and Northampton aren't even ranked for some reason.)

Different schools have different strengths. Some people like a smaller school even if it has more limited course offerings. Other people want a bigger school where you get to know more people and can take advantage of a greater variety of opportunities in coursework and extracurriculars. People might also have preferences in terms of block schedule vs semester schedule, a traditional curriculum vs more progressive curriculum, and so forth. You could also look at some of the climate factors-- is a school known for being a more pressured academic environment? Some people think that's good; some people don't want that. What about school spirit and emphasis on athletics? For some people, that would be a really important part of high school. These considerations don't necessarily make one school "better" than the other. It depends on what kind of experience you want your child to have.

This ranking system has a very limited set of criteria. Notice that the number of elective offerings is not mentioned, even though students who choice into ARHS often make their decision on that basis. Our students often cite the strength of the elective program as one of the most important features of ARHS.

I don't know if US News uses more criteria than are displayed in the posting. If not, then they are looking at MCAS scores and AP enrollment. That's it. People care about a lot more than that. You could take two schools with very similar statistics in that regard and find that students have a completely different experience. It's simply not possible to distill it all down to a one-dimensional comparison.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but both Rowe and Pathfinder have higher per student costs. Our costs per student are higher than lots of eastern Massachusetts schools because they have really big schools with several thousand students, and some costs don't grow proportionally. If we doubled the number of students we would still only have one high school principal.

Anonymous said...

Northampton couldn't even break the top 300, what the hell is going on over there?? Guess I should be thankful I live east of the river.

Larry Kelley said...

Oddly enough Smith Vocational is kicking our ass when it comes to drawing away students for vocational training (at $18,000 per student).

Nina Koch said...

Right, the voke schools offer a different experience and some students want that. Voke schools and community colleges are a very effective route to getting direct workforce training. You can land a very solid job by age 20, with very little debt.

I do think it's a problem that we have lost electives. If I were an ARHS parent right now, that is the thing I would be most worried about. It appears to be a financial necessity, yet it's such a loss.

Anonymous said...

Sure it is. They've Done it, (Excuses, excuses,)

Anonymous said...

Reasons AHS students get passed over for opportunity and jobs.

1. They list their high school on their resume. We don't hire AHS as policy....mostly because of #2 and if we get past #2, then there is #3 and #4.

2. This blog trashes the schools constantly and for good reason. This is not a promotion, this is a clear flag to actual smart people not to move here with their kids or to hire these kids.

3. If you interact with a AHS grad, they are unappealing, not well spoken and act quite entitled. Not all, just most.

4. They are not well educated, they don't seem smart and they are generally not dressed appropriately for the job. Read, they don't have skills either mechanical, technical or social.

Reputation is important for any brand. Amherst is a brand, and its reputation for education and people management sucks. Its reputation for instilling a realistic outlook in the youth is almost absent.

The ranking is minor. The individual will turn you off before the collective grade is even discussed. Even if towns where they do education right, the ranking does not matter. Success and access to future resources will matter and the kids in Amherst that grew up in this decade will not do well in the world. Their parents and educators were far too selfish to focus on actual education and preparation for life.

Larry Kelley said...

Don't shoot me I'm just the piano player.

Anonymous said...

You may be the piano player, but it was your tune I heard that made me make the no AHS grads in my companies policy.

There is just too much controversy and privilege injected into little Amherst brains via that institution. They are damaged goods and I would not have been as sensitive to this without this Blog.

I suggest a different spin on the school message. You are trying to shame those in power with bad stats, and I get it....but they are ignoring you and everyone else just sees bad stats, including colleges and employers.

I was done with that school when you published the "slave unit" blog. They fired someone for no reason, I want nothing to do with that school or anyone that comes out of it. I am a local employer of both high and low skill people.

Anonymous said...


Sounding a bit too defensive and condescending for anyone to actually believe the tripe you have contributed here.

So, the ranks of the unemployed are filled with ARHS grads who learned nothing? Curious that is. I'm guessing one of these dummies got hired over you for a job you assumed you deserved.

Ouch! That does sting a bit.

Anonymous said...

"Reasons AHS students get passed over for opportunity and jobs."

Those are baloney and written by someone that doesn't really have the opportunity to hire ARHS kids, or know about people that do.

"They are not well educated..."

Yeah, I guess they've just got Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc. fooled.

Anonymous said...

Walter, we know this is you. We can smell sanctimony.

Anonymous said...

These rankings are based on AP participation and scores, and State exam scores. We have decent participation in AP courses, but many students elect not to take these upper-level electives, and others are not ready for this level of rigor. ARHS does a good job with students at high academic risk - for example, students who are learning English, or who have special needs. Unfortunately, US News & World Report doesn't value this as much as how many students take AP exam.s

Nina Koch said...

ARHS also does a good job with students who are looking for a challenge. A course like Constitutional Law or Anatomy and Physiology is very demanding. It doesn't need to have the label of "AP" to be a challenging course. If you look at the syllabus for a course like Holocaust, that's a lot closer to a college course than some of the AP courses you find at various schools. How many college courses spend the entire term preparing for a single exam, with all of the focus on the exam itself? Many of the high schools offering AP courses do that. I can't remember any of my college professors standing at the front of the room coaching us on how to answer test questions.

US News defines "college readiness" as the percentage of students taking AP courses. That's not what college readiness means to me. I would think more in terms of students' experience with reading complex works, writing analytical papers, and discussing ideas with their peers. A lot of that doesn't happen in AP courses because the teachers are so concerned about exam scores. (Note: I am not talking about ARHS AP courses, but instead AP courses in general at various schools.) There are places where AP teachers can lose their jobs if the scores aren't high enough.

AP is a brand name and I am surprised how many people fall for it. Look past the label and ask yourself: what are the students actually doing in the course? That's what matters.

Nate Budington said...

Tagging on to Nina's comment: a number of the best high schools in the country, like Scarsdale HS and Simsbury HS, have dropped the AP altogether in favor of a highly rigorous, home-grown curriculum that is not exam driven and allows teachers to focus on writing and critical thinking. ARHS's ranking in this article should be taken with a grain of salt. I mean, c'mon. Berkshire Arts and Tech Magnet #7 and Concord-Carlisle HS #44? CC is one of the top public High schools in the country.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I'm not sending my kid to school in Palmer. It's not a quality school.

Anonymous said...

Institution of learning has no inkling of terms used in the electrical field. But would like the lights to work anyway. Awful story that.

Anonymous said...

Ok folks, it's pretty simple.

When you apply for college or a job or try to do something on your is just you, your skills, your smarts, your accomplishments.

The high school's ranking means little, nor should we want our children to go places where they will be judged by such a ranking. They should be judged by their individual accomplishments and skills.

The desire for institutional approval as opposed to accomplishment is a sign of institutionalization on a town level....lack of independent thinking. This will hurt your kids more than any school ranking.

Anon 11:07 - An AHS student cannot get hired over me, I am the one doing all the hiring and not hiring them as a rule. Some of us never had to be hired or look for a job, we have chosen to be the boss and make jobs. We know how to supply what society wants, not hope some company wants me.

Don't even know what it is like to apply for a job, it must suck to be judged by others like me who are in a position to pass you over. That must sting for the poor folks having to look for jobs because they are not sure what society really needs....they are just hoping society makes a slot for them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:31
Your comments are so unfeeling and harsh. It's as though you go about all day making value judgments. Brutal!

I love it!

Anonymous said...

I have news for you. You make value judgments on day too. Or maybe you wear the same clothes every day. You place "feelings" above value judgment? I hope you never serve on a jury.

Nina Koch said...

to 11:31 am:

I am curious about this statement:

"They should be judged by their individual accomplishments and skills. "

If you believe that, why would you make a blanket rule, like "I won't hire students from ARHS"?

Why not judge each individual applicant on their accomplishments and skills? It shouldn't matter what school they come from. There are lots of different people at the school, just as there are lots of different people everywhere.

Dr. Ed said...

I wouldn't hire a circa-2015 ARHA grad either, and for three reasons.

First, none of them are coming from Peoria, and don't mean geographically.

ARHS students are largely coming from either a household with a six-figure (combined) income or a subsidized apartment. In both cases, these are "gimme klds" -- in both cases they are used to having things given to them (either by parents or the government) and their approach to obtaining something is to demand it be given to them instead of working to obtain it via their own efforts.

And if they break something, instead of having to fix it or do without, their background experience is demanding a new one and getting it. Or grieve the fact they aren't given it, as they "deserve it." Both groups will spend everything they have right now, knowing that if they demand money for some future necessity, they will get it.

Second, where children at both ends of the soceoeconomic spectrum tend to be outliers in most schools, with the middle-class, work-ethic values of peers moderating some of this -- the reverse is true in ARHS. This is the "sense of entitlement" that others have mentioned.

Third, they live in the district. As much as Nina may insist that they are all unique individuals -- they really aren't. There is no diversity of thought -- their formative years have been spent in an environment that tolerates no true diversity in any real sense.

When I was interacting with UMass undergrads, I could instantly recognize an ARHS grad. It's the same way you can recognize a Jesuit -- it's a mindset. And it's a mindset that I neither want, need, nor can tolerate amongst anyone working for me.

Anonymous said...

Larry, do you have info on the ranking of teacher and admin salary?

This is what the schools are really for, it would be better to rank them on their primary mission vs. their tertiary one of pretending to educated kids.

The average Amherst classroom is financially larger than most local businesses. Think about that. It is true of most classroom and most businesses (where the students hope to get jobs someday) in the US.

Smart kids would be wise to join the pyramid scheme on the right level and become a teacher.

Larry Kelley said...

Teacher salaries are a little over state average, but not much (a few thousand).

"Administration" costs are twice state average ($987 per pupil vs state average $484 per pupil).

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ARPS central office administrators hasn't almost everyone of them received a promotion and/or big raise in the last few years?

The teachers & staff don't see raises like that.

Anonymous said...

"An AHS student cannot get hired over me, I am the one doing all the hiring and not hiring them as a rule. Some of us never had to be hired or look for a job, we have chosen to be the boss and make jobs. We know how to supply what society wants, not hope some company wants me. "

Hey folks, take note. This is the sound of arrogance right before the karmic hammer rings truth. Sir/Madam, you are a fool to think so savagely of others. Who would want to work for such a poor leader, for a good leader respects those following. Or soon finds out, when s/he turns around that everyone has left.

And when your business fails, I'm certain you will blame the employees.

Yes, Sir/Madam, we will all know when you enter by the mean spirit you bring, and we'll all be glad when you've left.

Anonymous said...

And we will know you, dear writer, by the unicorn you ride in on. Karmic hammer.

Anonymous said...

ARHS students are largely coming from either a household with a six-figure (combined) income or a subsidized apartment. In both cases, these are "gimme kids" -- in both cases they are used to having things given to them (either by parents or the government) and their approach to obtaining something is to demand it be given to them instead of working to obtain it via their own efforts.
Dear Dr. Ed,
It is quite obvious that you have placed AHS students in one of two categories based on their family's income. And while I try to make sense of what you say--I find it a bit insulting--and well--overall a highly judgmental statement. Individuals learn mostly by their environments--poor or rich--but this entitlement I have never witnessed in poor people--at least never in my family. So, if I am to understand you correctly--if I has listed AHS as the place of my high school education on my application to you, you wouldn't hire me? Like wow--what else would kick me off your list--my 'race'?

Anonymous said...

You mentioned dressing appropriately for the job. I have seen in our schools here the teachers dress like the kids. Some preparation for the job, eh?

Anonymous said...

No diversity of thought. Bingo! The schools wouldn't tolerate that. When's the last time they had a conservative in to address the kids?

Anonymous said...

Lol. Good one.

Anonymous said...

No, we hire without regard to race, color, creed, sexual orientation or national origin. Education we do regard.