Sunday, September 27, 2015

Killer Competition

PVCIC recently completed $10.6 expansion project behind original building

Not only does the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School have nicer digs than Amherst Regional Public Schools -- courtesy of a $10.6 million building project just completed -- but their student 10th grade academic performance is also superior (if you have faith in MCAS results that is).

 Boston Globe 9/24/15

In the current school year PVCIC has approximately 83 Amherst Regional students (up from 68 two years before) who have jumped ship, costing the Amherst Regional Public School District around $1.5 million in state money. 

And based on these test results, next year could be even worse. 


Click to enlarge/read

Amherst Regional Middle School.  Officials are considering abandoning building as student classrooms and moving grades 7 & 8 into the High School

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

ARHS serves a large proportion of students with special needs, who are expected to take the MCAS along with regular ed students. What proportion of the immersion school is composed of special needs students?

Anonymous said...

How much is Amherst spending to send our students to charter schools and other school districts. Was it $3.2 million? Or was it higher? How much goest to the Chinese charter school?

And why has the district cut languages year after year? Spanish in elementary schools was cut, Chinese, Russian and German were cut. And the middle school has cut back the amount of time students can take languages.

Janice Sue G. said...

Bad enough you get satisfaction sticking it to UMass, now you're relishing sticking it to ARPS.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, I'm just an equal opportunity pain in the ass.

Anonymous said...

It is not the MCAS score itself that would make a parent switch their kid out of the Amherst public schools. It is the fact that kids who are capable of scoring well on the MCAS are not being served at the Amherst public schools. My kids are high learners and have always been ignored because "they are doing fine" at Amherst public schools. My daughter is always being used as a buffer to sit between two trouble-making kids. I honestly don't think my kids' MCAS scores would go up or down whether they were at the Chinese Charter School or Amherst. Nor would I care if they scored 10 points higher or lower (or whatever the point system is). But I do think that they will get the attention and challenge they need more at the Chinese Charter School or in our case, the private school we have elected to send them to. This is from a parent who has been heavily involved in the Amherst public schools for the last 11 years and has finally given up that the Amherst public schools will ever serve the higher learners or my kids. I really wish Maria and the District would carry out their vision statement on the website "We need to ensure that every student participates in a rigorous and engaging learning experience." I don't believe this has been true, ever, for any of my kids, for the past 11 years. I would love to hear from parents who do feel that their kids have had a rigorous and engaging learning experience - because I could at least buy it if I thought 75% (or some high percentage) of our school population WAS being served.

Anonymous said...

The 10th grade only had 11 students.

Anonymous said...

What 10th grade only 10 students

Walter Graff said...

Amherst schools are about picking up the rear and dumbing down those who are gifted. It's all about the term "special". Amherst puts far too much emphasis on those who are restricted physically, mentally, or socially making everyone else an educational minority. That leaves the rest to fill the seats in-between. If political correctness has gotten out-of-control, Amherst is the poster child.

Anonymous said...

So you are saying not to provide state mandated services to special needs students?

Anonymous said...

anon 6:07 is on target with her analysis of where the high school is becoming problematic for families with kids in the middle. I am a supporter of the schools and am a big fan of the Middle School, which from my experience is a terrific learning environment. But two years into the HS I am extremely disillusioned and wishing we had made other arrangements prior to ninth grade. The school is filled with many dedicated and talented teachers, excellent arts programs and a richly diverse student population--all good things. Last year, my child was increasingly uninspired academically and at one point just fell of the cliff: failing homework assignments and earning the lowest grades ever. A kid who was a curious, engaged middle schooler was no longer visible. We tried for weeks to fix the situation within the family and at no time--ever--did I hear from anyone at the school. Not a word from a teacher, a coach or a guidance counselor. Not a single word about a kid who was clear as day struggling mightily. When I finally asked for a meeting with the GC, I sat down and she brought up my child on her computer and said "Oh yeah, these grades are pretty bad". You think? Clearly, the HS practices triage on students: kids on the AP-heavy track, more fun to teach and probably inherently more dutiful are well served. Kids at the bottom--special needs and on IEP's are served by mandate. But kids in the middle are just pushed through like cargo. Maybe this is the dilemma of all public schools, institutions where we expect teachers to be both instructors and social workers. But we may reach the point where people who can afford it will opt for private and charter schools out of desperation. If a critical mass reaches that conclusion, our public schools will start a death spiral that will be extremely complicated to recover from. I am not a school basher--there's much too admire about Amherst's schools. But I would not recommend the HS to a newly arrived family whose students are not top performers or on a IEP/Special Ed track. This is a big, big problem.

Anonymous said...

Based on comments and testimonials here, and my own observations and conversations during the past ten years as my four children makde their way through the school system, Amherst schools no longer seem to serve anyone well except for
- Special needs students
- New age administrators
- Aggrieved 'plaintiff' teachers
- Social Justice warrior students, agitators and consultants

I'm proud that our town does a good job for special needs students, who deserve the best attention they can get. As for the others, when a school system rewards certain behavior it can expect more of that behavior. And it can expect other 'customers' to eventually give up and shop elsewhere.

Anon 9:38, you worry that "our schools will start a death spiral." That comment would have been accurate 7-8 years ago (ref. Larry's shot of the Middle School, - and who can forget Wildwood...?).

Walter Graff said...

"So you are saying not to provide state mandated services to special needs students?"

Not at all. Spend time in any school system in the are outside of Amherst and you'll clearly see why Amherst is failing ans so dysfunctional.

Anonymous said...

yes, we are well into the death spiral. The numbers show that. Only questions remain- what is Ms Geryk planning to do about it? Why doesn't the SC evaluate Ms Geryk on this elephant in the room? Will consolidating the MS with the HS further accelerate the process? Not a single question on the survey attempts to get that information. We are bleeding $ (now conveniently put on the town books (off the school budget) to pay choice and voc costs. Kids of all types (race, socioeconomic status) are leaving (not SPED kids). The number of SPED kids moving to our district is increasing (as of course their %). When the AVERAGE cost of a ARPS student is $20,000/yr that is averaging the cost of SPED and regular ed. The real cost of educating a non-SPED student is less than $10,000. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this is not sustainable and since the costs of the SPED program keeps outpacing regular ED, then guess what has to take the hit every year? It is no secret, just a lot of folks (ie the SC members) have their heads in the sand. Proof? Has the topic ever been discussed at SC mtgs?

Anonymous said...

Amherst schools are racist. They act with heavy regard for skin color. Because I have worked in the system for a decade and a half, I guess that makes me complicit in the agenda. Go along to get along. I wear my pod-people face every day. I remember when school systems ran on discipline. It was deemed vital. Not here. Not any longer.

Anonymous said...

I would still send my kids to Amherst schools rather than that Chinese prison camp. Can you imagine if Amherst schools allowed locking kids in a windowless room without calling the parents? That's exactly what happened at that Chinese school. I will take the PC and open policy over that any day.

But I agree about the "middle-of-the-road" kids getting lost in the shuffle. Happened to mine for sure, the minorities and elite get preference at the expense of them. They turned out okay anyway.

Best not to worry too much about it. If you raise them right your kids will mostly turn out fine regardless of the schools.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the "elite" kids (like mine) are getting the attention they need at the Amherst public schools. They have never been challenged and pushed to work hard. Perhaps it happens at the high school level when they finally get to take AP courses, but it certainly does not happen at the elementary or middle school levels. No one is ever allowed to accelerate in math above grade level, even though everyone is encouraged to read at their "just-right" level. And I hear that in many of the mixed honor/CP classes, it is just a matter of doing 1-2 extra problems or writing some extra sentences to have your work count as "honors work." I imagine the AP classes are truly challenging, but lots of "elite" kids lose motivation if they haven't faced a challenge until 9th grade or higher, and haven't even learned to study.

It sounds like from many of the commentors that the middle-of-the-road kids are also ignored.

And it sounds like people THINK the SPED kids are having a good experience and good services at the public school - but is that true? Could parents of SPED kids chime in, and let us know what you think? (Because of course it's easy for the rest of us who don't have SPED kids to say "Oh, so much money is spent on SPED, they must be getting all the services they need.)

And there's talk that the minorities (racial, economic subgroups) are getting the services they need at school. Is that true, or not true? These seem to be statements made by parents who do not have kids in those groups.

So… are the public schools in Amherst serving:

1) the elite kids (NO, based on my answer and Anon 6:07)
2) the middle of the road kids (NO, based on Anon 9:38 pm and Anon 9:36 am)
3) the SPED kids?
4) racial minorities?
5) socioeconomically-low kids (such as kids on free/reduced lunch?)
6) Any other groups that I forgot?

I would love it if parents of SPED kids, racial minorities, and kids of limited financial means spoke up - and let us know whether the Amherst public schools are serving your children. I think it is very easy to assume that other subgroups are being well-served because we see money/financial resources going towards that subgroup or because we don't have kids in that subgroup and assume the grass is greener.

Anonymous said...

Home school your kids, you'll save everyone in town money and have nothing to bitch about.

Anonymous said...

The so-called 'windowless lock-up' at the Chinese school was a single incident, years ago, for which the school was exonerated after a lengthy review. It was the classic case of a clear-cut situation - in this instance, a student who had caused problems before, bullying others and getting disciplined for it - that placed the clumsy and overweening state grievance beurocracy into motion for months and months of drawn-out drama. In the end, the result of the investigation was to clear the school.

That this false rumor persists is unfortunate, and not at all in line with the postitive reality and exceptional results experienced by hundreds of families from up and down the valley, all races, socio-economic statuses, and - yes - ability levels including SPED. But the false rumor helps advance the anti-charter narrative.

And that, in turn, helps to hide the Geryk Elephant from scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

I have heard of cases of families moving to Amherst from nearby towns for our SPED program. Who wouldn't seek out the best for their kid. I'm NOT saying we spend too much on these special children BUT if we keep losing kids that don't have those needs, our budget will continue to disproportionally get hit in the regular ed column (just look at the budget- soon the SPED line item will equal the regular Ed line item but % of SPED children is only 20%). That is the downward spiral that seems to have kicked in. Previous programs that were high quality and appealing to our regular education kids (and their parents) are progressively cut every year. The point has come where families that can seek out opportunities elsewhere, and the spiral continues. The question is can the spiral be reversed? How can the administration turn it around? And quickly!

Anonymous said...

How to reverse the "spiral?"

Easy - divert money from administrators to the teachers. The best way to do this is to approve a new charter taking the power of the purse away from town meeting and giving it to accountable public officials.

Anonymous said...


Our President is now urging American students to learn Mandarin - in droves, and quickly (see news this weekend, below):
http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/25/china-us-obamas-one-million-students-chinese-language-mandarin/

It's great that the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School does an excellent job with this core mission. PVCICS is at present the only K-12 Chinese Immersion public charter school in the US. It is a shame that the Amherst Regional Public Schools have chosen to cut their language programs, including Chinese and Russian programs in which ARHS students used to excel at the national level, and today they don't even have that opportunity to try. Perhaps an example of the hard consequences noted by Anon 12:16.

Anonymous said...

questions:

1) how does moving middle school into high school improve the education of 7th and 8th graders?

2) do people know that Fort River will likely be shut and Crocker Farm turned into a k-2 school?

3) why all this consolidation? to improve education or to make up for enrollments declining due students leaving amherst schools?

4) why does the administration support adding Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury schools into a region? how can they justify keeping small underenrolled expensive schools in the small town open while shutting schools in Amherst?

5) how can they justify pushing the the high costs of these schools onto the Amherst taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

As a SPED parent, it's difficult to enter these conversations. No, most families in the SPED program ARE NOT getting what they need. Yes, people move from other districts to this one for SPED, but usually for the reason that they feel their child will fit in, and not be judged as they might have been in other districts. Also, the SPED budget last year wasn't what was projected, and saved the district $, thus closing that million dollar budget gap. Where is the $ going? Right into the administration's pockets. As a SPED parent, you have to fight for anything and everything your child deserves. Once your child is on an IEP (individualized education plan), good luck having it implemented in the district. And as for your precious high-achieving honors students? My SPED child IS a high achieving honor student. Stop hating on the SPED students and families. Believe me, we aren't taking anything from you. Come to a SPED parent meeting and see for yourself how much these families fight for basic services.

Anonymous said...

Having been to China half a dozen times, I would say that this obsession with Chinese-language immersion is absolutely nuts. China is a very polluted, over-crowded country with a leadership that censors everything from the internet to artistic and political freedom. Just a reminder that two decades ago everyone was nuts for the Art of Japanese Management, and everyone was studying Japanese. Since then Japan was been mired in endless recession and the bloom has been off the rose. Chinese-language immersion is just another fad.

Anonymous said...

hi anon@2:30: I didn't see anyone here hating on kids who need SPED and I'm sorry if it seems that way to you. I posted the 12:16 comment. I was commenting on budget/math and the future of the district. If our numbers of non-SPED students decreases and the cost of educating our SPED students stays the same, then math shows that average cost/student in our district will increase above the now ~$20k/year (ARPS). This scenerio is probably a contributing factor to our yearly budget shortfall (not a decrease in state aid, as the administration lies about year after year, and the SC buys wholeheartedly) that results in cuts to programs that appeal to students and parents/guardians. The only way I see to avoid this erosion is to maintain the numbers of non-SPED students in our district. Am I missing an important variable in the math equation? Sorry you have to fight so hard for services for your child. Have you considered consulting a lawyer?

Anonymous said...

I take it that parents are okay with sendind their children to a school system which panders to people on the basis of skin color. The least important aspect of all. And yet the Rev. Dr. King's birthday is held in high regard. I hold him in high regard too, but didn't he dream about disregarding color? What about the cockamamie disciplinary (non) policy? I can't believe no one soeaks to that. Obama recommends learning Mandarin? How about English? Are we sure the kids know That?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:30- I did not see anyone hating on SPED kids either. I don't know why you have to say "And as for your precious high-achieving honors students?" when no one on the blog with an "elite" or honors kid or "middle of the road kid" has mentioned anything negative about SPED kids, or anything negative about any other type of kids.

Anonymous said...

Anon, Sept 27th, at 9:38 PM, you write:
"But we may reach the point where people who can afford it will opt for private and charter schools out of desperation." As others have said we already reached that point. I know numerous families who are opting out of the schools here because they are not happy with the current education offered & because if fails to meet their kids' needs, and this exodus is increasing. Since I know multiple families who choose to leave the Amherst schools in just the last year alone, I am very curious to see the current enrollment figures for ARPS and for the Amherst students attending charter schools. Some of the declines in Amherst & regional students attending ARPS may be masked by students choicing in from other districts, but the ARPS costs of of charter school enrollments is on an obvious upward trajectory with no end in sight.

As others have commented, I do not feel that my children & their educational needs are served very well by the Amherst schools. I think often about options including PVCIS. I have concerns about charter schools, especially the financing for them which can devastate local districts (ARPS currently spends millions each on charter school tuition), and the lack of equity and access for all. However, at the same time though, my kids deserve a better education, & I am tired of trying to advocate for them & getting nowhere.

The district leaders will maintain that the declining population in the ARPS schools is strictly a matter of demographics, but it is definitely more than that, & people are getting more unhappy with the schools here & taking their kids elsewhere in response.

Anonymous said...

Obama urging kids to learn Mandarin. How much of it does He know? I recommend our kids learn English first.

Anonymous said...

Someone earlier commented that the number of 10th graders taking the MCAS at PVCIS is a very small number. I'd also be interested to know if there are any students of color, low-income students, English language learners, and/or SPED students among those figures. The Amherst schools have large numbers of students in each of these categories, & those students tend to have lower MCAS scores, for a number of reasons.

Also, your post shows the PVCIS MCAS scores for grades 3 & up, but the ARPS scores only for the MS & HS. Not all the PVCIS MCAS figures are stellar. For some of the elementary school MCAS tests, the scores show that 30% or more students are failing or need improvement. Not quite as good as 100%, are they? & I am curious how these percentages compare to the ARPS elementary school scores?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention: they're Communists! Bernie Sanders might like it there.

Anonymous said...

In China the state once owned the corporations, but now the corporations own the state. Soon we will be like them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry,

I thought the term SPED was antiquated? We are in politically correct Amherst, so shouldn't the informed contributors to your blog site know that? It was my understanding that PVCIS does not really address students with real special education needs and actually steers them back to the public schools. Isn't that illegal? Comparing a charter school to a public school does not seem quite fair; parents who can transport their children are often (not always) financially more stable and have transportation while the public schools must educate everyone. What are the demographics of PVCIS? In terms of families moving to Amherst for part of it programming, that sounds better than students moving out of Amherst or choicing elsewhere right? I am not sure I understand how a high achieving honor student is not getting their special education services; sounds counterintuitive doesn't it?

Best,
Anon

Anonymous said...

I think it makes sense that a private company out to provide the best service locally - the private school - would outperform the public assistance program set up for those that do not have the means to pay for their children's needs - the public school.

Folks the public education is free to you if you have kids - you don't even have to prove you are poor. Your payment will not change for sending them to public school. If you payment will not change, and you complain will not be heard....why on earth would you have any expectations of performance.

You just gave the school at 5% increase in funding despite performance. You literally rewarded them for doing things the way they do them already, you gave the school no reason or incentive to change.

Anonymous said...

The basic point is that many high performing students are leaving the Amherst schools, forcing the town to send millions out to other charter schools, towns and Smith Voke, leaving behind students needing extra support like SPED or students from families without means. This means empty classrooms, lower test scores and frays our town and school community. Why isn't the superintendent talking about this or the school board?

Anonymous said...

Less folks needing public assistance is not a fray on the town or the community....it is a big compliment. We don't complain when families on food assistance get back on their feet, we should not complain when folks on education assistance do the same. We are glad when food assistance programs get to downsize due to lack of demand, we should be glad there is less demand for the public schools, this should lead to savings for the community, lower taxes and better educated kids.

I think your perspective is biased because such high numbers of families in the community are in need of such financial assistance (or feel more than comfortable taking advantage of the free money even if they don't need it) to educate their kids that it has become thought of as norm, almost not even looked at as welfare. The public school program is the alternative for those that don't have resources, unfortunately, that seems to be most parents. This indicates a much larger problem in society, school attendance seem irrelevant when most parents cannot afford their kids despite both of them working all the time.



Anonymous said...

Are you smart enough to home-school? Personally speaking, I 'm not up on my calculus.

Anonymous said...

Viva Capitalism!

Anonymous said...

You say "politically correct" as though it's something of which to be proud. Lol.

Anonymous said...

I guess they shouldn't have Had those kids they can't afford. Society is not to blame. It's poor planning.

Anonymous said...

Oh look, I'm a single broke mom. Time for another kid and let the world pay for it. Poor me, Poor me.

Anonymous said...

To Amherst community members: some of the (worst) comments posted here are NOT from Amherst residents. For example, if you correlate the visitor time (and location) with a post time, you will see that anon@3:31 is posting from Springfield (pls keep you vitriole local or troll on masslive, mister) and the (irrelevant) post from anon@ 1:47 is from California. So when reading some of the trash talk that is nonproductive and toxic, remember it very possible that it isn't from an Amherst community member (or your neighbor).

Anonymous said...

The posts don't line up with the visitors as Larry will tell you - more than one visitor on at a time. But, point taken - anyone can post here (though why they would want to I don't know). That Ed character I don't think is from Amherst.

And possibly Amherst could benefit from some outside advice anyway?

Anonymous said...

To Anon 3:51 PM

Just heard the other day that a board member (Kadidad??) on the Equity Task Force is a resident of Belchertown. She admitted it in a public forum. How can a non-resident be on one of our boards? That is outrageous and we should all be furious about it!

Anonymous said...

To clarify some (commonly held) misunderstandings for Anon's 9:37, 12:28 and 12:42:

Charter schools are not private, nor are they for-profit schools, nor are they anything other than public schools. Charter schools ARE public schools. No, the PVCICS student body is diverse by any measure. No, PVCICS does not turn away or special education students nor "steer them back to the public schools."

What is ARPS' Superintendent's explanation of the 'spiral' trend to date, her plan for the future, and her articulation of the state of Amherst Public Schools ten years from now? I'd like to hear it. And it is remarkable that the Amherst School Committee doesn't see this, or doesn't want to grapple with it, or doesn't care.

Anonymous said...

Please visit the DOE website that provides the demographics for PVCIS when taking the position about how much better it performs that the public schools. Demographics do matter.

For 2014-2015, here are some interesting statistics:
Students with Disabilities - 6.4% out of a total of 389 students = 25 students (state average is 17.1%)
Economically Disadvantaged - 15.2% out of a total of 389 students = 59 students (state average is 26.3) - how many of these are children of graduate students?

For those that are MCAS savey, there is a minimum number of students in targeted groups; if there are not enough, then the aggregate data is not reported.

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=04970205&orgtypecode=6&leftNavId=300&

http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=04970205&orgtypecode=6&leftNavId=305&

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:51pm:
What's relevant about asking "how many of these (economically disadvantaged) are children of graduate students"?

Is it good enough for you that they are economically disadvantaged?
Is it a mitigating factor that they may be children of families that are at/near poverty but, as grad students, are upwardly mobile academic professionals who prize education - and is this a stereotype?
If they are children of graduate students and not 'truly' disadvantaged, thus less worthy, would it help if they are non-white?
If they are non-white, is it important to know what shade of 'non-white' they are - black, brown, ... yellow? - before judging their merit?

Here's another different but perhaps more relevant question: if you segment all the state data and just look at the Economically Disadvantaged, or just Non-White, or just Students With Disabilities - do ARPS' students in those categories perform better than their comparable cohort statewide? If Amherst is attracting and concentrating a student body with these characteristics, and spending at the level that ARPS spends, then it ought to be the best in the state at serving these populations.

Charter schools attend to language, or performing arts, or STEM/Science, or to other specializations. In all seriousness, perhaps Amherst will and should specialize to become the Deerfield Academy of targeted educational attention solutions. Is this a sustainable path for the school system to pull out of its nosedive?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:51 pm. Thank you for this info & the links.
In addition to the data from your post, it seems worth noting the % of students with disabilities & who are economically disadvantaged are higher for the Amherst schools (17.6% & 27.6%) than for PVCIS and the state overall.

Another metric that often leads to lower MCAS scores: % of English Language Learners (ELL)
PVCIS: 3.9%, State avg: 8.5%, & Amherst 15.2%

Further, PVCIS may be a public school, but it is not equally accessible to all families. Students attending charter schools must provide their own transportation (something that is easier in a city than a largely rural region, for those relying on public transit). Also, although charter schools select students by lottery, siblings of current students are admitted over those without this connection; in some years, siblings have taken up close to 1/2 of the spaces for kindergarten slots at PVCIS. This does not offer equal access.

And on the issue of SPED students & other special needs populations, charter schools in general do not have the same level of resources to provide services to those students as the public schools do. This is true of many charter schools, not just PVCIS, & this is why the % of students in those special population groups are lower at many charter schools. Most of the students I know who have left PVCIS did so around this issue. Anon 5:13 pm, charter schools are public schools, yes, but they are a different kind of public school. They don't have some of the limitations of public schools, but they also don't serve all populations equitably.

Anonymous said...

PVCICS has buses that pick kids up in Springfield, Holyoke, and Greenfield.

Anonymous said...

anon@10:31: Amherst-Pelham regional has fewer economically disadvantaged (16.5) vs the state average (26.3). http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=06050000&orgtypecode=5&leftNavId=305&. Not sure where you got your numbers. Also the numbers of ELL is inflated in Amherst. Many of these ELL are kids that have been in our district from kindergarten and are still "counted" as ELL when they are in HS.

Anonymous said...

That is good of PVCICS to offer bus transportation for students from those communities. Charter schools are not required to. Are those buses free for students? Do PVCICS offer buses to anywhere else as well such as for students in Amherst, Hadley, Leverett, etc.?

Also, does PVCICS mention this bus service to potential new students/families? I didn't see anything mentioned about it on the PVCICS web site (maybe I missed it), & it seems like it would be important for families from those communities to know about.

Anonymous said...

Amherst citizens like to point out how committed Amherst Regional Public Schools are to the "underserved." Or to harp about how much more Amherst needs to focus on the "underserved." Much of this discussion has been about who's more deservingly underserved - which group should be first in line.

The beauty of ARPS' approach is that, based on parent reports, EVERY group and every student in Amherst is exquisitely underserved!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:59 am,
anon 10:31 pm again
The figured I quoted are for the Amherst elementary schools, not the MS & HS. Including only the MS & HS, as you did, does not present the whole pictures. This is true for the elementary figures too, but since the district is still predominantly an elementary school in terms of enrollment, that's what I used. The most accurate conversation would include both Amherst elem. & Amherst regional (MS & HS) numbers & compare those to PVCICS's figures.

It is worth noting of course, that the MS & HS figures include students from Pelham, Leverett, & Shutesbury & that the rates of ELL & economically disadvantaged students are much lower in those communities.

Anonymous said...

According to the state district profiles (2014-2015):
% of students with disabilities:
PVCICS: 6.4%
Amherst elementary schools: 17.6%
Amherst regional MS & HS: 19.8%
State avg: 17.1%

PVCICS serves fewer students with disabilities than the Amherst & Amherst regional public schools.
It is not fair to compare MCAS scores without acknowledging this difference.

Anonymous said...

anon@6:59: I'm not sure I agree the district is predominantly elementary school, its close to %50-50% or should/would be if so many in MS/HS didn't leave to go elsewhere. And I'm not sure what that distinction means anyway... But you're right for an accurate comparison (not sure there is a point to actually comparing Amherst to PVCICS) you would need to include elementary + MS/HS. As to your second paragraph, for unclear reasons the admin WOULD like to include Pelham, Leverett and Shutsbury in the elementary district through regionalization. Why? That's the million dollar question (which is also close to the cost for amherst to regionalize). I don't see much value in comparing Amherst to PVICS, I think we can learn a lot more just by questioning our own policies and programs, maybe comparing them to our cohort or aspirant schools. I predict that after this 9th grade cohorts' experience with the new (single) math program, we're likely to see more students heading out of our district for other choices...yet another contributing factor. So frustrating and sad because there is NO reason for this to be happening to our once stellar schools (which still have some great qualities).

Larry Kelley said...

The only point I had with this lazy (on my part) Sunday post is that PVCICS is by far the #1 competitor for the ARPS system, attracting away a tremendous number of students, thereby costing the District a TON of money.

And I believe it's going to get far worse.

Anonymous said...

I agree. The district repeatedly tells us that more students are leaving for charter, choice, & private schools, but says it almost if it's a given fact, with nothing the district can do about it.

My family, like so many others in Amherst, is looking at PVCICS as an option for MS/HS for my kids, & if my kids do switch leave, we'll just be other statistic. The district doesn't seem to care much, except for when it comes to the cost of paying more & more for charter school expenses.

Anonymous said...

83 students going to Charter schools equals (roughly) $1.6 million of Amherst tax dollars going to those schools.

What's the budget gap in our public schools in Amherst?

Larry Kelley said...

It's usually in the $1 million range.

Anonymous said...

anoN@8:47-- and we won't even see those costs for charter and voc schools since it they have been transferred onto the Town budget (and where?), seemingly hidden from public view. I am shocked that this switch didn't get more questions by TM members but it was a good PR move by the SI.

Anonymous said...

I think the 83 student figure is just for the regional schools (MS/HS). If you include the number of Amherst elementary school students who now attend charter schools (PVCICS mainly), that's an additional 77 students. Charter schools cost the ARPS and Amherst tax payers plenty, & as Mr. Kelley said, these costs are only going up.

Anonymous said...

Larry, don't the voc schools also get the full tuition cost (ie `20k/ARPS kid)? whereas, when our kids use school choice to leave, it doesn't cost us, right?

Larry Kelley said...

Vocational costs are $18,000 per student times the 55 students who have taken that route.

Choice is $5,000 per student times the 32 who have taken that route.

Anonymous said...

but the $5000 is from the state for choice, right? Not out of Amherst's budget (it is $5000 that we no longer would get for that student). That is, a student leaving Amherst for a choice position, is a net gain for Amherst, while voc and charter is a HUGE loss to our budget bottom line.

Anonymous said...

To be clear how the money works:

The state pays public schools - traditional publics AND charter schools - a per-student stipend. Those funds come from property taxes collected from you, me and all our Amehrst and MA neighbors.

When a student moves from the traditional public school to a charter school, the state shifts and pays the stipend to the receiving school. What many may not realize is, the state continues to pay a "compensation fee' to the old school where the empty desk sits. The district receeives a declinging portion of its old stipend while it is 'weaned off' the absent, disaffected customer. Maybe Larry knows what the formula is but I recall it was something like 75%, then 50%, then 25% and only in the 4th year does the losing school district stop receiving any money at all for the 'ghost student.'

The taxpayer thus supports one student but pays for 1+ by funding this double-dip.

If it were important to Amherst to satisfy those 83 students and thus retain the associated state funds, you'd see them talking and doing something about it, rather than whining.

Anonymous said...

just a clarification to anon@9:43. As I understand it, The "state" gives each public school a certain amount each year (chapter 70?), the town then raises the rest of the costs thru taxation (and any grants), medicare for those with disabilities (which I can't figure out that ever on the yearly school budget). The amount the state provides has been claimed for years by the admin to be decreasing and thus a major contributing factor to our budget gap. While technically true, it does decrease, it does so proportionately to the decrease in the enrollment. From numbers I've found that state aid $/student has gone UP every year by about 2-3%.

Anonymous said...

Students attend vocational schools because of the course of study which Amherst currently does not provide. They can not be 'factored' in to why students are "leaving".

To Anon 9:51 PM - Seems to me the point about "graduate students" is that they are more often temporarily "economically disadvantaged" and that they are in our schools because of the University. I do think that is an important distinction to consider in the big picture. Most, and I mean most, access our schools (public or charter - via Amherst funding) to educate their children and are not sustained members of our community. The towns fund their children's education and the University does nothing to subsidize these costs or pay taxes. I do believe that it is a worthy data point to know how many of the "economically disadvantaged" students at PVCICS are children of graduate students. You might be surprised.

Larry Kelley said...

That's actually another very interesting data point:

Last Spring Superintendent Geryk told Amherst Town Meeting that 56 children living in tax exempt UMass housing (presumably mostly offspring of Grad students) attend the Amherst public schools.

Well over $1 million in costs to the Amherst taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Larry, unless those 56 kids have SPED needs, they don't cost that much to our bottom line (unless they choice into a charter school). The cost of educating our regular ed kids is probably less than $10k.

To anon@10:26: I disagree. I KNOW students who have gone to voc school. That decision often was based largely on their experience of LEARNING in the Amherst school district. Sad to say, but we don't do a very good job at making our curriculum appealing and ACCESSIBLE to a large swath of students. Some are left with feelings of academic failure and opt for VOC school because of it.

Anonymous said...

The state DID find it to be case of neglect. I find it to be a case of abuse.

Anonymous said...

Are there laws which state that Amherst residence can't visit Springfield? Or that Springfield residents can't comment on Amherst policies?

Anonymous said...

Again: on what stone is it written that only Amherst residents can post here?

Anonymous said...

You folks get furious at the drop of a hat.

Anonymous said...

A public school is like the subway system. It takes everyone.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:26, last school year, the district released a report on the schools attended by the children who live in tax-exempt housing at UMass. My recollection is that only a small number of those children attended schools (including charter, voc, or choice) outside the public schools. Let me see if can find the link to that report again. I think this blog actually did a post on it at the time.

Anonymous said...

This previous post from this blog includes a memo from the superintendent saying that 1 child in tax-exempt UMass housing attended Smith Voc (cost $18K+). It also discusses the ELL cost of some of the UMass student families. http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/2015/03/hey-umass.html

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:59 and 8:06: It's actually not accurate that students who were classified ELL in kindergarten are listed as such for high school on MCAS tests. There are several levels of ELL, which change the student's classification as they grow in English language skills. There is also a classification for formerly-ELL students. And in terms of what data to compare to between schools, there is a specific Commonwealth comparison of regional schools to other regional schools.

Anonymous said...

Please. Say 'hating,' not 'hating on.' I know. Picky.

Anonymous said...

What the 'ELL is ELL? Is it like ESL?

Anonymous said...

How about a focus on serving all? Isn't Anyone sick of social engineering?

Anonymous said...

My daughter went to elementary school in Amherst and never was allowed to progress beyond grade level in math, though she was capable of it. She was taught lessons about skills she already knew, and then told to choose a "quiet choice" while the kids who were struggling got extra help (to ensure that they'd pass the MCAS--which is all the teacher really cared about.) Every year her father and I asked the teacher and the principal to offer her more of a challenge, but all we got was lip service. Eventually we sent her to the Chinese charter school, and they immediately recognized that she could perform above grade level in math and they put her into a class that was appropriate for her.

Later she transferred to the high school, and our experience was different from what went on in elementary school. Our daughter was able to take challenging classes and when she finished all of the levels they offered, she was able to take math at Amherst College. So my experience tells me that the elementary schools are (or were--maybe they've improved since then?) only meeting the needs of kids at the lower end of the spectrum, but this is not the case in the high school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:17 pm:
I am having this same experience with my kids in the elementary school, though in their case, they are told to continue to do math work & math worksheets that they have already demonstrated mastery in, & not even given the option of opting out.

My family is looking at the PVCICS too, because we believe that they do a much better job of differentiating for students especially in math. There was a recent Amherst Bulletin article about PVCICS which included an interview with a math teacher there, saying that she works at meeting all students' needs from remedial students to those who are doing college-level work. When was the last time anyone heard a statement like that from the Amherst schools? It has been years at least.

Anonymous said...

anon@11:17: I'm happy to hear your daughter was able to accelerate in math at ARHS. I very much doubt that option will remain for students after the switch to IMP. Any parents out there hear anything good from their 9th graders about the new IMP program???

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:48: ELL means 'English language learners.' It seems to be essentially the same as what used to be called ESL - 'English as a second language.' Except certain teachers became certified to teach ESL as a specialty, and ALL teachers are expected to know and be able to apply strategies to help English language learners in their classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I appreciate your clarification.

Anonymous said...

When I took my 2 kids out of the public schools at the end of the last school year, to go to private school, I filled out a form to officially withdraw them from the public school system. There is a one page attached to the forms asking why we are leaving - and asking if I would be comfortable/interested in having the administration contact me to further discuss my reasons in detail. I wrote about how my two high-achievers were ignored at the public schools (both at the elementary and middle school) - and gave my contact info and said that I would absolutely love to discuss my reasons in person or on the phone. No one has contacted me yet, and it's been 4 months. So they are either too busy or they just don't care why people are leaving the public school system.

Anonymous said...

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1:08, please address your
future comments to this
brick wall.
Thank you
The Administration

Anonymous said...

Lol. Thank you Roger Waters!