My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March 24, 2009, Regional Meeting

Tonight's meeting consisted largely of two topics: the 9th grade science program and the 2010 budget.

The superintendent started by saying that she was coming late to the conversation on the required 9th grade science course, but was committed to doing an evaluation of this course and how well it was working. She is also reaching out to other districts to learn how they evaluate programs, and will bring that information back to our committee. Maria also noted that she believed we should use the "same standards" to evaluate this program that we use to evaluate other classes and programs.

Then, the 9th grade science teachers presented a detailed description of the new required ecology and environmental science courses, and the evaluation that they were conducting. I encourage you to watch this presentation on ACTV to get a full sense of the types of information that was presented, but the data that was presented included the following: information on parents' views about the course, information on how the teachers are grading lab reports, information on areas in which students are having trouble learning some aspects of the material. They have also collected student feedback about the course, but this data was not presented. The science teachers also discussed how they were excited to "modernize" the 9th grade science curriculum, and how it was aligned with state curriculum goals.

The committee then had the opportunity to comment. Andy noted that he was pleased this topic of evaluation of this course was now on the table, and that the committee recognized the need for conducting such evaluation. I then raised several concerns that I had about the nature of the data that was presented. In particular, I noted that what the science teachers described in terms of strategies for grading lab reports and testing student knowledge were clearly effective teaching techniques, but these techniques could be applied to any science discipline, not just ecology/environmental science. I also noted that the key way in which material is learned in science is through comparison to some type of control group -- so, we don't just evaluate "how is this course going" but we really should be evaluating "how is this course going COMPARED to a different course"? The easy example here is that if you are studying cancer treatments, you don't just say "well, chemotherapy seems to be going well," but rather you conduct tests to see if chemotherapy is going better THAN radiation." And it seems pretty ironic that this type of evaluation wasn't being presented since of course this type of evaluation epitomizes the scientific method! I am discouraged that this type of data was not presented, nor does it seem like this is of particular interest (although the Chair of the Science Department, Mary McCarthy, noted that there will be tests of whether the students taking this class do better or worse on MCAS science tests and in higher level science classes, there was no mention whatsoever of the specific details about this type of a real evaluation -- including timeline, who would do this work and how would it be presented, what types of data would lead to a re-thinking of this course, etc.). I also asked a question about the effectiveness of this course for students with differing levels of math preparation -- the students in honors ecology/earth science range tremendously from those who completed algebra in 7th grade to those who are currently in 9th grade algebra -- and I think it would be important to examine how well students with different math backgrounds are doing in this course. Elaine then noted (once again) that the School Committee isn't in charge of evaluation, and thus this was not our job, and also that this decision has already been made, so it was not going to be re-visited. I found these remarks disheartening -- the School Committee voted unanimously last January to adopt this required course, and at the time assured parents that it would be evaluated. So, I guess I'm concerned that the entire School Committee was willing to adopt a course that has never been tried in any other district as a 9th grade required science course AND to simply hope that this course worked without requiring any sort of proof of its effectiveness. Andy then expressed his view that some evaluation should ideally be done, and he encouraged the superintendent to make sure that did occur. Finally, I again expressed my desire for such an evaluation, which would include a comparison. I also expressed my view that if this course was indeed as effective as people believe it is, then surely an evaluation demonstrating its merits would be desirable -- and useful in quieting critics.

So, that is a lot about my views on the science curriculum, and I know there are certainly supporters of this science curriculum. However, for me, the required 9th grade ecology/environmental science course is emblematic of what I find problematic about our Amherst schools for two reasons. First, I do NOT believe that we should be willing to adopt an entirely innovative science course and make it a requirement. This seems like a very, very risky strategy, and I'm just not comfortable with Amherst ignoring what ALL other districts in Massachusetts are teaching (earth science, biology, or physics) in 9th grade and creating its own required introduction to high school science. Second, if we are to adopt an entirely unproven course and make it a requirement, I believe we have a very serious responsibility to conduct a rigorous evaluation of this course on a very specific timeline so that we can figure out whether it is preparing our kids in the best way that it can for future success in science. I'm discouraged that my feeling about the importance of evaluation seems not to be shared by many other members of the School Committee (Andy was the only member who expressed support for such an evaluation).

The next part of the meeting focused on the budget for 2010. Updated information on the cuts lists was not presented, but will be at the April 7th meeting. However, we did learn that Amherst was not one of the districts who received money in the initial round of stimulus aid from the federal government, although we did receive money from IDEA funds (which can be used for special education funding -- about $200,000). Information on stimulus aid for Title 1 money (for low income students) is expected soon. In sum, we haven't received a lot of money from the federal government, and it is not clear that we should reasonably expect much aid to come this way. Andy then pointed out that we could control some aspects of other aid -- such as potential teacher give-backs of raises, an override, or the use of town reserves.

The committee then went into executive session to discuss contract negotiations.


Neil said...

As a scientist (you not me), and given your clear argument about what makes an evaluation a scientific study (versus other type of study not constructed to show a scientific result,) I too am surprised that your request did not receive more support from members other than Andy.

I am pleased Andy supported it.

I am surprised that there was little discussion about why the study that was done already was sufficient. In other words, was there an argument that that study was sufficient. If not, surprising (right?). Surprising in that, no one knew enough about how to defend it.

That said, I feel the School Board is moving in the right direction even if only two are on board with the approach you recommend.

I am confident that the number of people who support that approach on central questions like evaluation of curricula in science, math, English reading and writing (as augmented for foreign language study, as well quantitative goals to increase the number of students engaged in AP coursework, and the number of students engaged in multiple AP courses.

Among the problems that the Gates Foundation has chosen to tackle, US education has been the hardest problem for them to solve (how to improve US schools Bill Gates said Sunday on 60 Mins. ) for precisely the reason you encountered tonight. Schools are not using scientific method to evaluate the efficacy of their curricula. Gates is tackling worldwide malaria and HIV as well as US schools improvement. Amazing, isn't it? So if Bill and Melinda are running into a wall, you and Andy (and hopefully others soon) will be on the frontier of implementing methodology that gives us good data about our curricula... so that we can make more informed choices. Hurray! This is all part of the quantitative competence that is essential for the US to compete in a world economy. What is at stake is nothing less that our children's future.

Don't be disheartened. Patience if you have it, and persistence (Obama's favored characteristic) if you don't. I am clear on the inevitability (if not the imminence) of your and Andy's success on this issue.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

One central question that I have not seen a good answer to is "why did we adopt this Environmental Science requirement in the first place?" I think the answer to that question is central to the assessment of the course.

The other, but related, central question that should be asked is "what is the GOAL of having this course required for all ninth graders?" Only once you know the goal can you measure progress toward that goal. Some possible goals (and measurement techniques) might be:
--increases the number of years all students (or some subgroup of students) take science in high school.
--raises science MCAS scores among all students, some subgroups of students, etc.
--increases the number of students taking AP courses
--increases the number of students earning 4 or 5 on science AP tests
--allows students to perform better in biology, physics, or chemistry (although since they will be older when they take these courses now, this could be a natural result anyway)
--increases participation in extracurricular activities such as science club/science fair/recycling club/environmental club
--increases the number of graduates majoring in science in college

Rather than evaluating how teachers grade lab reports, for example, these are the things the district should be looking at. Yes, it is good to know whether or not parents and students are "satisfied," but unless those same students and/or parents have also experienced a ninth-grade biology class, that is not a true measure of effectiveness.

Anonymous said...

One question that I continue to have is what happened to AP Chemistry and what about kids who really want AP Chem. The SC (minus Catherine) continue to ignore this question.

The environmental science class sounds great but I think the traditional bio, chem, physics and then a senior option such as environmental science should also be an option for those who want it.

My kids love science and (for now) want to major in science in college. If colleges are going to look at them seriously it would seem to me that they should have all the traditional required courses of high school students across the nation.

Cathy C said...

Great question Alison. I watched enthusiastic teachers explain how the students learn science and that parents are mostly satisfied. What I heard no mention of was "as compaired to our previous 9th grade science class". For all I know students, parents and individual teachers were more happy with biology.

It seemed like Maria Geryk was hearing you Catherine and at least understood the evaluation that you were suggesting. I think using students' science MCAS scores as the only comparative evaluation is an unfair burden to students who had no choice in the matter.

I did hear one goal - and Catherine you probably know more about it - but someone said the new science class was adopted to increase student excitement about science. If that was the goal, then investigating ways to add excitement to the current course would have been easier. Maybe it was tried. If I knew all the objectives of the curriculum change, I would still want to know why the outcomes were exclusive to a required ecology/environmental science?

As we make cuts to the budget, I think that it is resonable to allow HS students to make choices among the diminishing options.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be puzzled by the aversion of some members of the SC to meaningful evaluations of courses and programs in Amherst. Ms. Brighty's comments are not at all useful. Of course it is not the job of the SC to do the evaluations themselves - but isn't it the job of the SC to ask that the evals be done and then to give some direction as to what information the committee is interested in seeing?

Ms. Brighty's comment that the decision for the 9th grade science curriculum has been made and its not going to be changed is also very unhelpful and a little silly. Does that mean that the SC is unable to change a previously-made decision if it is shown to have been a wrong one???

The good news is that the election is less than a week away. Hopefully the new members of the regional SC will be more open to requesting a comprehensive evaluation of the new required 9th grade science course. Then and only then will the SC be able to make an educated decision as to whether to continue the new 9th grade science course or to make a change in the required course work.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Brighty's comments during SC meetings are rarely helpful!

JWolfe said...

One more thing about Ms. Brighty's comments at SC meetings:

She and the entire SC explicitly promised to evaluate the new science curriculum during the meeting at which it passed. Maryanne Jorgenson bristled with anger in response to my question about evaluating it. Of course they would, she scolded me.

Now I know this is incredibly divisive and puts me way outside the "sensible center," but how is a parent, resident, tax payer to respond when his elected representatives so blatantly misrepresent their intentions? (See, I didn't say "lie" because that would be too divisive.)

So much of the anger among parents in this town comes from the way the 9th grade science curriculum was changed. I wouldn't dare speak for Catherine, but I'm pretty sure ACE and her campaign for SC grew out of that experience. It wasn't just about the totally experimental and unique nature of the new curriculum, but also about how it was approved and how parents -- many of whom are accomplished scientists and educators -- were treated by the SC.

Curious Observer said...

Did anyone else notice that the Regional School Committee failed to discuss potential budget cuts to the Middle School and High School -- cuts that now will be more severe than the Tier 1 cuts? Amherst will receive little federal aid making the Tier 1 scenario look like a dream. They spent a long time talking about FLAP grant -- money which can't go to cover existing programs but no time talking about cuts.

When School Committee member Catherine Sanderson pointed out that it looked like the schools were at Tier 2 cuts (at best) given the lack of federal money, no one in the administration or school committee responded to this. Where do they think we are? Aren't we facing a budget gap of millions? Where will this money come from?

Anonymous said...

To Curious Observer: I think everyone there realized exactly what those numbers mean. What do you want? Hysterics? They'll make the decisions they have to make. The key thing is what the town meeting members do, which is what I wish the focus would now turn to. Town Meeting has the ability to reject any or all school budget cuts, and to restore full spending. So, Curious Observer, please turn your energies there.

Anonymous said...

File this one under "abuse of power"
A school committee plans to decide whether or not to close a school a full year and a half in advance without a superintendent in place. There's something rotten in Denmark. No need to respond. I'm sure there are many rationale to cite. There's a hidden agenda.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 9:09 PM - don't forget to look for the boogie men under you box spring before you go to bed. If you're worried, try a nightlight.

Anonymous said...

I think there is another objective to the Env/Eco course - to advocate a political agenda.


Anonymous said...

Nice people you've got on this blog. I'm not worried. I simply think there is more to the goal of closing that school than meets the eye. Now, go ahead and be smarmy about that. It won't change anything.

Anonymous said...

Anon @6:56

could you please tell me my secret agenda so I know it too? I'm sure the large number of people who think closing MM makes sense financially would like to know about the conspiracy that they are unwittingly apart of...

Please, Please tell...

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Neil - I am hopeful that with the election of new SC members, and the arrival of a new superintendent, we will create a new culture in our schools which includes rigorous evaluation to make sure the schools are doing right by ALL kids.

Alison - the "why" question is very good. One of the major reasons, as has been desribed to me, was that in the old system, 9th grade science was tracked -- kids who had had 8th grade algebra could take honors biology, and kids who had not took earth science. So, one of the goals of the new course was to eliminate this tracking (which I think is a GOOD idea). However, there are obviously different ways to make this change ... my suggestion (which was ignored) was to increase the rigor of our math instruction K to 8 so that ALL kids finished 8th grade algebra, and then require 9th grade biology of all kids (which many districts do). Alternatively, one could have changed the nature of the biology class so that algebra was not required, and then had two tracks of biology (honors, college prep, which is what now occurs for the ecology/environmental science course). I agree with all of those ways of assessing the course -- I've suggested those, and would have very much liked to see a full discussion from the science teachers about their intention to make such comparisons (and how, and who, and when).

Anonymous 7:49 - I will push for AP chemistry ... this seems like a real missing link in our curriculum. I also believe it would be appropriate for us to allow 9th graders to take a more traditional route in science (e.g., 9th grade biology), particularly since there is no comparison about the effectiveness of this new course compared to biology for 9th graders. I believe this is an issue that Dr. Rodriguez will need to take up with the new SC on his arrival.

Cathy C - I do think Maria was more interested in evaluation ... but of course she is only in the driver's seat for a few more months, so I'm not sure how much evaluation can get done during this time. I also think the MCAS score evaluation is silly -- most 10th graders will take the biology MCAS, and since ecology is a subset of biology, Amherst students who take the biology MCAS will have had 1 1/2 years of biology COMPARED to 1 year for students who have a more typical science background in other districts. It was clearly stated when this course was adopted that this approach would help our kids score better on the MCAS -- it is actually a real example of teaching to the test. In addition, the goal of this course was to increase interest in science -- but that seems to me to be very individual. I know of students now in the course who find it not so interesting, just because they don't find ecology/the environment that interesting. And I know of other students who raved about the biology class -- said that is where they fell in love with science. And it is not like biology is BORING -- genetics, cancer, AIDS, evolution, etc.! But as I noted in my response to Alison, the decision to not require biology of all 9th graders was clearly made due to the lack of math preparation of some of our students.

Anonymous 9:23 - I share your puzzlement ... and shock that Elaine was willing to say that we've made a decision, so now we are going to stick with it. It is hard for me to understand how the SC could adopt this course, which no one else has EVER done, and not want to really know whether it is working. Again, parents who would like a real evaluation should DEFINITELY convey that to the superintendent and other members of SC, because I just don't see a lot of interest in this idea right now.

Joel W. - good point. In fact, parents in the audience asked specifically about the evaluation plan when it was adopted, and the SC therefore had a great opportunity to REQUIRE a rigorous evaluation (e.g., say, a pilot test of this new course for two years or whatever). I wish they had done so.

Curious Observer - I too was surprised that there seemed to be less concern about the budget ... it is hard for me to see that we are doing better than Tier 2. Maybe we will get more information on this at the April 7th meeting.

Anonymous 8:17 - although TM controls the overall school budget, it doesn't control what cuts are made at each level. So, I still think the SC has some important work to do to decide which cuts come when.

Anonymous 9:09 - the MM thing is a no win for me. If I had voted close it now, that would have been too fast to make the transitions. If we waited until the new superintendent arrived, people would say he didn't know our district well enough to make the decision. It is odd to me that all the MM parents fully supported the interim superintendents' decision NOT to close it -- not once did someone say "well, they are just interims, they should wait for the real superintendent before making such a drastic decision to keep a school open that we don't need in this very bad economic time." And it is hard for me to see how the "agenda" is subtle -- ummm, we don't need four schools and we have no money! It isn't really that hard to figure out.

Ed - I agree that part of the goal of the course was to increase awareness of environmental issues. And again, I find it interesting that in virtually all other districts, the assumption is that kids can't really understand complex environmental issues without a full understanding of basics in chemistry and biology.

Anonymous 6:56 - what possible goal of closing MM could there be that is hidden? Seriously? Do you think I get paid some type of bonus if I can accomplish this? Or my family is now going to be able to buy this school and live in it? Or that the Chinese Charter School has struck a secret deal with U Mass to buy it? Again, it is VERY simple: we have declining enrollment and can fit all our kids in three schools; that move will save us $700,000 a year in a time of tight budgets. There is nothing hidden or secret about this.

Anonymous said...

I don't think MM parents were supporting the interim's decision not to close their school but rather supporting a decision to wait until we have an permanant leader in place before a decision is made. Once the school is closed it likely won't be reopened, but a decision to wait is not a decision not to close.
As for the thought that the new leader won't be able to make that decision (according to "people"), don't you think that's a bit presumtuous?
I do think that there is an underlying agenda on the part of school committe members who want to vote to close before the new superintendent is in place. It's not the only factor by far, and is not intended to in nay way devalue all the good work you've all done, but I think it has to do with control and being affected by the racourous debate that has resulted from those involved as a result of this turn of events. I honestly think members should do a bit of soul searching as to whether this is the right thing to do At This Time. Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinion.

Anonymous said...

CS wrote:

I also think the MCAS score evaluation is silly -- most 10th graders will take the biology MCAS, and since ecology is a subset of biology, Amherst students who take the biology MCAS will have had 1 1/2 years of biology COMPARED to 1 year for students who have a more typical science background in other districts. It was clearly stated when this course was adopted that this approach would help our kids score better on the MCAS -- it is actually a real example of teaching to the test.

This is not "teaching to the test" as it is understood among the teaching corps. Teaching to the test means sacrificing the creativity and curricular expertise of teachers in the classroom in favor of taking the test apart, and largely focussing on teaching ONLY those things that the State wants students to know by the 10th grade.

It seems to me that 1 and 1/2 years allows simply for more instruction across the board, allowing for some focus on MCAS requirements and some on the topics and assessments that are a bit outside the box but generate greater studet excitement in the subject matter.

Your misunderstanding of this basic and common terminology begs the question of what other aspects of public education you misunderstand. I sincerely suggest that you would be well served by taking some upper level Education classes as a non-degree seeking student at UMass to broaden your knowledge and increase your credibility.

Anonymous said...

All I can do is shake my head and sigh after reading the sarcastic remarks to Anon. bloggers who realize that closing MM is not the brightest of ideas. I can assure you Catherine that no one is expecting you to move into MM. I think this may be well beneath your standard of living and that may have lots to do with your gusto in forging ahead to close this school!
There most certainly is some sort of hidden agenda going on here that maybe you are not even aware of. After all won't closing this school free up money in a way that will then make it available for whoever it is that hires administrators to hire even more??
The money is there--and no I can not prove it with facts and figures because these are not readily or easily available to the ordinary citizen, but I suspect that if they were most of us would find them shocking!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:38:

I'm guessing you work in the schools. I do too. Your 2nd and
3rd paragraphs offer a useful perspective from the inside. Your
4th paragraph was not helpful to those of us who work in the schools. Times are tense and tough, but the condescension can be alienating and counterproductive.
I don't agree with everything I hear from CS. I have serious questions about the ease with which she considers the movement of 6th graders to the MS, for instance.
At least she makes her opinions known to me, in much detail, and allows me the opportunity to suggest to her another way of looking at things. Can't say we in the schools have had that opportunity with other members of the school committee for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:13

I can see how my tone comes across as condescending. And your point is certainly valid.

However, I DO believe that CS should take a course or two in education. She supports a certain educational philosophy, and would be better served if she understood a bit more about what she is commenting on, i.e. the status quo.

That goes for others on the school committee too. If they take a course or two, they will be better able to make informed descisions on the direction Amherst schools should take.

Thats one of the reasons I'm voting for Irv on Tuesday. He has real experience in public schools.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:38 Sorry--I do not mean at all to be unhelpful here. It just makes me wonder how people can get away with stuff like letting a school go down the drain.

Yes--I do have inside views on the larger picture of the schools and what is really happening during the day. I am mostly concerned at the lack of knowledge the average parent has that some of these programs even exist!

I do not degrade nor devalue some of the work some of the administrators are doing in regard to helping these children. What I am questioning is why do some, here on this forum, defend the way Building Blocks, for one, is run.

If they don't believe they have and use a padded closet then go there yourself to see. At CF it used to be in room 32 on the corner where now the ELL class/office is. This closet you will find still padded, but used now for storage.

If someone does go to FR and asks to see the one they use there--please post your findings here.


Anonymous said...

Just re-reading and realizing some of the Anon posts were not directed to me. Sorry for that misunderstanding, but I do believe in all respects we are on the same page with questioning the moves of some of the members of our SC.

Also I would like to suggest that when and if this committee is put together as Catherine, you have suggested, to look at special education that someone keep a track of just who is recruited into these programs.
I am very sure that one will find a disproportionate number of nonwhite children amongst this group and also those of low-income families.
When and how can one find out if this group is indeed formed and how can one keep track of what it is doing?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

From me, again:

Anonymous 9:12 - I continue to believe that it is unfair to ask a new superintendent to arrive and immediately be asked to close a school. It will ALWAYS be an emotional decision, and I'm quite certain that if we were to wait, there would be cries that the new superintendent doesn't know our community well enough to decide in his first six months on the job. In addition, as others have pointed out, the SC hires and evaluates the superintendent - if a majority of the SC felt that MM should be closed AT ANY POINT, they could just tell the superintendent to do so. I'd just like to save Dr. Rodriguez the pain of this being what greets him on Day #1. In addition, the finance committee has just issued a memo saying that to use reserves (which may well be needed), you have to have CLEAR CONSENSUS on a plan that will result in cost savings. A vote to close MM would count. A vote to consider closing MM would not. My agenda is exactly what I've said it is -- nothing hidden, totally blatant. It just makes sense -- in the short-term, and the long-term.

Anonymous 4:38 - I agree with you that this is not "teaching to the test" in the strictest terms -- of which I am highly familiar (even without having had education courses). However, I was at the meetings in which the course was proposed, and MCAS scores was clearly a motivating factor, at least as presented by the teachers. And remember -- if you teach 1 1/2 years of biology, you are insisting kids take this INSTEAD of something else (e.g., chemistry, physics, another elective). That strikes me as an unusual decision, which is why you don't see it in any other districts.

Anonymous 7:56 - of course closing MM will free up money ... that is precisely why I'm in favor of it! But if you look at the list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cuts -- NONE are for administrators. Have you seen the list? Closing MM will save instrumental music, intervention teachers, librarians, a guidance counselor, a science coordinator, 2 classroom teachers, etc. There is NOT hidden money that we just aren't using ... we are going to have to cut services/teachers/programs IF we do not close MM and save $700,000 a year. NO ONE is suggesting we will hire more administrators with those funds -- I haven't heard that mentioned by anyone, and I'm one of the 5 people who ultimately will vote on the budget.

Anonymous 8:13 - thank you for pointing out the benefits of being able to talk to a SC member directly. I've already learned a lot from the teachers and staff members who have contacted me privately, and I am sure I have more to learn. Feel free to educate me!

Anonymous 7:58 - I think if you raise the requirement to serve on SC courses in education, you will have few takers! I believe voters should indeed vote for SC candidates who have the experiences they value -- Irv has had classes in education, Steve conducts research on education, and Meg has been a very active PGO member. Those are all valuable experiences -- they are just different types of experiences that one could bring to the SC.

Anonymous 11:22 -- that is precisely one of the questions that I'd like to have answered. I plan to suggest this committee in April -- so, stay tuned to my blog and/or SC meetings (on ACTV or live) to see the outcome of whether this committee comes together.

Anonymous said...

`Please, before you look at closing a school and up heaving a whole community of children, teachers, parents, and all else who will be devasted by this action look deeper at administrative cuts that can and should me made.
Administrators administrating to the administrators under them is such a wasteful scenerio I can't even think of anything to compare it to.
The debate of traffic and openess to perps, and such other nondesirables, to this school is another no where argument. Every school, every where, in America holds these same disadvantages. Watch the news!
I have had children in MM since the 90's and never has traffic posed any sort of threat to any of my children ever!
I don't know where you got this figure of $700,000, but it keeps getting higher and higher everytime I read this blog.
If instrumental music in elementary schools has to end then so be it. I am sorry, but this is a privilege reserved for the few whose families can afford it. Don't you realize this?
I made it fine being educated in my grade school never having even seen an instrument in my daily lessons never mind being offered to play one.
I don't get this. We are being put up against music, a librarian, ect...
Music or MM--take your pick.
This is so wrong!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Me, again:

Anonymous 11:35 - just to be perfectly clear -- I have never raised any issue about closing MM due to traffic. But the reality is, we are operating at a structural deficit. The only administrators we have at the elementary school level are principals and vice-principals (in three of the schools, and these are only school-year funded positions). No one is suggesting
we have "administrators administrating to the administrators under them." The figure of $700,000 was produced by the superintendents' offide, and I've clearly laid out reapeatedly in this blog exactly where this number comes from. This is the number. If you fired every single principal and vice principal in our elementary schools -- you still don't save $700,000! And yes, instrumental music can definitely be cut -- but where are you going to find the extra $500,000 to cut (because that is only saving $200,000)? Are you willing to fire 14 teachers across the district -- roughly 3 or 4 per school, thereby increasing class size? Are you willing to cut intervention teachers for children who struggle on the MCAS? Again, tell me what you'd cut to save $700,000. But the reality is -- is it fair for Marks Meadow families (and it is clear from your email that you are part of the MM community) to choose keeping your school open at the cost of eliminating instrumental music for ALL kids in ALL schools (among other cuts)? Just think about what you are asking of all kids and families in our district -- not just those at MM.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Catherine for your misunderstanding. I did not mean to imply it was your argument to close MM based on traffic issues. This was actually posted by Ed.
Am I reading you right? Do you agree to sacrificing the lives of the MM kids and families and teachers and other staff in the building who keep this school running so that ALL kids can continue to receive instrumental music. Please! I must stress here that instrumental music is a privilege reserved for the few families who can afford paying for these lessons. It is not, to my knowledge, a mandated part of any public school curriculum. And libraries are another frosted layer to the cake of public education. What about the Jones, Munson and North Amherst Libraries? They are there, and on bus lines for our children and families use. When did these elaborate libraries become a necessity in teaching our children the basics of an elementary education anyway??
Then there is this whole principal issue and this is what I mean when I state that this system has way too many administrators who most wind up administrating to the administrators under them and so on and so on... Has anyone thought of just one principal and perhaps an assistant to run all the elementary schools? Traveling between the schools and leaving Wednesdays for their meetings? On most days the principal in any given building is unavailable anyway so s/he won't be missed.
I am not especially invested in MM since I have had children in all four elementary schools. What I am invested in is watching a group of adults shift about money that had to be mishandled somehow in the first place to result in this 'structural deficit' you speak of. How did this happen? How can anyone blame the 'recession' on this? There had to be someone who was totally aware of this shortfall in our schools' money a very long time ago. This is what I am curious to find out and was hoping our SC members might shed some light on.
These intervention teachers you talk about our system losing--why can't the classroom teacher teach their students anymore? Why are so many intervention teachers needed in the first place? These are issues that need to be addressed. I don't say fire them and keep MM open at all, this is what you are implying. I say get rid of excess administrators and those position that overlap each other. Get rid of personnel in central office that serve little or no purpose. You have these figures, not me. You must see what I am referring to when you take a look --I can only hope that changes are made for the good of ALL children. How can you exclude MM kids from this equation??
Closing a school, any school, simply is not the answer!

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous 7:32:
Instrumental music is free to kids in elementary school. If you need an instrument, you can get one for free if you have limited income. My three kids all took band, all borrowed instruments, all loved it. My high school daughter has a scholarship because of her music. I will be sorry too if MM closes but it is not fair to say choose between MM and music.
Don't say it is only for the few who can afford it, because it is free. Maybe you turned out fine without it but I am glad it is here.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:57 PM

Please--I am not the one posing instrumental music against keeping MM open. Catherine Sanderson has been saying that if we do keep MM open the rest of the children will lose the $200,000 needed to maintain the instrumental lesson budget. I do not beleive that music lessons are totally free to all who want them and can not afford them simply because there are not enough instruments to satisfy this need. If a parent wants their child to have lessons--they must first rent an instrument outside of the school so for you say it's free is not totally addressing the whole picture. Yes--the actual lesson may be free, but this is where the free part ends. After going to the school in the early evening hours the parent then pays for the lesson book and signs a contract to pay for the instrument. This can be intimidating to the ones who can not afford it and the ones who do not understand the process.

I love music. I love listening to violins and cellos and congo drums and tamborines. I honestly believe music is the universal language, but you must agree that these things can found outside the elementary school curriculum and to post them up against keeping a school open or not is not right. The fact it even needs to be addressed is not right. I didn't set it up this way, but someone holding the money had to have foreseen this shortfall a very long time ago. This is not right.

I'm glad instrumental lessons are there too. I am jsut saying they are not a mandated part of an elementary education.

I'd even further like to research when they became a part of the curriculum and where the figure of $200,000 figure came from for something that is free.