By NICK GRABBE - Hampshire Gazette
Friday, June 12, 2009
The school district wants to measure its performance and learn how it compares to similar towns.
The "How Are We Doing" subcommittee has met three times over the past year. It has compiled lists of criteria to use in a kind of annual report on the schools and of districts that are demographically comparable.
"We want to have clear data to look at year to year, so we're not just looking at MCAS or other single measures," said Andy Churchill a member of the subcommittee. "We want a more detailed snapshot we can look at to see trends."
Student achievement could be measured by the percentage of: elementary students reading and doing math at grade level; students found proficient on MCAS; SAT scores; National Merit scholars; and high school students with one or more D or F grades. Other criteria include the average daily attendance, graduation rate and the percentage of seniors going on to college.
The other measurements the subcommittee suggested using are course offerings and requirements, coursework completed, number of expulsions and suspensions, satisfaction as determined by surveys, and extracurricular activities.
The subcommittee looked for similar communities. Amherst's elementary schools serve 1,310 students, who are 56 percent White, 14 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Asian and 8 percent African American, with 27 percent low-income.
The regional schools serve 1,786 students, who are 71 percent White, 10 percent Asian, 8 percent African American and 8 percent Hispanic, with 16 percent low-income.
One community the subcommittee cited is Northampton. It is similar in size and comparable in low-income students, but is less racially diverse. Longmeadow is also similar in size to Amherst, but is less diverse and has few low-income students.
The subcommittee also looked at Brookline, which is somewhat larger than Amherst and has fewer low-income students, but a similar level of diversity.
Framingham is larger and more racially diverse and serves more low-income students, while Newton is larger, less racially diverse, and serves fewer low-income students.
The subcommittee also suggested comparing Amherst to these out-of-state communities: Chapel Hill, N.C., Evanston, Ill., Montclair, N.J., Oak Park, Ill., Princeton, N.J., Shaker Heights, Ohio, and White Plains, N.Y.
Nick Grabbe can be reached at email@example.com.
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.