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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Focus group to weigh in on Amherst school budgets

Hampshire Gazette
Friday, December 4, 2009

AMHERST - For the first time, a group of citizens will participate in a focus group on possible cuts to the elementary and regional school budgets.

"We want them to ask questions we haven't asked," said School Committee member Irv Rhodes.

Administrators are scheduled to provide the nine members of the focus group with information on options for reducing the budgets by Christmas. The first meeting of the group is scheduled for Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Regional Middle School.

Regional School Committee member Debbie Gould said she wants an answer to the question, "What does the public want to know about the schools to better understand the budget?"

Last month, an invitation for volunteers went out, and nine people responded. All nine will be invited to the focus group, though it's not clear that all will be able to attend.

The group includes School Committee candidate Rick Hood, fiscal conservative Stanley Gawle, and Becky Demling, co-chairwoman of the Crocker Farm Parent Teacher Organization. It also includes Alison Donta-Venman, director of institutional research at Mount Holyoke College, and James Chumbley, a retired psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts. The other members of the focus group are Joe Cullen, Ernie Dalkas, Jennifer Holme and Joe Gensheimer.

The School Committee is facing an estimated gap of $2 million to $4 million between the amount it would cost to keep the same services next year and anticipated amount of money available.

A preliminary list of possible cuts is expected to be presented at Tuesday's meeting of the Regional School Committee, and of elementary cuts at the Amherst School Committee meeting Dec. 15. More detailed information about cuts is expected at the meetings of Jan. 12 and 19.

The Regional School Committee is also seeking to devise a process for allocating costs for an estimated $3.8 million in capital improvements over the next five years. The highest-priority items on a list for next year are $92,000 for caulking windows and doors and repointing leaking capstones at the middle school.


Anonymous said...

Watch the dropout rate skyrocket as electives are slashed. For a couple hundred students, learning how to make a sweater, make a paella, change a sparkplug, make a dovetail joint, or edit a music video is the only thing keeping these kids in school. The dream of having a job they love rather than enduring years of sitting through lectures and cramming for exams is the future our school promise them. Amherst's chickens are coming home to roost. Sure, we have hundreds of acres of conservation land and everyone gets to drive by beautiful farmland on their commutes, but the town has no tax base. I think closing the middle school IS an inevitability as wealthy parents send their kids to Deerfield Academy or Williston, the disillusioned drop out, and elective wings turn into ghost towns. And if half the classrooms are empty in the high school, why NOT fill them with middle schoolers? At least we don't have any big box stores in our lovely little town! It's so incredibly unfortunate that the schools don't get any anonymous $100 million donations. Right now I'd settle for one mil.

Anonymous said...

No one is forcing kids to take the accelerated courses. We're just trying to find a way to keep the academically accelerated kids in the school system, and also not allow our schools to fall behind other school districts in the area...which is what is happening now.

Anonymous said...

very sad and bitter blog posts.....and no way to help our kids or our town.

Anonymous said...

This is where I think there is a disconnect: the only people who know what our students are really like are those who work in the schools. Parents simply do not know. They believe that their kids and their kids' friends are the typical Amherst student. And because they do not know, understand, or interact with all the children in town, they tend to make generalizations based on the small population that they do know. That's just fine, until these parents want changes in the school based on the needs of this minority and when these changes hurt the students they don't know.
In terms of the high school, electives are essential to keeping the MAJORITY of our students interested in doing well in school. To say these kids can go to Smith Voke or PVPA is not an answer. These schools have long waitlists, and transportation is difficult and expensive. There is no mandate, other than the one constantly being put forth on this blog, that we become a super-academic high school. Our mandate as a public school is to serve ALL of those who comes through our door to the best of our ability. No one group, no matter how vocal, articulate or connected, should be touting their own agenda at the expense of our entire student population.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:27 I completely agree and have said so in other posts. I also think that some of the posters who are advocating cuts in electives DON"T have high schoolers or even middle schoolers for that matter.. Just wait until they have teenagers and their academic star from elementary school refuses to get out of bed or thinks hanging out at Rao's during the school day is more fun than AP classes or wants to take an art class and really doesn't give a hoot about chemistry. I think that these folks equate a stance that having a PUBLIC school that serves the needs of the many and diverse students in Amherst somehow equates with not wanting an academically rigorous school. There stance is so unnuanced (if that is even a word). One can understand that we may need more academic rigor in the schools from top to bottom and STILL recognize the many many thing that the schools do well.

Anonymous said...

Finally some rational observations about Amherst students! We are not in Lake Woebegon, where "all the children are above average."

Anonymous said...

"...but the town has no tax base."

If only all the energy it takes to pontificate on this blog was focused on this subject, the pieces would fall into place. We could have AP, electives, and lower taxes. "Wealthy parents" wouldn't NEED to send their kids to Deerfield or Williston, AND there would be a waiting list for the Amherst schools, much like Hadley.

Anonymous said...

to all anoms.......exactly.....answers like send your child to PVPA or Smith...are irrational...."shooting from the hip"....these schools serve specific needs but have long waiting lists and transportation and many other logistical problems...
We are not in Lake Woebegon, where "all the children are above average." exactly...we need to look at the whole picture.....what all oue students need...not everyone is going to or needs to go to "an elite college"
high school students shoulkd be offered a diversified academic scgedule...not just AP chemistry, physics, ect....

"very sad and bitter blog posts.....and no way to help our kids or our town." how true!!! we all need to work together to offer the best to or students.

and 2 last remarks....some people choose to post anom. because if they do not agree with the posts...they fear get off peoples' cases about that not catherine she is accepting oif that but others....
and the final thing what ever happend to to PONG

Rick said...

The first line of this article has it all wrong as far as I am concerned: “…focus group on possible cuts to the elementary and regional school budgets”. I did not to sign up for this group just to look at ”possible cuts”; I signed up to help do two things:

1. Look at all parts of the budget to see if maybe we have overlooked places we can save money by eliminating things we just don’t need to be doing, doing things more efficiently somehow, etc.

2. Helping to communicate to the public how money is being spent – taking the complex financial information and making it simple and understandable – to help all of you see the picture more clearly so you can decide what you want to do. .

I have a real passion for #2. I love to try to take complex things and make it as simple as possible and in a format that is easily understandable. Debbie Gould’s comment has it right "What does the public want to know about the schools to better understand the budget?"

It’s up to you how you want our increasingly limited funds to be spent, not any one committee and you need easy to understand information in order to do that.

Joel said...

I want to agree with all the anonymous posters who think people like me are too interested in having a HS that focuses on core academics and academic achievement.

It's time we embrace a program of complete leveling. No excellence, no challenge.

Let's start with sports. I think we have to make sure that EVERYONE plays ALL THE TIME. No set starters, no "expertise" or so-called skill should ever affect coaches' decisions. For that matter, who needs coaches? (Or music teachers or any other skilled professional in the schools, let's just roll it out there and let the kids have at it.) In all athletic competitions, let's just play all the kids an equal amount of time. We could start he kids alphabetically one game, and then reverse alphabetically the next. We could then go forward and backward from the middle of the alphabet.

Music, art, and everything else should operate in just such a fashion. Let's never, ever try to educate "every child, every day," that's just an elitist horror show.

Anonymous said...

"It's time we embrace a program of complete leveling. No excellence, no challenge."

I don't think that is what people are reallly saying, Joel. And your sports analogy doesn't work, but of course you know that. It's just that on this blog, the focus is on a minority of academic needs, and somehow making it seem like it is important for the majority. And I, along with other people in Amherst, don't see it as such a easily defined one-size-fits all, answer. And to jump to the "OMG we are going to continue to lose excellence in our schools" posture is alarmist and divisive. We have a complicated student population with complicated needs and the answers are just not that easy and may not be able to be answered by focusing so intensely on data.

Anonymous said...

Joel- Once again you really don't address the substance of the comments that have been made and you respond with snark. Your comment just illustrates the point that was being made about folks like you!

Nina Koch said...


I think you need to acknowledge the fact that excellence and challenge come in many forms. Not everybody shares your particular definition. It doesn't mean they don't believe in excellence and challenge; it just means they define it differently than you.

So far, the vision of education that I have heard you articulate is that school needs to look the way it did when you went school years ago, which was probably pretty close to what school looked like in the 1950s. The world has changed enormously since the fifties. My position is that school needs to change too.

I would like to understand your position better. Can you describe the ways in which you think a 21st century education should differ from a 20th century education? Or do you feel that it shouldn't change?

Anonymous said... are as anom 12:30 said snark......NO ONE ever said anything about athletics...but that is not the point...."the point is the focus is on a minority of academic needs, and somehow making it seem like it is important for the majority. And I, along with other people in Amherst, don't see it as such a easily defined one-size-fits all, answer. And to jump to the "OMG we are going to continue to lose excellence in our schools" posture is alarmist and divisive"
couldn't have said it better....JOel...why don't you listen to what others are saying...yes you identify yourself and that is your choice....but please listen and please respect....
Rick thank you for your comment and thanks for the work you do

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I'm on a deadline today so can't respond to each of the comments -- but I want to say something very clearly in response to the questions/comments from Nina and anonymous posters re. Joel's comment. What people, including Joel, including me, including many others, want is our schools to LOOK LIKE OTHER SCHOOLS TODAY! That is not the school that Joel went to or the school that existed in 1950. It is the schools that exist today ALL over the country. Schools like Northampton High School, in which kids all take 9th grade biology and have access to classes in AP chemisty and AP statistics. And the comments like "these are for the minority of students" are really troubling. We have lots of classes for a "minority of students" -- these include Russian (17 students), wood working (probably not more than 20 students), IMP math classes, Latin, psychology, constitutional law, gay/lesbian literature, MSAN leadership. All of those classes serve a real minority of students and yet I don't hear anyone saying these are bad classes because not all students have the interest in these topics! Is it bad to have a child who likes chemistry and wants to take a second year of chemistry? Does that child somehow not deserve the right to take a second year of chemistry unless all kids can and want to take a second year of chemistry? Having AP chemistry isn't UNUSUAL in public schools today - what is unusual is NOT having AP chemistry! Joel is talking about OPTIONS for kids to take classes that interest them. Those may not be the classes that interest any of the anonymous posters on this blog (or their children), but that doesn't mean they are bad classes or it is wrong to want those options for our kids, just as kids all across the country have those same options.

Nina Koch said...


You didn't answer the question:

Please describe how you believe schools in the 21st century should look different from schools in the 20th century. Or, if you feel that they shouldn't look different, then state that.

Rick said...

Along the lines of what Nina is asking, let’s start with the end product that we are trying to create.

What is our vision for the ability, knowledge and values that a student should have when they graduate ARHS?

1. To be a good citizen
a. Values that embrace community not just self advancement.
b. Ability and knowledge to help make intelligent voting decisions.
c. Etc…

2. To be able to get good job and advance to higher level jobs.
a. Basic skills in math, reading and writing.
b. Knowing how to think and how to problem solve.
c. Knowing how to work with others.
d. Etc…

3. To be able to get into the college of their choice.
a. Advanced skill and knowledge.
b. Demonstration of their unique non-cookie-cutter self.
c. Etc…

4. Etc…

Knowing the end products we are shooting for, might help determine what courses should be offered.


• Would a decent knowledge in statics for all students be a good thing to help with 1b above – to help voters not get snowed by inaccurate data?

• AP courses can help achieve 3a.

• Unique electives (The Holocaust, Sculpture, African-American Literature) can help with 3b.

• IMP math may help with 2b.

There is a lot of talk about zero based budgeting (build from bottom up). Perhaps we should also be doing zero-based curriculum building.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...


I believe ARHS should look like other high schools, in terms of curriculum offerings and requirements, in Massachusetts in the 21st century. I'm interested in kids in our high school having the same opportunities to get engaged and challenged by material across disciplines, and having the same opportunities to get into and succeed in all college majors, as kids in public high schools across Massachusetts. Our high school right now, in the 21st century, looks pretty different from other high schools right now, in the 21st century. That concerns me, but the question therefore isn't "what should high schools look like in the 21st century versus the 20th century", the question is why does our high school look so different from other high schools right now (in terms of requirements, curriculum, course offerings, etc.)?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Rick - and perhaps we should consider that we are NOT the only high school in Massachusetts ... or the only high school that cares about helping kids succeed in various ways! Perhaps this would be a good time to try to understand why we so confident that the choices we make in Amherst that are so different from those made by other districts are BETTER -- to have only 2 years of required math/science when other districts have 3, to require ecology in 9th grade when other districts require biology or physics or provide kids with a choice of science to take, to have hetereogeneous AP English classes when other districts group kids by interest/proficiency/skill in advanced English classes, to NOT even offer AP stats or AP chemistry when many other districts offer both, to require students to self-select to do extra homework in 7th grade in order to take 8th grade algebra? Again, surely we can start by acknowledging that we have much to learn from what other districts are doing, right?!?

Joel said...

I agree completely with Catherine.

Here's, I believe, a basic point that everyone should be able to agree with:

If you are the ONLY district in the NATION that does something (here the 9th grade science requirement is such a thing) and you are in a very tiny minority of high schools in the nation in other ways -- including having trimesters -- then it is incumbent upon YOU to explain why you are different.

We are the outlier. Unless your main gone is uniqueness, you have an obligation to explain why your differences are better than what practically everybody else is doing.

You see, I'm not saying unique is bad, just that it has to be justified. Too many people in Amherst like something primarily because it's unique. That, to me, just isn't a reason to have a particular curriculum.

Okay, the 21st century, who cares? What I mean is that there is nothing magical about the change from the 20th to the 21st century. There are social, technological, economic, political, and other changes that come about without reference to a particular year.

Let's avoid the cuteness of a mandate for the 21st century and just ask, what I think is at the heart of Nina's query, are our schools equipped for the present-day and for what we can make out of what might come tomorrow?

That's a huge task. A logical starting point is an examination of what's working ELSEWHERE instead of the incredible hubris of believing that if we didn't invent it, it ain't worth doing it.

Northampton passed an override because a majority of voters there have a lot of confidence in their schools. I'm not convinced the same can be said of Amherst residents.

Joel said...

More on uniqueness:

I was on the district's social studies curriculum review committee and we spent nearly all of our time navel gazing. We had sessions on where are we now, where do we want to go, what should the process look like, what's unique about us and how do we translate that. We even had a session of roll playing. Adults, teachers and parents, did roll playing of readings on the politics of social studies curriculum reform.

This cost the district money. Another parent and I volunteered, but the teachers were either replaced with substitutes or paid for meetings in the summer months. I'm all for professional development, but this led to nothing.

A couple of the teachers and I kept pushing for an examination of curricula in other Massachusetts districts. Didn't happen. We couldn't even roll play different towns!

Anonymous said...

We have lots of classes for a "minority of students" -- these include Russian (17 students), wood working (probably not more than 20 students)

catherine 2 comments on your post
1) Russian is an academic subject that is a lot different than woodworking and we know that the students who take Russian come from parents who are very vocal.

2) Woodworking you are assuming...i have no idea on how many students and neither do you...(be intersting to know the exact number, but doesn't matter)

this shows that your priorities lay with the high achieving student...

i hope you do not come back with a response that puts my comment down....but look into everything and not assume

Rick said...

"Again, surely we can start by acknowledging that we have much to learn from what other districts are doing, right?!"

Right. What I said is not mutually exclusive of this.

We absolutely want to know what other schools are doing and where we are different ask why. On the other hand I am not OK with mindlessly copying what other schools do without thinking about what we really want for our kids.

If other schools don’t have a class on the holocaust – does that mean we shouldn’t either?

Rick said...

What Joel says here exactly right:

"I'm not saying unique is bad, just that it has to be justified."

Nina Koch said...

I definitely believe that practices should be justified and that furthermore the justification needs to go beyond "Lots of other people are doing it." Sometimes the things that lots of other people are doing are not very good.

Sometimes these practices are justified simply by the fact that they are long-standing. Delivering instruction via lecture comes to mind as an example. Has anyone ever demonstrated that people learn best by being talked at? And yet lots of people do it and are not necessarily asked to defend the practice.

I think practices should have intrinsic value, tied to standards. We are about to embark on our ten-year re-accreditation process at the high school where we will be asked to develop "core values, beliefs about learning, and 21st century learning expectations." So, when you ask who cares about the 21st century, I will reply that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges cares.

This is a process that I am actually looking forward to and that is part of the reason why I am asking the question. I want to know what people think. I hope people jump in with ideas. I do think it's important to look at change over time, and how emerging trends help re-define our school's mission.

The 20th century began with a desire to train factory workers and assimilate a huge wave of immigrants. The challenges that face us now are very different and schools need to respond to that.

Anonymous said...

The fact that someone is claiming that if there isn't a course in making paella at the HS kids will be dropping out in droves is a little scary. I think this means there is something terribly wrong with our school system from the bottom up. All of our kids, for the most part, should be ready and able and willing to be challenged - no matter what their family background is. Haven't you heard that the world is flat (and hot and crowded)? Coddling kids in ESL for 7 years and then offering them paella making classes doesn't really prepare them to compete at any level in today's society.

Are some people suggesting that certain kids just aren't capable? They all are. They may not all be able to get straight As and get into Harvard but I know people who have associates degrees who are just as happy and successful (or moreso) as ivy league grads.

The changes that are being proposed for the ES level (in math program and curricular alignment) are crucial to the issues being discussed here.

Kids really do need more science and math to be able to function and participate at the most basic level of existence. Just shopping requires an ability to make safe and healthy choices.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, historically the most popular English literature elective has been African-American Literature. This has recently been joined by Gay and Lesbian Lit. These courses have the most sections, the fullest classes, so Gay and Lesbian Lit. cannot be considered serving, as Catherine writes, a "real minority of students." The majority of students at ARHS has an interest in the texts and topics covered in both of these courses.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask this--Is this "focus group" another group of parents from the upper/middle class...Please, I am not trying to be rude or anything like that, but it is high time to elect some parents from the "low-income" bracket--Remember, the ones whose children are the cause for the redistricting?? The children who cannot learn unless they sit beside wealthier children in the classrooms?? Are any "low-income" parents or citizens in this group?? Sadly--I think not. And so whose voice will be heard in all this??

Joel said...

First of all, thank you Nina for posting with your own name. It's nice to be able to keep track of who said what.

I'm happy to hear you want to evaluate things. The HS has essentially refused to evaluate the new 9th grade science curriculum. How do those of us who disagree about a lot of things, but agree on the need to do such evaluations work together to get the HS do study its new science curriculum?

Here's where we disagree. If something is done in literally thousands of schools (there are over 18,000 high schools in the US), then we can be reasonably sure that there are studies on what works and what doesn't. It's hard to rationally make the assumption that literally every HS in the US is wrong about 9th grade science and we are right. Isn't it?

If something is only done in one of those high schools and there are no data backing its efficacy, no rush to copy it elsewhere, and no evidence that others are even studying it to consider copying it, then we have a problem.

Isn't there a high probability that our uniqueness may not be a good thing in terms of 9th grade science? In 2004 there were 18,435 high schools in the country. If 18,434 do a range of things from Biology to Physics to Earth Science in 9th grade and none of those require as the only course available Environmental Science and 1 requires Environmental Science and doesn't have anything else for 9th graders to take, what are the odds that the 1 is right and the 18,434 are wrong? Add into that equation no evidence that that 18,434 are even considering moving in our direction. (To be fair, we could assume 500 schools are about to copy our curriculum and there would still be a problem of relative uniqueness.)

There is an obsession with reinventing the wheel educationally in Amherst. I'm not sure our wheel is as round as we think.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Joel (6:25) and thank him for saying it so well.

I find it disturbing that the HS faculty seems so reluctant to evaluate this new science curriculum. I'm completely opposed to it but if they can prove that it is actually a superior way to learn science then I would change my opinion.

We are not special or unique in Amherst. We're just a bunch of folks trying to do the best for our kids and trying to give them the tools that they will need in life. It seems that a curriculum that is heavy on science and math is what ALL kids will need for success in the future.

I'm also disturbed by the lack of AP offerings I hope this changes because it is a standard in most high schools across the country and an important option for Amherst kids to have.

It is interesting that several people have said that only certain elite groups want these things for their kids. I think they are wrong! I do not consider myself part of an elite group, I do not have a Phd and I want these options available for my kids. I can't afford private school and think that the schools have a responsibility to do the best they can given the budget constraints to challenge our kids and give them a strong foundation.

Nina Koch said...

Since the original topic of this thread is about the school budget and forcing ourselves to focus on what's essential, let's try to do that and see if we can find where the value differences lie.

My question about 21st century education was a genuine question. We are going to have to make some fundamental changes in the way school operates. 1) We can't afford to operate the schools of the past; and 2) Changing times require a new approach.

I will give one example of such a change. In the 20th century, say my father's generation, it was very common for the male parent to work at the same job for a lifetime. This will not be the case for most of our current students. Every projection says that adults should expect to change jobs/careers multiple times during their lifetime.

So what does this mean for educating our students? I think it means that more than ever, they need to learn flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Also, they need to develop enough independence to be able to teach themselves new things.

If we identify flexibility and independence as two of our learning expectations, the next thing to do is to look at the curriculum and see if it really fosters that. It's entirely possible that it doesn't. So then something has to change.

Fed Up Parent said...

To those who continue to complain that there may not be any low income and/or parents of color on various committees, including this focus group, I believe the article said that 9 people volunteered for the committee and all nine were appointed. I don't know if any of them are "of color" or low income, but it doesn't seem to me that the school district is just appointing "elite white parents" to the committee. No one was elected. Everyone who volunteered was chosen. This committee says to me "these nine people were devoted enough to the schools and to the town to volunteer their valuable time to try to help." I appreciate that and don't care what color or income level they are.

Anonymous said...

When I volunteer and join a committee they damn well better not ask me what my income level is. That is not thier or your business!

Joel said...


I believe that uncertainty about the future should lead us to strengthen core academics in reading, writing, mathematics, and science. No one can predict what will happen, so our graduates should be equipped with the strongest possible foundation as they work in a changing world.

I worry that some in Amherst will declare the X is the future and then we'll alter the curriculum to have students study X. What happens if everything moves in the opposite direction of X or there is some significant modification to how we understand X? What if we're wrong in how we predict the future will unfold. The odds are that we will be.

The 9th grade science requirement is such an example of over thinking our curriculum and our students' place in the world. Of course it's important to study environmental science and of course integrated science is the current wave. To do those things well, though, you have to have a background in higher math, biology, chemistry, etc. We've skipped right to the integrated science without the requisite background in all the sciences we want to integrate.

Let's forget the idea that we're special and know better than everyone else and go with the proven fundamentals. I just don't see how we can go wrong doing that.

Rick said...

I just want to say that if Joel and Nina got in a room together and talked things through I bet they would come to agreement on many things. Or at the very least would disagree on some things, but would understand why the other person thinks the way they do. I don’t think what either of them is saying is mutually exclusive.

I believe all of us have more in common than we may think. Blogs are not always the best place to tease that out – though they can be with constructive comments like the back and forth between Joel and Nina above is (more or less).

Nina Koch said...

actually, I am really happy to see that Joel responded to my question. I would like to see other people's responses as well.

As Rick pointed out, there will certainly be areas of agreement and that is one of things I am interested in finding. I think acknowledgment of uncertainty would be one of those. So, when Joel says this:

"No one can predict what will happen, so our graduates should be equipped with the strongest possible foundation as they work in a changing world."

That meshes pretty well with what I said:

"I think it means that more than ever, they need to learn flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Also, they need to develop enough independence to be able to teach themselves new things."

Where Joel and I might differ is in what constitutes a solid foundation. I think that the shape of the foundation has actually changed in the last fifty years, mainly because machines can do things that humans used to do. So the human has to both understand what the machine is doing and furthermore be able to go beyond what the machine can do. That's where skills like critical thinking come in and that is something I consider fundamental. It should be happening in every classroom in every school.

This past summer, I discovered a tool called "Wolfram Alpha" that can do just about any mathematical procedure that would be in a traditional math textbook such as Saxon. If someone learned only what was in Saxon (which does not include any attempt to teach for understanding), he or she would not be any more useful than the machine. What employer would hire someone who can only do what Wolfram Alpha does for free? The human has to be able to do more-- to analyze, to create, to inspire, to engage. We need to be teaching our kids how to do all that. And that is on top of teaching them to understand the procedures that Wolfram Alpha is doing for them. It's a tall order. That's why I am extremely concerned about shrinking resources. It is very scary.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Nina - It's funny you should ask about predicting the needs of the 21st century in a set of comments that includes the Russian language program.

The Russian language program is inherited from the Soviet era, when the Soviet Union was the world's second "Super Power."

Oops. Now it's Chinese and Arabic (anyone want to bet definitively again Urdu or Hindi?).

Just give current students enough base to get into college/university or a job and leave the tea leaves.

Anonymous said...

And yet these "groups' and 'committees' continue to form--but the voice of the disenfranchised remain unheard. No where did it state the income of an individual should be questioned by anyone....and no where did it state that "elite white parents' rule the schools here....Funny how these comments come to light all by themselves...

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:22-That stuff is often read into folks comments as a way to shut down dissenting opinions much like race is. But then- a critical and fair reading of peoples posts isn't really what this blog is about. The shallowness of most of the analysis is pretty sad: ARPS BAD BAD BAD, every other school district in comparison group GOOD, Trimesters BAD -Semesters GOOD, AP classes VERY VERY GOOD, ELECTIVES VERY VERY BAD. Teachers BAD Past SC members BAD, recently elected SC GOOD. I think that if you have a slightly more nuanced approach you're opinions are not welcome.

Anonymous said...

The world is not as black and white as most posters on this blog make it out to be. There are alot of nuanced shades in between.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Anon 7:22AM: I was part of the Facilitation of Community Choices Committee and because of that experience, volunteered to be on the Amherst schools budget subcommittee. I am not sure what you mean by: "And yet these "groups' and 'committees' continue to form--but the voice of the disenfranchised remain unheard." I can assure you that the FCCC made every opportunity to solicit opinions from every member of our community and I understand that part of the mission of this new committee is to get widespread public opinion about the budget problems in our schools. How are the "disenfranchised" "unheard?" And if they are, how can they get heard? I am not sure what your defintion of "disenfranchised" is but I do know that this current committee was publically advertised and anyone who volunteered their time was accepted onto the committee. If someone feels as if they are not heard, they could volunteer for committees and/or provide feedback to the School Committee and/or the committee with their budget ideas.

Anonymous said...

I think that the issue is that this group is by and large self-selected with all of the inherent bias that brings.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, anon 2:30.

Anonymous said...

We have many assertive people in this town from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial groups. This is the way the world works - speak up and participate and you will be heard. If you wait for someone to invite you to speak and participate - you may lose out - it's everyone's personal choice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:30 and 3:30

So, what do you propose? That anyone who wants to give of their time and energy to work to better the schools withhold their invovement until they are assured that every member of the committee they will be a part of is free of inherent bias? Or, should we have committees with membership that respresents equitably each and every inherent bias?

Anonymous said...

Well- if they want to do focus groups- how about a random sampling of parents across the elementary schools and the region. Shouldn't be too hard

Caren Rotello said...

Anon 9:38
You can randomly sample all you want, but you can't require parents to participate. This is a voluntary process, and I agree with Fed Up Parent in being extremely grateful to the 9 people who have stepped up to the plate.