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 12, 2009

More Comparisons: Amherst Versus Northampton

I want to start by saying that I think numbers are good for us to see and think about -- of course numbers can be interpreted in different ways, but at least they provide the ability for us to carefully compare the same thing (e.g., MCAS scores, or per pupil spending) at different schools and in different districts. We all likely value different things, and thus come to different conclusions about what the different numbers mean. But for me, looking at this type of objective data helps us figure out what we look like (for better or for worse) than other districts -- in a way that is at least more objective than simply having people say "of course, our schools are wonderful."

So, I looked up 4 sets of numbers at Amherst Regional High and Northampton High: course requirements, mean SAT scores, AP class offerings, and AP scores. These are pretty similar high schools -- Amherst is somewhat larger (1201 kids versus 896 kids), whereas Northampton has more low income kids (26.4% versus 17.3%) and more kids in special ed (21.8% versus 18.6%). But overall, I think they are a decent comparison -- two moderately sized high schools in Western MA in college towns.

  • Both schools require 4 years of English and 3 years of social studies
  • Northampton requires 3 years of math and 3 years of science; Amherst requires only 2 years of each of these subjects
  • Northampton requires an additional writing class (no such requirement in Amherst)
  • Northampton requires 2 additional core academic classes (including world language), whereas Amherst has no other academic requirements
  • Amherst requires a class in PE and a class in health, whereas Northampton requires one class in "wellness"
In sum, Northampton has more rigorous academic requirements (especially in math and science) than does Amherst.

SAT scores

SAT scores are required by many colleges and thus are an important way of assessing how competitive students will be for college admissions (and scholarship aid). In 2008, 246 of the 1201 students at Amherst High took the SAT (20%, which makes sense given that these tests are typically taken by seniors or perhaps juniors). In Northampton, 170 of the 896 students took these tests (19%). So, about the same % of students at both schools took the tests.

Amherst students tend to do slightly better on the SAT than students in Northampton: 570 reading (versus 552), 582 math (versus 573), 571 writing (versus 555). Although the Amherst numbers are better, remember that Northampton has more low income and special education students than Amherst (and those students tend to perform worse on the SAT).

AP Classes Offered

Both schools offer AP English Literature, AP European History, AP Bio, AP Physics C, AP Calculus AB, AP French, and AP Spanish.

In addition to those 7 classes, Amherst also offers 4 additional AP classes: AP Calculus BC, AP Latin, AP Chinese, and AP Environmental Studies.

In addition to these 7 classes, Northampton offers 5 additional AP classes: AP Chemistry, AP Physics B, AP Statistics, AP US History, and AP Microeconomics.

Interestingly, although both schools offer basically the same number of AP classes (11 versus 12 -- although of course Amherst is a larger high school with more overall classes and students and faculty), the types of AP classes differ considerably. In Amherst, 36% of the AP classes offered are in world language (4 of the 11), 45% are in math and science (combined; 5 of the 11), and 18% are in English/social studies combined (2 of 11). In Northampton, 17% of the AP classes offered are in world language (2 of 12), 50% are in math and science (6 of the 12), and 34% are in English/social studies combined (4 of the 12).

AP Scores

There has been a lot of talk on this blog about AP classes, and whether we should have them, and who takes them and so on. But two things are quite clear: first, these classes do help kids get into college, and second, these classes can help kids place out of college classes (and thus have more options in their schedules -- and sometimes reduce college costs).

In 2008, 143 kids in Amherst took an AP test (for a total of 203 test taken, since some kids take more than 1). That means 12% of the kids in Amherst High took at least one AP test. Of the 203 tests taken, 176 received a 3, 4, or 5 (the scores you need to get college credit) -- meaning 87% of kids in Amherst High who took an AP got such a score.

In contrast, 188 kids in Northampton took an AP test (for a total of 324 tests taken), meaning 21% of the kids took an AP test. However, only 244 of the 324 tests taken received a 3, 4, or 5, meaning 75% of tests had such a score.

What does this mean? It means a much higher % of kids in Northampton are taking AP tests than kids in Amherst -- although kids in Amherst tend to do better on the tests (which makes sense -- if we are only having higher achieving kids take the class and/or the test). But given the differences in the populations at these schools (e.g., Amherst has fewer low income kids and fewer kids in special education), it seems quite clear that Amherst is under-represented in terms of kids taking AP tests.

One more thing to note: in the Amherst High Program of Studies, students who take AP classes are told they can take the AP if they want, but are not required to do so. In contrast, in the Northampton High program of studies, students are told that those taking AP classes are REQUIRED to take the test - and it is noted that the fee for the test is waived for kids on free/reduced lunch. I imagine this policy (of both requiring the test and waiving the fee based on financial need) helps more Northampton kids take AP classes and potentially receive college credit and/or placement out of entry level courses.


Anonymous said...

Great numbers crunching Catherine! I hope people get it. Thanks for all this work you do. Ali

Anonymous said...

in the Amherst High Program of Studies, students who take AP classes are told they can take the AP if they want, but are not required to do so. In contrast, in the Northampton High program of studies, students are told that those taking AP classes are REQUIRED to take the test - and it is noted that the fee for the test is waived for kids on free/reduced lunch.

This is a great policy that Northampton has. It levels the playing field for lower income students who work to achieve high levels of academic accomplishment.

Time and again in America, lower income students, in fact students of all levels of income, work to achieve accomplishment and avail themselves of opportunity through education. Education is a path, the most reliable path, to opportunity.

Creating opportunity for all students by setting a high bar and expecting their best performance at the level at which they can (currently) achieve is a good way the raise the level scholl wide. Kids, once they develop confidence based on accomplsihment, will pursue it.

Joel said...

I just looked over the Northampton Public Schools budget. It is an incredibly easy to read document filled with detailed information.

The Noho HS principal earns $89,166 and there is one vice principal listed who earns $78,513.

Every single employee's salary is provided from part-time maintenance to teachers by subject.

Let's start by demanding a similar budget for our schools.

Are our principals' salaries public information? How do they compare to the Noho salaries?

Joel said...

Just to clarify, those are current salaries. They have proposed increases to $92,800 for the principal and $85,799 for the vice principal for 2010.

I'll happily support the Amherst override when our district provides a budget like this one from Noho. It's good govt in action.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Ali - glad you are enjoying the numbers. I have found this process -- researching the data, reporting it, then receiving comments (of course, some hostile) -- very informative.

Anonymous 3:06 - I agree that this is a really important statement ... which clearly indicates that the high school believes all kids are capable of AP work and can succeed on AP tests (and thus should take them, and can take them, for free if low income). That may well be why nearly twice as many kids in Northampton High take such classes as kids in Amherst -- and this policy is certainly one that our high school should implement (if it doesn't already -- I don't know whether we already have this policy, but if we do, it is NOT noted in our program of studies).

Joel (at 4:19) - wasn't this document amazing? Thanks to Jennifer for providing this link -- fascinating and clearly a great way to show transparency in the schools.

Joel (at 4:27) - this type of transparency would certainly help increase people's confidence in our schools and how the limited dollars are spent. I have suggested to all members of the SC on the budget advisory group that they adopt this approach of posting this type of detailed line by line budget (again, this is WAY more informaton than I have received even as a member of SC).

Anonymous said...

ARHS policy of not requiring ap tests is better. It separates the test from the course (learning). Many students might take the course but choose NOT to have the pressure or stress of the test. Why would we make them take a test if they're happily learning the material? ARHS policy making the AP test optional is sound, although paying for the test for FRL students makes complete sense.

Anonymous said...

There's another point of comparison between Amherst and Northampton: their respective political systems and the role that override votes have come to play in them.

In Northampton, voters were getting sufficiently ticked off about the status quo that the Mayor this year had to scramble and fight for her political survival and another two-year term. She said that she got the message. The voters had their say in a campaign that focused on several key issues. Knowing that that mayoral and city council vote was coming, Northampton residents may have been more willing to vote FOR an override. They knew that they had multiple bites of the political apple.

In Amherst, we have no such elections, EXCEPT for the overrides, which have become the only way that voters can express themselves broadly on the status quo. Thanks to our rejection of the last proposed charter, we have a system of government that's like a Responsibility Diffusion Machine. The buck stops nowhere.

A lot then comes to be riding on the overrides (just to coin a phrase). Voters worry that a "yes" will in effect whitewash the status quo, and that they will have then forfeited their opportunity to express their unhappiness with how things are going for another period of who knows how many years.

I continue to resist vehemently argument both on this blog and elsewhere (this week's Bulletin editorial is a classic example) that pinpoints the problem with the kind of person we have elected or hired, with the quality of their character, with "transparency" or a "culture of secrecy", or some traditionally intransigent mindset applied to budget problems (and I expect at least the newspaper people to know better). As if we were somehow singularly cursed. It defies common sense.

The problem, first and foremost, is with the municipal system we have, which runs people off against each other, wastes oodles of volunteer citizen time going nowhere, and slices and dices ultimate governmental responsibility into tiny bits (250 tiny bits in Town Meeting, to be exact).

Rich Morse

Joel said...

I find Rich's comment above to be the single most insightful thing I've read on this blog.

The Northampton schools have detailed budgets available to anyone via a pdf on the web.

We in Amherst have members of the Select Board and School Committee who have literally no idea how we spend huge portions of our budgets.

I think Rich is right that so much of it comes down to the structure of town govt and how the Amherst structure values more ethereal and less concrete politics than Northampton's. We write to the president of Iran, they fix the roads.

Members of the Amherst Select Board now know more about the issue of relocating prisoners from Guantanamo Bay than they do about how the town spends the vast majority of its tax revenue through the schools. It isn't because the SB has bad people on it, it's because of how the structure of our governance has intersected with the dominant political culture to make grand political statements and foreign policy more significant in the process than the nitty gritty of budgeting.

Well said Rich.

Joel said...

I said this on another thread:

I'll support the override if the town does one single thing:

It must produce a detailed schools budget in the format of the Northampton budget. No actual spending or programatic changes need to happen for me to vote "yes." Just produce and post on the web a real and detailed budget like that found in Northampton.

We can't fix things after the override unless we know how we're really spending.

Anonymous said...

I want to support the schools but I want to see where the money goes. And unfortunately the override is the only time we voters get a chance to have a voice on how funds are being spent.

That is one of the reasons I, too, would prefer a different form of elected government.

Prior to the last override I reviewed the line item school budget provided by the business office. The budget given out consisted of general budget categories with no narrative explanation. Absolutely not transparent.

So I made a very difficult decision and did not vote for the override.

Some may say that I based my vote on only one piece of the pie...but I was being asked to provide more financial support without financial information.


Rick said...

I don’t think Rich is saying a lack of transparency is the problem: ”I continue to resist vehemently argument both on this blog and elsewhere … that pinpoints the problem … with "transparency" or a "culture of secrecy", or some traditionally intransigent mindset applied to budget problems…”

I think he is simply saying that the Amherst public’s only vote that has weight is an override vote, since no one local politician we can vote for has that much power (e.g. Mayor versus Select Board).

I agree with that, but also agree that it’s still a good idea to be as transparent as possible and I like Northampton’s budget format. I will make sure to bring this up in the first Budget Advisory Meeting on December 21. My main interest is in communication – and communication of financials is a big one.

Having said that, Joel may say he is willing to vote for an override if we only do that, but I doubt that will be the case with most people. When you publish every single detail of a budget you raise more questions than you answer, and there will be many people who will want all those new questions answered before they will vote for an override. You trade one problem, a perception of secrecy, with another, a flood of more questions to be answered.

The “right” answer is to publish all the details, and then ask the public to be patient if they don’t like every line item of the budget. I worry that such patience is not likely.

Joel said...

I totally agree with RIck here, but I would add one thing because I think I'm more cynical than he.

Once a real budget appears we (the public, taxpayers, parents, teachers -- and those are overlapping groups) will be in a position to ask principals and the superintendent to justify what they're doing. I have no doubt that some things that seem crazy are in fact wonderful. But some of them are in fact crazy.

According to that Noho budget Amherst has more administrators. So, there's no reason they can't produce the same level of detail for us.

Anonymous said...

I agree we need to look at where our money is being spent but please do not turn the AMherst schools into Northampton. We can look at Northampton and make decisions accordingly but I bet most of the same people who want us to do that will be unhappy with the end product a school with a HORRIBLE reputation in college cirles and deservedly so , a place where the kids feel unsafe (from multiple sources in Northampton)etc. so let's look at how we are spending our money (I thought the principals had to build a zero based budget which should accomplish that to some degree) but do not use Northampton as the beacon of how education should be delivered.

Has anyone looked at the college lists to see how that end product compares?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 9:02 - I totally agree that paying for the tests should be in our policy -- I will ask the superintendent whether we do that now (do any teachers on this blog know if that is our policy?). I'm not sure about the reason for requiring the test to be taken -- but I'd like to talk to Northampton to see why this decision was made. I think in some cases requiring high expectations of all kids can be the right way to go -- so there isn't a choice for kids to opt out and take the easier path (e.g., not take the test)?

Rich - a thoughtful post, as always -- thanks. I would love a different system of government ... sign me up as supporting the charter anytime.

In terms of the override -- I haven't decided how I will vote on this (despite having now heard from multiple sources that I'm against an override). But I voted for (and supported -- in money, time, and energy) the last one, and yet feel my decision to support one then was based on not very good information (given that the things that would supposedly happen if it didn't pass didn't actually happen). I'm not going to make that mistake again -- I'm going to seriously review all information I can (and as a member of the SC, I can know more now then I knew then) BEFORE I make a decision.

But here's the thing -- I would LOVE to support an override. I would be THRILLED to support an override. But I'm not comfortable saying "here's more money, just keep on doing what you are doing" and I'm not comfortable saying "here's more money, thanks for promising that things are going to be different now if I just trust you."

I have real concerns about how decisions are made in our district -- financial decisions and educational decisions. We have new leadership in our schools now, in Dr. Rodriguez, and I'm hopeful that we can see a change in the process by which decisions are made -- a process that uses data and comparisons and evidence, and not anecdote and intuition, which I do not think have served our district well. I don't need to maximize every single efficiency in our schools and I don't need 14 improvements in our educational system (or even promises of such improvements). But I need, and I think some parents/community members need, some sign that giving more money to the schools (and I'm not talking about the fire/library/policy here) is going to be money well spent. When I have that sign, I will support an override -- loudly. If that sign can happen by March 23rd, I'll support one this year. If it comes this summer or later, I'll support one in 2011. But for me to support an override, I do need to believe that the extra money I'm paying, and the extra money I'm asking other Amherst residents to pay, will be money well spent.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Joel:

"Members of the Amherst Select Board now know more about the issue of relocating prisoners from Guantanamo Bay than they do about how the town spends the vast majority of its tax revenue through the schools."

I reiterate - with all the conflicting views, numbers, etc. either produce a transparency document a la NOHO or hire an accountant to produce that for us.


Catherine A. Sanderson said...

More from me:

Rich (continued) -
One more thing: I believe the Northampton voters passed an override because there was a general belief in that town that the schools cared about all kids. The educational decisions made in that district have been about providing opportunities for all kids to be challenged and engaged -- meaning they track math in 7th (we give extra homework for advanced kids), they require 9th grade biology (we require ecology, unlike any other district in the US), and although they are a smaller district with fewer high school classes than we have, they offer a rich array of AP classes (including AP chem and AP stats and an extra physics AP). I'm thrilled that the Amherst schools have a rich music program (my oldest child has already benefitted from his orchestra experience at Fort River), I've enjoyed hearing the HS music groups perform, and I fought to keep this part of our program in our budget last year (one of the reasons I thought closing MM was the right decision). But our district seems to have adopted a prevailing belief that we don't have to teach or challenge all kids, and that message is conveyed to many kids and parents in our district in many ways. It is NOT all teachers (and I know of many teachers in our district in all of our schools who are working extremely hard), but it is certainly some teachers -- I've been shocked at the number of teachers who will literally say to parents that "we just can't worry about your child." That to me is the key reason why there are some parents who are not sure they will support an override -- because they have gotten the message implicitly or explicitly (in some cases) that the schools didn't really care about their kids. When that perception goes away, I believe there will be tremendous support for an override -- and as a member of the SC, I'm doing everything I can to push for some real and substantitive (even symbolic) gestures that the district/superintendent could make early in 2010 to show that there is a new focus in the Amherst schools on educating all kids, not just some kids.

One more thing: I will try not to huff and puff ... but I just can't as a member of the SC worry about whether I'm going to get re-elected (nor do I have any idea of whether I will even run again in 2011). I know full well already that between my cries to close Marks Meadow and my support of redistricting many Amherst voters won't vote for me. Others don't like this blog, and thus I've lost their support already. But I believe those decisons were right -- so even if they were to cost me re-election, I had to take those stands because they were the right thing to do (even if not the most popular). Similarly, if I believe that opposing an override is the correct thing to do (given my belief about how decisions are made in this district and how our limited resources are being utilizied), I will oppose one -- knowing that that opposition may well end any chance I have of re-election. Again, my hope is that I will be able to support an override in 2010 -- because my hope is that parents and community members will see a sign from the district that things are in fact moving in a new direction in our schools, and thus we can feel good about giving more resources to the schools, knowing that money will be well spent.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Joel (at 8:22) - I agree that Rich's post was very thoughtful. And I agree that transparency (e.g., line by line budget for our schools) would help increase confidency/understanding about how resources are spent.

Joel (at 8:31) - I don't know that others in town would be satisfied with simply a line by line budget ... but this would certainly be a step in the right direction!

HT - I know of many voters who feel as you do ... if the schools are asking for more money, they want to know how that money will be spent. It was quite clear that there was misinformation about how money would be spent in the 2007 override, since the things that were going to happen if it didn't pass didn't happen! And although we have a new superintendent, and a few new people on the SC, most of the other players are still the same. I think that is why there needs to be some demonstration from the district that shows how decisions are going to now be made in a different way -- so that people can feel confident that giving more money is the right way to go. I am still hopeful that we will see some real leadership on this front in the next month or so -- which will build a feeling of confidence and trust in supporting an override.

Anonymous said...

I think it is also important to look at the long-term picture here. The graph that Mark Jackson displayed at his budget presentation (projection to FY2014) showed lines that continued to diverge well after the next fiscal year. So, say we pass an override this year or next year -- then what? The lines keep moving apart. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do to get our fiscal "act" together for the long term. I too would call for greater transparency with the budget - seeing that, override or not, we have to make some important decisions.

Joel said...

To Anon 9:37,

I have never looked at detailed information on college placements, but the Gazette's listing of where kids are going to college from the area high schools seems to show Noho doing as well or better than Amherst HS. I noticed that when I moved back to the area in 2006. We lived in Northampton in the mid-1990s and back then Amherst HS did much better in college placement than Northampton HS.

So, I don't think it's fair to say Noho has a "HORRIBLE" reputation. I think a HS with two forced study halls versus one with none is going to have a much greater impact on college admissions than many people understand. I was on the admissions committee of an extremely elite school (Rice University) and kids having that many fewer classes on their transcripts matters a lot.

Anonymous said...

9:02 again - I dont think it's necessarily the "easier path" for students to take an AP level course, comply with all of the course requirements, take it for a grade that will go on their transcript and be added into their grade average, but choose NOT to take the AP test. They're still taking school-based exams in the course and fulfilling all course requirements. When we offer so few higher level courses why would we penalize students who choose an AP level course -- taking on the responsibilities entailed in it, but also choose to defer taking the AP exam?

In this case, as with other issues, I try to remember that the student is at the center of the discussion. They should have the right to decide if in addition to the tests and homework assignments, they want to pursue AP credit.

Nina Koch said...

I don't think it's fair to say that any school system is horrible, especially based on hearsay. I also don't think it's very easy to say definitively that one school is better than another. Test scores tell only a small part of the story. The fact that our MCAS scores are higher than Northampton's and our SAT scores are slightly better tells me something, but it doesn't tell me a lot. I wouldn't use it as the basis of a decision.

I would question the notion that there is a single, well-ordered quantity known as "school quality" where we have reliable measuring devices that allow us to say A is better than B. There are too many dimensions, for one thing, and furthermore many of those dimensions do not readily lend themselves to measurement. People debate all the time about whether one sports team is better than another. There is no single, well-ordered quantity in that domain. Educational institutions are even more complicated than sports teams, with multiple goals to be satisfied simultaneously.

If it were that easy to rank schools, then the practice of re-accreditation would be very simple. We would just feed in the data and crank out a number. Instead, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) requires a long process for re-accreditation, which begins with a self-study according to NEASC criteria and also includes a site visit from the NEASC team where they look at student work, interview many people within the building and the general community, and visit a lot of classes. It's incumbent on us to demonstrate evidence that we are making progress and we gather a lot of data to do that. Test scores are one part of what we look at. The team will come to ARHS in 2012, and we are starting the self-study now because it takes so long to put it together.

Without having been to Northampton High School to visit classes, to see what kids are being asked to do, to find out what the members of the school community envision for their school, I would not begin to comment on the quality of the school. Even after that experience, I would not attempt to assign a number to the school. Instead, I might make observations such as "It seems like you have made very strong progress in your goal to get students to produce analytical writing in all subject areas." That's the kind of thing that the NEASC team does. They might also say something like "You need more library materials given the number of students you have and the curriculum that you are trying to implement." They decide if we deserve to be re-accredited and they make recommendations for improving the school.

I think it is a pretty interesting process and it would be good to get some community input to help us with our self-study. You can see the standards here:

NEASC Standards

This will give you a sense of what is entailed in assessing the quality of a school.

Anonymous said...

"Transparency", is a favorite word of this blog.

In light of the concept's popularity, I ask what is the evaluation being presently conducted by CORE? How much is it costing and who is paying? How was this contract awarded? And what is the connection with our present superintendent and the CORE staff and advisors?


Anonymous said...

Forgot to add their website.

Ed said...

There has been a lot of talk on this blog about AP classes, and whether we should have them, and who takes them and so on. But two things are quite clear: first, these classes do help kids get into college, and second, these classes can help kids place out of college classes (and thus have more options in their schedules -- and sometimes reduce college costs).

Catherine, you are missing a very important third value of these courses - personal enrichment of the individual student.

Three aspects of this:

First, I almost would like to see gifted considered a disability. What the AP courses do (if taught right) is enable the bright students to have something to keep them interested in school. By nature the school has to teach to the middle and that means that the bright kids are usually bored out of their minds.

Absent the accellerated courses and AP courses, you will have the brighter kids interlectually dropping out - which is when they start getting into drugs, trouble, pregnant, etc. So I consider AP courses almost a form of SPED (and a whole lot cheaper).

Second, there is an advantage to requiring the AP exams (and we all know that there is really no way to make kids actually take exams if they don't want to -- these are kids bright enough to intentionally answer every question wrong if they want to).

A good score on an AP exam - better a pattern of good scores on AP exams - will give self esteem to a kid of modest means who often will be lacking in it. THIS and this alone is enough to encourage a kid to go to college who otherwise might not -- "hey, you already have PASSED a college course, you *can* do the work, ignore what your buddies say..."

Third - kids taking these classes for self enrichment and requiring the AP exam is a form of quality control. If you don't have the exam being required, if you only have kids whose parents have already gotten them into college taking the classes, you will have an incredible downward pressure on academic rigor.

But above all else, you OWE it to the gifted kids to teach to their abilities. We already have AP courses in physical education - they are called sports teams. And no one is going to say anything about offering things to a talented runner, so why do we punish the kid with the high IQ?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nina Koch, for clarifying what "quality" means in a school according to the legitimating body.

The 2008 4-year HS graduation rate for NHS is 91.8%.

Amherst-Pelham is 88.6%.

The state average is 81.2%.

What we do for our most at-risk students is, to me, just as compelling a statistic as what happens to our AP cohort.

Joel said...

Anon 2:54

Are those numbers correct? Does Northampton have a higher graduation rate than Amherst? I find that surprising and troubling if so.

Anonymous said...

High schools compile a 'profile' - which they provide to colleges - that has a list of AP classes offered, what grade constitutes an A,B,C etc., and a list of every college that the past year's graduates went to. Includes two-year and four-year colleges, as well as how many kids don't go on to college. It's public and you can get this info. from guidance. It's also on line. (You could also get it from Noho, which would make a good comparison, esp. if you collected a decade's worth.) The 2007-2008 profile for ARHS shows that 73 percent of the grads went to four-year colleges, 18 percent went to two-year; .5 percent to the military; 7 percent to jobs. That's out of 323 graduates.
In 1999 72 percent of the grads went to four-year colleges.
In '08 one kid went to Harvard, three to Brown, 43 to UMass Amherst, six to Mount Holyoke; 23 to GCC, 28 to HCC etc etc.
However I don't see the graduation rate. These numbers just apply to those who actually graduated.

Rick said...

Anonymous said...

Rick - A quick look at the Noho site makes it seem like they don't provide nearly the amount of info. as Amherst. Am I missing stuff?
Thanks for digging those links out.

Anonymous said...

Catherine- Yes Hamp has a rich array of AP classes but so does Amherst- ARHS' classes just don't happen to be in the subjects that you want. And just a note about NHS and their AP program. The increase in the number of AP classes offered at NHS and the teacher training and support is largely privately funded. They were chosen to participate in this initiative exactly because they had an AP program that was limited in scope and which had limited success. ARHS , because it had ( and has) a firmly established and successful AP program would not have qualified for inclusion in this initiative or would have got significantly less dollars to support the expansion.

Anonymous said...

The APs aren't what Catherine wants, it's what concerned parents want. We want more math and science AP classes because that's where our kids are being ignored.

Anonymous said...

Actually- it's what SOME parents want. I would choose AP Latin over AP stats any day. Other parents want a fuller menu of electives for their children say more choices in literature or foreign languages or dare I say it -paella-making.

Abbie said...

to anon@255:

your choices of AP classes and $2 will get your kid a cup of coffee. I think a lot of parents want HS courses that open up possibilities for their futures...and also allow them to make rational choices about their lives, their government and their environment.

Anonymous said...

to Anon 4:35- I'm not sure what your point is- are you saying that in order for our kids to make rational choices about their lives, government and environment that they need to take AP math and science classes? Or that unless I want that I'm not a concerned parent?

Anonymous said...

The four-year graduation rate is not the same as the "dropout" rate. Those are different numbers.

The Amherst dropout rate for 2008 was 5.2%. Northampton's was 2.6.%

You can look it up (link below).

To evaluate the quality of a community's schools, you must look at how well it does by its most vulnerable populations.

Another comparisoin:
Amherst has chosen to run its own high needs secondary programs rather than pay for local out of district services provided by HEC/Hampshire Education Collaborative or other providers (I am 99% sure that Amherst does not belong to HEC).

Any way you slice it, kids with severe psychological and behavioral problems need special placements and LOTS of adult supervision. They can get it in-district or out of district.

I'd be looking more carefully at those costs -- using HEC & other services vs in-district. Yes, it's true that some placements for extreme situations can run six figures, but that is unusual.

Northampton moved its off site alternative HS program back into the main NHS building this year.

It would be interesting to know why, and if that offers any guidance to Amherst.

I know it hurs to use Northampton as a role model -- but, well, there it is.