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 23, 2010

Finalists Announced for Middle School Principal Position

Three finalists have been announced for the position of Amherst Regional Middle School Principal: Karsten Schlenter, Michael Hayes, and Paul Goodhind.

The finalists will visit the district on April 1, 2010 and will spend the day on site at the Middle School in a variety of settings. Each candidate will begin his day with a building tour, followed by meetings with staff, students, elementary and secondary administrators, and Central Office administrators. The public forums will be held in the Middle School library on the evening of April 1 at the following times:

  1. Karsten Schlenter 6:30 - 7:15 p.m.
  2. Michael Hayes 7:15 - 8:00 p.m.
  3. Paul Goodhind 8:00 - 8:45 p.m.

A profile of each candidate will be posted here shortly. We invite all members of the community to attend the forums and provide input into this very important decision for our school district.


Anonymous said...

In a field in which the workers are overwhelmingly female- we couldn't find a qualified woman? AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

Information on Karsten Schlenter can be found at: Ideally, his family would be moving here with him!

Paul Goodhind comes to us from Mahar Regional

Abbie said...

I would very much like to hear Mike Hayes opinion of the Math extensions program. As I understand it, he was instrumental in its creation/implementation. I have grave concerns that someone who in the past (maybe he has changed his mind) supported, maybe even created, the extensions program would be the Principle of that school. To my knowledge this program was/is entirely novel and has had no evaluation of its effectiveness. Personally, I don't want someone in charge of the MS who might be so open to such novelty without any empirical support for its future success.

I am also very disappointed by the absence of any women in the finalist list. Is it a NE thing? In the midwest the vast majority of principles (ES/MS) are women.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:55

I think your question ultimately speaks to how many qualified people were even interested in working in this district. I know thw knowledge is confidential but I wonder how many actually bona fide qualified people applied for this job which once might have been a desirable position but no longer seems to be for a variety of reasons. I am wondering what kind of real pool they had to select their finalists from.

As for the gender, the last three hires for the position(Cavalier, Ziperstein, Cresto)were women, so the track record there does not seem to be slanted in any one direction (in case you were implying that).

Nina Koch said...


I think it is best if you link to info on the arps site rather than pasting it here. I have already made several edits to it since it was first posted. There are now links to bios for the candidates, which were not yet available when I first posted the story.

Last year there was a mistake in one of the bios for supt and unfortunately that mistake was replicated in multiple places even after I had made the correction on our site.

So, if we end up changing a time for the forum or the location or something, it would be best if your posting links to ours.

This page has the most complete information:

There is also the story on the front page of the site.


Anonymous said...

Given all the whispers about the "insider candidate", it would be best if the ARPS website posted the resumes of all three candidates. Little excerpts from the cover letters show a disrespect to the public. Give us more information! Transparency!

Also, why is there no Amherst School Committee member on the search committee? Is this all a set-up to make sure nothing ever ever changes?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 2:55 - I agree that it would have been nice to have a woman be interviewed for this position. Seems like we are destined to have only men serving as principals in our district. Of course, I also believe we want the best candidate ... and perhaps these were the three best!

Anonymous 3:03 - thanks much for posting those links!

Abbie - I agree with your concerns regarding extensions -- and I haven't seen any evidence that Mike Hayes has changed his mind. I attended MS orientation last night (as the mother of a 6th grader), and it was clearly described that extensions will be offered in math again next year. I have yet to hear any data on its effectiveness -- though I've asked for this for years -- and I have yet to hear of another district that uses such an approach.

Anonymous 3:37 - I agree that it is impossible to know how many qualified women applied, and that certainly women have been selected for this position in the past.

Nina - I am quite confident that my blog readers are also aware that they should refer to the ARPS website for school-related information -- and thank you for reminding them that they should use that source in addition to this blog.

Anonymous 4:55 - I agree that it would be good to post resumes of all the candidates. I would suggest someone emailing Maria Geryk and asking for that to be done.

The Regional SC appointed me and Tracy Farnham - member of the Pelham SC - to the MS principal search committee, but then I was asked to step down because I met with Mike Hayes (a meeting we had set up in my role as "parent in the district" -- not SC member -- prior to my being asked to serve on the MS search committee, but AFTER I had signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the search committee). Thus, I was called by Farshid Hajir, Chair of the Regional SC, who told me that Maria Geryk believed I should step down from the hiring committee because she believed that my meeting with Mike was a violation of the confidentiality agreement (although my interpretation of the agreement was different). So, this left the Amherst School Committee unrepresented.

Nina Koch said...

Along with excerpts from the candidates' cover letters, the posted bios show where the candidates have worked in the past and where they were educated. I believe this is the standard information found in a resume. Basically it takes that information and puts it into paragraph form. I'm not sure why this approach constitutes disrespect of the public. Can you be specific about what other information you would like to know about the candidates?

Anonymous said...

Mary Cavalier was hired like 15 years and 4 superintendents ago. Fran Ziperstein was the Sr AP and was named Co- principal with Mike Hayes who was the math curriculum coordinator at the time. The district has an abysmal record of hiring and retaining woman principals.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody thought about asking students and parents about the extensions program? Perhaps some who are not from Amherst Woods or Lincoln Ave.

Also, what do the teachers (HS & MS) think? Perhaps we could find some who worked under both models.

Qualitative data is better than blind doubt.

For quantitative data, couldn't we compare enrollment in Honors level math, beginning with Algebra 1. MCAS data comparison also has to be readily available.

I'm sure some of the greatest innovations in education needed to begin with a 'leap of faith.'

Anonymous said...

In the last Middle School principal search, Mike Hayes applied and was a finalist, and was deemed not appropriate for the position. Now, he is a finalist again. If he was not good enough last time, he is not good enough this time. While he has been the math curriculum person (and yes, the extensions were his invention), assistant principal, interim principal, and maybe some other title, NOTHING improved at the school. Now, he is once again in the running. We should be very, very careful. Just because he is a known quantity and is always available (like Maria Geryk I guess), does not mean he is the BEST person for this job.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:39

Looks like this town also does not do so well at voting for women for SC, based on the last couple of elections. Now it's Catherine and the boys.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Nina - I think a resume includes fuller information, such as length of time in various positions. I am not sure why this wouldn't be posted, since surely all of the candidates submitted resumes and thus is already available.

Anonymous 6:39 - interesting point re. the women principals. I didn't know all that history.

Anonymous 7:55 - 3 years ago, a survey was sent to all students in 7th and 8th grade and their parents regarding extensions - I was on the Math Curriculum Council at the time (not on School Committee), and I would say there was pretty consistent concern about extensions expressed in that forum. You can probably find this report summarized on line still. It didn't ask for the addresses, so I have no idea whether this was only Amherst Woods/Lincoln Avenue parents. However, let's be clear -- Extensions works fine for parents who can (a) teach their child the math on their own/require them to complete the extensions, or (b) pay for a tutor. Extensions works much less well for other parents without these options -- which is why it was striking to me that a group of students of color in the high school (again, I don't know whether they live in Amherst Woods or on Lincoln Avenue) came to a SC meeting earlier this year and stated that they didn't even know about extensions when they were in middle school. Extensions was also not mentioned at the parent orientation last night at the middle school -- meaning that parents weren't told that completing these were necessary for children to get into 8th grade algebra. So, this again seems to benefit those parents who live in Amherst Woods/Lincoln Avenue and can learn this information from their neighbors. I also note that the Beers report specifically noted that this approach wasn't used in other districts, and that he had concerns about why we were doing something so different.

Anonymous said...


I don't understand these two quotes from you in this train of thought:

At 6:38 PM:

"I attended MS orientation last night (as the mother of a 6th grader), and it was clearly described that extensions will be offered in math again next year."

And five hours later:

"Extensions was also not mentioned at the parent orientation last night at the middle school -- meaning that parents weren't told that completing these were necessary for children to get into 8th grade algebra."

These are two contradictory statements that you used to make two different points, I guess.

I happen to know which one is is true (the first) because I was also there last night. There was not much time for each presenter to speak, but I:

- saw extensions mentioned as the advanced 7th grade curriculum, on a powerpoint slide
-heard the presenter say that we (parents) would hear much more about them in the fall
-read in the handout that they provide the pre-requisite material for 8th grade Honors Algebra
-also read in the handout that there is much communication about the extension decisions between parents, teachers, and students

Just the facts.

Anonymous said...

I am confused and concerned about Mr. Hayes becoming a finalist for a variety of reasons. First, he made it quite clear in public appearances this fall that he would not seek the position, so I wonder how he so quickly changed his mind and for what reasons. Secondly, given the scathing nature of the Beers report and the need for the new principal to oversee an overhaul of the school, I would really want to carefully evaluate whether he has the expertise to do so. He has been so much a part of establishing and continuing some of the various methods that require changing and all of his experience is at this school, leading to my skepticism that he has other skills and knowledge to bear on this. I hope the public forums and interviews carefully consider this concern.

Anonymous said...

I am concerned about the inclusion of Mr. Hayes as a finalist. First of all, Mr. Hayes publicly stated this fall that he would not seek the position, so I wonder how he so quickly changed his mind and why. Secondly, given the scathing nature of the Beers report and the need for the new principal to overhaul many aspects of the Middle School, I wonder how Mr. Hayes, who has worked only at this school and district, and moreover has helped produce and continue the current system, has the expertise and experience to make those changes. I think this needs to be carefully considered.

Anonymous said...

I am confused and concerned about the inclusion of Mr. Hayes as a finalist. Firstly, he publicly announced this fall that he would not seek the position, so I would like to know the reasons why he so quickly changed his mind. Secondly, given the scathing nature of the Beers report and the need for the next principal to make sweeping changes, I wonder how Mr. Hayes, who has worked only in this school and district and who has ushered in and continued some of the questionable policies, has the expertise and experience to make those needed changes. I hope has been carefully evaluated in the interview process.

Anonymous said...

"3 years ago, a survey was sent to all students in 7th and 8th grade and their parents regarding extensions - I was on the Math Curriculum Council at the time (not on School Committee), and I would say there was pretty consistent concern about extensions expressed in that forum."

I imagine YOU would say that as you did three years ago when YOU summarized the data.
Looking at the raw data (ie non-interpreted) tells a very different where a small percentage of articulate parents wrote long testimonials about their bad experiences in the Middle School, mostly relating to teachers who no longer work there. By comparison of the numbers on that math survey, the Middle School actually had a higher approval rating then either the elementary schools or the high school. I think its time to stop waving that data around and claiming it is something it is not.

Anonymous said...

"Extensions works fine for parents who can (a) teach their child the math on their own/require them to complete the extensions, or (b) pay for a tutor. Extensions works much less well for other parents without these options"

8th grade Algebra 1 Honors students prior to extensions about 25%

Present 8th grade Algebra 1 Honors students about 40%, which doesn't include the increasing number of Geometry students and ALGEBRA 2 students now enrolled at the Middle School.

I know this is an issue that you are very passionate about, do you think it might be time to re-examine it?

Anonymous said...

"I also note that the Beers report specifically noted that this approach wasn't used in other districts, and that he had concerns about why we were doing something so different."

His report states that there was "mixed reaction" regarding extensions among parents, but that most felt that it had problems, eg. "busy work" and "students teach themselves."

As a solution (or a question?) he suggests ARMS teach Pre-Algebra, as other districts do, to better prepare students for Algebra 1 in grade 8. Would these mean abandoning the new 6-8 textbook series and also abandon the Algebra for all notion? Should we keep the "Yes for Amherst" signs out for an override for new math texts?

Anonymous said...

So much for being focused on hiring the best candidate.

If the statistic mentioned above about the sex of midwest principalsis is true, think how crazy it would be from someone in the midwest to say "we can't find a qualified man?".

Let's get beyond sex, race, "outsider", etc. and just hire the best person for the middle school students.

Anonymous said...


I am confused. In your earlier post you expressed concern about extensions stating that Mike Hayes said at the 6th grade orientation that "it was clearly described that extensions would be offered for math again next year" and then in the most recent post stated "extensions was also not mentioned at the parent orientation last night" So which is it... a concern about extensions that was clearly talked about or the fact that extensions was not mentioned. I respect the time you spend on this blog and at SC meetings but do feel that you often "twist" the facts to support whatever position you take at the time.

I have a 7th grader and at least this year there is no way a student would be unaware of extensions unless they are in SPED math and not in the regular classroom. In our case having extensions has been a positive experience without any tutoring. The math teachers are available almost every day for student who want additional support or challenge.

I am taking a break from the Blog as I feel everything is negative. I am a glass half full person.

Anonymous said...

I agree about Mr. Hayes. I think that there were some pretty compelling reasons that he did not get the job the last time around: the fact that he still has not worked in any other district besides Amherst and that he continues to be wedded to the extensions in 7th grade math.

But I don't think that Beers' report was scathing- saying that ARMS is a good school that could be great really is not scathing-it indicates that there are areas for improvement- and math is one of them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hayes was a finalist in the last go round for MS principal, and he was not chosen then. With the Beers report stating that there is much room for improvement at the MS, and with the school having had Mr. Hayes near the top of the administrative structure for many years, I think the SC would be foolhearty to select him. He has been in many positions there over the past 5 or so years, and things have not improved much.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 1:12 - extensions was mentioned as part of the access to algebra in 8th grade in the packet, but was NOT verbally mentioned at all during the presentation. It would seem to me that stating aloud that completing extensions is a crucial step towards gaining access to algebra would be appropriate -- I'm not sure how many parents go home and read the packet! I also think that given the importance of completing extensions to gain access to algebra, it would be worth mentioning on repeated occasions aloud -- not just in the fall. If we are trying to make sure that all parents are aware of the importance of this choice, this would be a great opportunity in which to do so when many parents of 6th graders are all gathered together.

Anonymous 1:38 - I believe all parents should attend this forum to learn about all candidates, and should definitely convey their feedback to the superintendent (forms will be provided).

Anonymous 6:03 - First, I actually summarized the data along with two teachers -- it was a subgroup of three of us, and I focused on the quantitative data, and they (one elementary teacher, one HS teacher) focused on the quantitative data. So, we can't say that it was my bias in reporting the data. Second, comments on the most recent MS survey weren't released, so I don't think we have anyway of knowing whether concerns about extensions were or were not raised. Third, the Beers report -- which was JUST released and didn't include any data I examined -- also raises concerns about extensions. What I've claimed, and what others have claimed, is that we are the only district in the country who uses extensions as a way of gaining access to 8th grade algebra. That was true when this approach began, and it is true now. Some people (not you, obviously) find this concerning.

Anonymous 6:09 - I think it is great if more kids are now taking algebra. But I also think it is important to figure out how we are doing NOT just compared to how we used to be doing, but how we COULD be doing. So, I did a study as part of the Math Curriculum Council in 2008, and this study revealed that the % of kids in Amherst who take algebra is lower than that in many of our comparison districts (e.g., Arlington, Brookline, Chapel Hill, Framingham, Newton, Princeton).

Anonymous 6:26 - the Beers report does indeed suggest that 7th graders could be divided into pre-algebra (in which extensions were covered as part of the regular class) and regular math (in which extensions were OFFERED). This would be what most other districts do (most districts group students at the start of 6th grade, which is when MS starts in most districts). And no, it would not require new textbooks - the Impact series was purchased to try to prepare a higher number of kids for algebra.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

More from me:

Anonymous 6:44 - I can't imagine everyone isn't focused on hiring the best candidate. I think it was somewhat surprising to people that, given the likely pool of MS principals, all of the finalists are men. That is just an observation, and I think it is fine to make.

Anonymous 6:56 - just to clarify: extensions were verbally mentioned as "an option" at the meeting, but they were not described as being "the route to 8th grade algebra." That information was contained in the packet, but it was not addressed verbally, which I think is odd. And having kids know of the existence of extensions is not enough -- the key thing is that extensions are the PATH to 8th grade algebra, and 8th grade algebra is the PATH to taking calculus in high school, and taking calculus in high school opens doors in college (e.g., to majors like math and economics and premed studies). It is not enough that a 7th grader is aware that you could do some extra homework that we call extensions! That is precisely my concern about extensions - it advantages parents like me who understand these links. I will require my kids to do extensions, and I will get them help to complete them if needed. But I talk to caring and smart parents all the time who don't understand that completing extensions is a big deal in terms of future options.

Anonymous 8:19 - I think the Beers report was fair -- and yes, the MS is a good school that could be great. I look forward to hearing the action plan developed by administrators for moving this school to the next level.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 8:38 - just to clarify: the SC has absolutely no say in who is hired as the next MS principal. NONE. That decision is entirely up to Maria Geryk.

Anonymous said...

Having had 2 kids go through the mddle schl utilizing the extentions option, I think the math extentions are useless. The teacher does not teach or correct the material. It is the parent/tutor's responsibility to teach the student info. covered on the extentions.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if the people who are posting negative things about the middle school even have a student at ARMS this year. It is a GREAT place! Mike Hayes has done a super job this year. I want the best and he seems to be living up to that label.

Anonymous said...

I was in a different group of 6th grade parents and the importance of doing extensions wasn't presented to us either. I think it is something that more parents are becoming aware of due to word of mouth and your blog, so thank you.

Anonymous said...


In your answer to anon 6:26 you actually say what the real issue is here. It is about tracking students in Math as 7th (or even 6th) graders. This is what you are clearly in favor of, which is a perfectly fine opinion for you to have. If that is what you want you should be talking about that!

Extensions actually make perfect sense if they are viewed in the context of heterogeneous grouping. They represent a good example of the differentiated instruction that so many people believe is essential to good education for ALL. They are the higher end challenges that are available to all in the class, but may not be appropriate or expected from all.

Please stop sounding like there is a conspiracy to hide this "ticket" to honors algebra. My experience is parents and students were well informed about them. It is not a secret club!

Truthfully, a student can take the entrance test for 8th grade honors without ever having done extensions during 7th grade, but why would any one choose to? If a baseball coach tells you "I'll help you for a year to learn skills that will help you pass a tryout next June" most would appreciate the offer and take them up on it, but you don't have to.

My child has ahd a good 7th grade this year (Team Mango) and I felt very informed about options in Math right from the start.

Anonymous said...

Not only are extensions in 7th grade math the ticket into 8th grade honors algebra, but that whole process is the ticket to finishing the math sequence at the high school. You can not get to calculus as a high school senior unless you take algebra in 8th grade. Does anyone ever mention that?

For those who say a student can double-up math classes at the high school to "catch up," I would tell you that it doesn't happen. And in this age of 2 required study halls at the HS, the administation there doesn't allow doubling-up of core courses, as far as I can tell.

Anonymous said...

I know that there have been failed searches for principals, ass't principals and other misc administrative personnel in the past. Is there a chance that the search for a MS principal will be a failed search? I don't know anything about these candidates so my question is not based on anything specific to the candidates. I am just wondering when in the process is a search deemed a failed search. Do we ever get this far in a search and then decide to start again?

Anonymous said...

The extensions sound like "challenge math" in the elementary school(s). In the fourth & fifth grades, a sheet of optional challenge math problems is given out weekly & depending on the teacher, it is either corrected or not corrected. There is absolutely nothing to force or entice a child to do the challenge math except the parents (no rewards, no pats on the back from the teacher).

The challenge math problems are not even related to the week's (or year's) math units. They seem to be mostly logic problems similar to the Logic section on the GMAT, but with numbers. To me, challenge math should be harder division problems if the weekly unit is division. Or perhaps applied division word problems. But not, for example, alegebra problems when the fifth grader has never seen algebra and never will during that year (and yes, every other, there is an algebra problem that requires me to teach or show my fifth grader the methods).

If kids are used to the optional challenge math problems that seem to lead nowhere specific, then how will they know that extensions is any more important than challenge math?

Again, this seems to be a call for vertical alignment. Horizontally, there IS alignment across the different classes for each of these two grades.

As an involved, educated parent who recognizes the importance of math, who has the time, and the ability, I force my child to do all of the challenge math every week & will definitely be making my child complete extensions in 7th grade.

However, it is not fair to assume that all parents, especially the underprivileged ones, have the time or knowledge or background to push extensions on their child. Extensions benefit the self-motivated kids and those who come from motivated families which is NOT in line with Amherst's mentality of social justice.

Especially if there is no support INSIDE the classroom for extensions. If there is no support in school for extensions, it is not truly available to kids of all economic and social backgrounds.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 9:18/9:19 - OK, so extensions worked well for one of you, and not for the other. That strikes me as a problem -- since we have no idea what the response would be to the prior system, and the system used in most other systems. That to me speaks to the issue -- that this might work well for some kids, and it might be taught well by some teachers. But let's remember -- the Beers reported noted a lack of consistency AND a lack of differentiation.

Anonymous 9:42 - I am glad that my blog is helping get the information out there -- but this really should NOT be how parents learn about extensions! That is what concerns me!

Anonymous 11:19 - I'm highly in favor of not creating programs in Amherst that haven't been used elsewhere in the country and then seeing if those work on our kids -- and I think I've admitted to that repeatedly on this blog. That makes me in favor of programs with demonstrated success. If tracking gets more kids through 8th grade algebra, yes, I'm all for that! In Princeton, NJ (an MSAN district), where I attended middle school, they track at 6th grade. And 80% of kids finish 8th grade algebra - that would be twice as many as kids who finish 8th grade algebra in Amherst. To me, 8th grade algebra for all kids is the goal - and I think there is a lot of evidence in other districts that tracking helps accomplish this goal. Alternatively, we could decide (as we have) that tracking is BAD, so we don't track - and in turn, we have fewer kids finishing 8th grade algebra. That works OK for my kids -- because I definitely will force them to do extensions since I know the advantages of 8th grade algebra. But a public school system should push all kids to succeed - not just those with parents with PhDs.

Anonymous 12:26 - EXACTLY! That is why I was amazed that in the presentation on Monday, there was not a single mention aloud about the importance of doing extensions as a ticket to 8th grade algebra, which is a ticket to calculus! It would seem like if we have this system, we should at least be really making sure all parents are informed at EVERY opportunity.

Anonymous 12:49 - that decision would be entirely up to the superintendent.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 1:07 - I am not familiar with that type of challenge problem being given -- what school does your child attend (I don't think that happens at FR, though I don't currently have a kid in 4th or 5th). And I totally agree with all you wrote, especially the following: "Extensions benefit the self-motivated kids and those who come from motivated families which is NOT in line with Amherst's mentality of social justice."

Anonymous said...

From Anon 1:07 - My kids go to WW where the 4th and 5th graders get a sheet of challenge math every week (along with their weekly HW packets which includes spelling (if applicable), daily math worksheets from the Investigations workbook, a reading log and any writing assignments. The same packet is handed out to all the fourth grade classes and another packet is handed out to the fifth graders. The funny thing is that it has become obvious that fourth grade gets more HW than 5th grade. I don't know what happens in 6th grade.

The fourth and fifth grade teachers at WW teach as a team. It is a huge relief from 2nd/3rd grade where the amount and quality of HW differs based on the classroom teacher.

Since this obviously doesn't happen at FR, it is a call for horizontal alignment across the district. (And I do hear that they do differentiated math at FR, at least in one of the grades (quietly). For example, teachers will group their kids into two groups, and one teacher will take the higher learners and the other will take the lower learners for math period.)

This is another example of the type of thing that should be aligned across the district - how to deal with differentiated learning.

I hear the AEF supporting this initiative?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:07

You start by making an assumption that is incorrect and then argue your point based on that inaccurate assumption.

Extensions in 7th grade ARE NOT the same as "challenge math" in elementary school, so to argue against them because you assume they are the same is a waste of space and words.

They are much more intentional and directed towards a specific goal.
It is very clear to students and parents that they are significantly different than "challenge math".

Also this notion that they are not supported by the teacher is inaccurate as well. My child has received support whenever needed from her teacher. I know you qualify your statement with "if", but I assure you there is support inside the classrooms.

I do agree with you that more alignment would make lots of sense. If the elementary teachers want to give this challenging work, it would be great if it was work that aimed towards the goals that would benefit their children when they get to the MS.

Janet McGowan said...

It seems to me that 7th grade math Extensions has been more discussed on Catherine Sanderson's blog than anywhere else in the Town.

Has anyone at the Middle School held meetings to discussion the Extensions program and solicit parent and student feedback with how it is working? More than one meeting?

Has Extensions ever been evaluated to see if it works better than other 7th grade math programs more commonly used?

If there are problems with Extensions, is it the program or that some teachers aren't teaching it effectively?

If more Amherst students doing 8th grade alegabra now than in the past, is that the result of Extensions? Is it due to the new math textbook -- or the fact that the middle school Family School Partnership and other parents have widely publicized the math "tracks" created when kids do or do not do Extensions in 7th grade, so more parents are making their kids take Extensions?

The real underlying question is, why is it that a school board member has to repeatedly raise questions about Extensions -- for years?

Why isn't the Math Department and the District asking and then answering important questions about whether the Extension program works?

Anonymous said...

Anos 1:38, 1:44, 1:51 - Are you all the same person or have you found a form letter to copy and paste?

I'm glad Mike Hayes changed his mind and submitted his application. He knows the system, he knows the school, he knows the community - and he still wants to work here!

Anonymous said...

Extensions in 7th grade math is like organized differentiation. Its challenging students at the higher end and offering an opportunity for any kid to try it. Kids in all income brackets stay after school (and there is a late bus) to get any extra help that they need. There was never a time that we couldn't get help when we asked a question.

Anonymous said...

Janet McGowan-

You make a great point!

Catherine, why don't you hold an open forum for parents and students to talk about extensions in math?

The chit chat here on the blog doesn't really seem to help inform or get data on extensions math.

The clock is ticking as my oldest enters Kindergarten this Fall and I certainly would like it ironed out before 2018.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:07. Good luck with that wish to get that problem solved by 2018!

Janet McGowan

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My (final?) responses - so, I don't know if the extensions program is the same as/better than/worse than any other 7th grade math program in the country. What I do know is that this program (a) isn't used in any other districts, (b) hasn't been formally evaluated (or at least in a way that any results have ever been presented to the SC), and (c) has generated a lot of concern among parents and kids. It is clear that extensions works great for some kids/some parents. But given the a/b/c that I list earlier, I think it needs a very serious look.

Now, as Janet McGowan wisely points out, this is an issue that is not new. I was on the math curriculum council in 2008 in which this issue was raised, and I've been on SC for two years and have continually raised it in this capacity. Parent and student surveys in 2008 revealed concerns. Dr. Beers raised it as an issue in his report. That means that we've spent 2+ years discussing the absence of data/evaluation of this program, and the program has been in existence for more than 2 years.

It actually isn't my role/job as a member of SC to host an open forum on extensions ... but at tonight's meeting, it was announced that there will be a report on extensions in May at a SC meeting! So, stay tuned for that -- maybe we will get some answers/next steps.

p.s. Anonymous 1:07/1:59 - this is a great example of the lack of horizontal alignment across elementary schools ... and the quiet use of differentiation ... which really does need to be implemented more systematically across the district so that all kids are engaged and challenged every day. I know of teachers who do this extremely well all the time -- but I think we need to make sure we are supporting all teachers in whatever way we can to be able to do this type of teaching. I know I've heard from directly teachers (including teachers who I hear are fabulous) who say they want to differentiate, but aren't given information on how to do so effectively (this is especially true for newer teachers).

Anonymous said...

Since this train started out about principals (not the math curriculum!) thought I would chime in on that.

I understand some reservations people are expressing about Mr Hayes continuing on as principal at the MS.
I think it would be a shame, though, to lose someone like him for some of the stated reasons.

I have watched him grow in his various jobs as an administrator and think he has done a very good job this year, and could be a good person to lead this staff, and to take initiatives towards the kind of changes suggested in the reports. I believe that he has ideas and visions that he has been unable to follow through on in the various interim or acting positions he has had.

I would agree that he was not a great candidate for the principalship two years ago, but he has proved his mettle now!

I agree with the previous comment that Mr Hayes knows this district very well, and he actually WANTS to be here. That seems pretty darn important.

The last two "fresh faces" from outside who thought they wanted to be here, Ms Cresto and Dr Rodriguez, didn't work out so well.

While some are resisting hiring a "known quantity" I think we should appreciate a candidate to whom we are all "known quantities" who wants to stay and work with us.

Sam I Am

Anonymous said...

Perhaps (in the meantime while we are "evaluating" the extensions program) - EVERYONE should be required to do extensions, until it becomes obvious that certain kids are not ready for it (and they can be excused by the teacher). And these extensions should be taught in the regular math period? This way, at least a much larger proportion of the kids will be ready for 8th grade algebra. By making extensions optional, some kids who could be ready for 8th grade algebra might make themselves ineligible for the calculus track because of poor decision-making at a young age rather than lack of aptitude.

So is there or isn't there adequate support for extensions?

Overall it sounds like there IS support if you know to ask for it, but obviously this information is not readily understood or taken advantage of by ALL families who need it. A simple communications snafu? Certainly, a situation that can be remedied VERY EASILY.

To Anon 2:04 - I am glad to hear that there is support inside the classroom for extensions.

And clearly, Anon 6:56 am had a great experience too when they say "In our case having extensions has been a positive experience without any tutoring. The math teachers are available almost every day for student who want additional support or challenge."

However, from Anon 9:17's post I got the opposite view when they said:

"Having had 2 kids go through the mddle schl utilizing the extentions option, I think the math extentions are useless. The teacher does not teach or correct the material. It is the parent/tutor's responsibility to teach the student info. covered on the extentions."

And Anon 6:09 am says something similar:

"Extensions works fine for parents who can (a) teach their child the math on their own/require them to complete the extensions, or (b) pay for a tutor. Extensions works much less well for other parents without these options"

Anonymous said...

I think in many other districts math placement is determined by teacher recommendation. How fair is that?

Extensions seems to me to open the path of advanced math study a bit wider, and for a bit longer. I'm sure there are 6th graders who for various reasons do not appear ready for advanced study in math, who are ready later in their schooling.

Anonymous said...

My oldest was in 7th grade during the 1st full year of the implementation of extensions and it was an unmitigated disaster. I have had two children go through ARMS subsequently and each time 7th grade math has gotten better. I think that now 5 years in we should have enough data to assess the longterm success ( or not) of this program. And then , finally, we can accept it as effective for our student population and move on or scrap it and move on. My guess is that even if it is shown to be effective that won't end the debate for some.