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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Education News Beyond Amherst

It is very easy to focus entirely on education as it impacts us most directly -- what is going on in the Amherst and Regional Public Schools. But many of the discussions that we are having at a local level are also occurring on a national level. Here are a two pieces that I think really speak to the challenges public education now faces.

This first piece is from the New York Times, and examines Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's push to recruit new teaching talent ( Here's my favorite line: "Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be." I could not agree more.

This next piece is from the Washington Examiner, and discusses the issue of whether teachers should receive higher pay (as they do in the Amherst and Regional schools) for having masters degrees in light of evidence showing no association between education and effectiveness in the classroom ( This article notes that "The biggest losers will be university education schools, because they make a lot of money on master's degrees, Hanushek said. 'There's a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy,' he said." Given the increasing pressure on school budgets, I certainly agree that it makes sense to avoid spending money on things that don't improve education for kids.

This issue of whether higher pay should be given for teachers with masters degrees has also been raised by Bill Gates, as reported in Education Week ( Gates also makes the point that schools could save money by increasing class sizes, as long as those classes are taught by highly effective teachers. Again, these strike me as very interesting ideas to ponder for our schools.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And STILL More on Math

Given the massive interest about math my blog continues to generate, I am now receiving various articles from others about math (thank you!).

First, here is one from the University of Chicago on the important role that parents have in talking about math to their young children ( I found this research fascinating -- in part because we hear tons about the importance of reading to kids early on in terms of promoting literacy, but much less about the importance of talking about math/numbers.

Second, here's a story from the Boston Globe on how even Massachusetts is losing ground in advanced math ( I found this one pretty depressing -- both as a parent of three kids in Massachusetts schools and as a professor.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

School panel seeks advice on class sizes

This is an interesting article on class sizes in Brookline, and in particular addresses the Brookline School Committee's interest in making research-based decisions on how to best allocate district resources ( Steve Rivkin, who was asked to present information to the Brookline School Committee, describes his own research on the benefits of small class sizes for particular students.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Regional School Committee, November 9, 2010

I'll do a longer blog post soon on last night's meeting, but here is a brief summary of probably the part people are most interested in anyway from the Gazette -- the math report ( You can also read Dr. Chen's full report (, as well as curriculum director Beth Graham's response (, on the ARPS website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Math Review Presentation

Dr. Andrew Chen will attend the Regional School Committee meeting tomorrow, Tuesday November 9th, at 7 pm in Town Hall to present his findings about math in the Amherst and Regional schools. This item is scheduled quite early on the agenda, and I'm certain he will be willing to respond to questions. The full report has been received by the administration and the School Committee, and will be posted later today on the ARPS website. Please read the report and attend the meeting (or watch it live on ACTV) to hear Dr. Chen's recommendations involving math in our schools. There is also a brief piece in last week's Bulletin about the math review (

Update: The Math Report is now available on the ARPS website (4 pm Monday).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Much Education Action in Amherst

I'm just posting a few quick articles from the Gazette that address issues of education in Amherst, and thus I thought would be of interest to my blog readers. Enjoy!

Here is an article just posted on line announcing Maria Geryk's intention to apply for the permanent superintendent job (

This article, from yesterday's Gazette, describes the formation of a committee in Leverett to study various alternatives to their school structure ( People interested in learning the other towns' explorations about education options should also check out the Shutesbury group's website, which describes a number of options they are considering, including pulling their 7th and 8th graders from the Amherst Regional Middle School and forming a K to 8 district with Leverett and Pelham (

Note: I have now fixed one of these links that wasn't working - sorry about that!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I'm posting a review from the New York Times of a new documentary on failing public schools in America ( The film is playing at Amherst Cinema and I encourage everyone interested in educational issues to see the movie. The documentary highlights the efforts of Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, and Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the Washington, DC schools, to reform public education in America.

The documentary brings up many controversial issues around and approaches to education reform, and is creating significant discussion across America. Amherst schools of course do not face the considerable problems seen in the NYC and DC public schools. However, the topics the film addresses, the achievement gap, charter schools, and the role of teacher evaluation and teachers unions in education, are all being played out in Amherst as well as the big cities.

I haven't yet seen the film, and I am not endorsing or criticizing any of the positions or politics explored in the film. Like anything that points out faults in our education system the film has been heavily criticized for being anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school and all together too negative. On the other hand it has been celebrated for finally talking openly about the crisis in American education that should have been addressed years ago. I hope that the film might provide some insight and inspiration as we examine the issues around public education in our town.