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Thread: Partial comparison of Advanced Math/Science Academy and Wayland Public Schools

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Wayland MA

    Default Partial comparison of Advanced Math/Science Academy and Wayland Public Schools

    A thread on the Town Crier discussion board about whether Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) charter school students are "disadvantaged" relative to Wayland students includes a variant on this post.

    The formation of a charter school in an area that is performing poorly ON AVERAGE does not necessarily mean that the students from that area who attend the charter school perform equally poorly. A parent of a child who struggles might, for instance, be dissuaded from sending his or her child to a school called the Advanced Math and Science Academy.

    To my knowledge, it's not possible to see grade 3, 4, and 5 MCAS scores for the students in AMSA's grade 6-9 charter school. There are, however, comparisons that can be made based on data available on the "profiles" section of the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education web site.

    Student Population

    % White
    - AMSA 86.2%
    - Wayland 79.6%

    % Asian
    - AMSA 8.4%
    - Wayland 10.2%

    % Hispanic
    - AMSA 2.1%
    - Wayland 3.8%

    % African-American
    - AMSA 0.2%
    - Wayland 4.1%

    In the overall student population, white and Asian students tend to be on one side of the achievement gap and Hispanic and African-American students on the other. I have no idea if this general finding holds for AMSA and Wayland students, but based purely on these cursory demographics, AMSA might be expected to out-perform Wayland.

    We can dig deeper by looking at other student indicators.

    % of students for whom English is a second language
    - AMSA 8.4%
    - Wayland 5.2%

    % of students with Low English Proficiency
    - AMSA 0.0%
    - Wayland 0.2%

    % of students in Special Education
    - AMSA 5.2%
    - Wayland 18.3%

    % of students described as low income
    - AMSA 1.9%
    - Wayland 5.1%

    % of students receiving free lunch
    - AMSA 1.7%
    - Wayland 3.7%

    % of students receiving reduced price lunch
    - AMSA 0.2%
    - Wayland 1.4%

    On all but the first of these measures, Wayland would appear to have the more disadvantaged student population, but of course, there may be more complex underlying factors.

    Percent attendance
    - AMSA 95.9%
    - Wayland 96.5%

    Percent in-school suspension
    - AMSA 1.0%
    - Wayland 0.4%

    Percent out-of-school suspension
    - AMSA 4.4%
    - Wayland 0.3%

    Perhaps Wayland children come to school more because Wayland punishes them less?

    Student:Staff Ratio (FY07)
    - AMSA: 16.9:1
    - Wayland: 13.4:1

    Within reason, there is not strong evidence suggesting that smaller classes necessarily lead to better educational outcomes. Typically, Wayland has larger classes relative to its peer districts (but not AMSA), ranking 8th out of 11 on that metric in FY06.

    Teaching Staff

    Percent of staff with teaching certification
    - AMSA 48.3%
    - Wayland 97.8%

    Percent of core academic teachers who have certification
    - AMSA 85.5%
    - Wayland 99.4%

    I don't know what impact this has on educational outcomes.

    Average Teacher Salary (FY07)
    - AMSA: $50,312
    - Wayland: $64,037

    I don't know if this correlates with years of experience, overall pay scale, or other factors.


    FY07 Per Pupil Expenditure
    - AMSA: $10,017
    - Wayland: $13,214

    This is not surprising, as Wayland has more educators per student, and pays those educators more. Given that athletics (a popular "target") makes up only 2% of Wayland's budget, the cost difference lies elsewhere, and as the data above show, that elsewhere is in teaching.

    In general, smaller schools tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to per pupil expenditure, as they have fewer students over which to spread fixed costs, making AMSA's cost numbers all the more impressive. Whether you like AMSA's approach to educators relative to Wayland's or not, AMSA does do a good job of keeping cost down relative to Wayland.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Wayland, MA


    Were the proverbial "man from Mars" to review these statistics, he would focus first on the fact that only half of AMSA's staff are certified teachers, and test the hypothesis that this mix yields more effective and less expensive education.

    The other differences are all minimal with respect to "Percent of staff with teaching certification", with "% of students in Special Education" being the next most signficant.

    Of course these statistics miss some critical factors: e.g. student motivation level, and supportiveness of home environment. Thus drawing conclusions seems risky.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Wayland MA


    Dave, I completely agree that this comparison only begins to scratch the surface. It's hard to evaluate an educational program based only on data. For instance, AMSA is much more one-dimensional than Wayland is, with the latter's athletics, arts, and activities.

    As the lead-in to my post indicated, I dug into the data primarily to address the question of the "disadvantage-ness" of the incoming students. The assertion had been made to me that AMSA students were more disadvantaged. With the exception of English as a second language, the data points the other way. The reality may be different--if so, I'd be interested in additional evidence.

    With respect to outcomes, MCAS is a single measure, albeit an important one. An MCAS analysis addresses a second assertion that was made to me: that Wayland is in the top quartile of districts (the strong implication being that Wayland just barely qualifies at that level).

    The attached spreadsheet shows that Wayland, despite its apparently (relatively) disadvantaged student population, does better than AMSA, and also that Wayland is a top tenth percentile district (top fifth percentile for MS and HS).

    On another measure, SAT scores (2006-2007), Wayland ranks 11th out of 317 districts (top 4th percentile) according to DESE data reported by the Boston Globe.

    Mind you, none of this puts Wayland in "rest on our laurels" territory--we need to continually strive for improved performance.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Wayland, MA

    Default teaching certificates

    Some of the all-time crappiest teachers are state certified. Some of the all-time crappiest teachers are not too. In a private school the teachers can actually be "let go". I have a feeling the public school teachers almost never get fired for performance. I hate that an insipid teacher who has gained tenure can practically never get fired unless they break the law. It defies reason that a principal wants every teacher in every school back every year. If Wayland could break that trend, it might be number 1 every year. The teachers' union does make it difficult - and this is not for our children's best interests, it's for the teacher's jobs. I know that in New Jersey last year something like 3 public school teachers state-wide were fired out of tens of thousands of teachers. That's insane.

    I heard that at AMSA many teachers did get fired (or quit) for lacking performance. Sounds like an unstable charter school to me.

    I find the comparison between the schools flawed because one is huge and the other is small. AMSA has a totally self-selected population. Wayland has more diversity - probably in every way; that experience you cannot quantify.

    Did you see the Boston Globe article on how Massachusetts fared in the math and science testing in the world. Massachusetts was third in math after Singapore and one other asian country. Not too bad. Note that New Jersey wasn't high on that list

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path

    Default Testing 123

    Testing and grades aren't necessarily a great indicator of potential.

    Here is Albert Einstein's HS Diploma from 1896.
    I don't think it was stellar.

    What do you think?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Wayland MA


    I take it that in Einstein's day, a "1" was best?

    I completely agree that test scores only tell part of the picture. As it happens, they tend to be the easiest data to collect and compare.

    Ideally, though, there would be some collection of measures truly predictive of future outcomes, including but not limited to grades, test scores, project performance, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, professionalism, work ethic, communication, teamwork, health and wellness, ...

    I'm not holding my breath waiting for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to report these measures. Nor am I faulting them for not doing so, what with the tools at their disposal.

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