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

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Hendrik Hertzberg in his New Yorker blog -- it may have been the same week as the issue with the Gladwell article -- had an interesting take that, to me, is difficult to disagree with:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...e-matters.html
    Hertzberg substantiates his position that the best feasible “educational reform” is smaller class sizes with two arguments:
    • Everybody knows that the smaller the class, the better the learning environment
    • Class size is easy to measure

    Fifty years ago, everybody knew that ulcers were caused by stress, that protons and neutrons were fundamental particles, and that personal computers were the domain of science fiction -- all of which have subsequently been proven incorrect. A claim that "everybody knows X" carries no weight whatsoever.

    Optimizing a system by focusing on easy-to-measure parameters is like looking for your lost quarter where the light is good instead of where you dropped it; yes the search is easier, but its guaranteed to fail.

    And to leave no doubt about his cluelessness, Hertzberg says

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Grasso View Post
    Short of abolishing the whole crazy system of local school boards financed by local property taxes and replacing it with an all-powerful national Ministry of Education financed by the federal income tax, I’ve always believed that the best feasible “educational reform” is, precisely, smaller class sizes.
    An all-powerful national Ministry of Education is the unattainable gold standard? What color is the sky on his planet?

    Our current system of education can and should be incrementally improved, but this path is like reaching for the stars by climbing a tree; we'll make progress for awhile, but we'll never get there. We don't even know where "there" is.

  2. #17
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    Default Are smaller classes the answer?

    I'd rather my children have super-fab teachers in a class of 30 than an average teacher in a class of 20. Smaller classes would mean more teachers that can't be fired. Wayland needs to give the principals and the superintendent all the tools they need to improve their schools. Smaller class sizes sounds reasonable, but it is an expensive choice. It's cheaper to have better teachers.

    What is the union protecting the teachers from? How does this help our students?

  3. #18
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    I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that he was being facetious about the Ministry of Education thing to make a point that schools funded by property taxes can easily lead to imbalance.

    As for the argument about class size, do you disagree with the premise on the grounds that class size has no correlation to student performance or that Hendrik Hertzberg is a clueless idiot?

    It may be cheaper to have better teachers with fewer classes, but how do we find the "super fab" teachers? How much do we pay them? Every fault in the school system cannot be laid at the feet of the teachers' union. In many underperforming school districts far too much funding goes to poor school administrations. As for Wayland, I think the superintendent and principals have been given the tools they need and the result has been a very good school system. It's my opinion that a primary driver of that success has been smaller class size guidelines.

  4. #19
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    Default Smaller classes are good

    Smaller classes are usually a benefit for the student and the teacher. Most people would agree that that is true. I believe the principals cannot do their job properly if they cannot fire teachers for not teaching up to his or her standards. That is a disadvantage for the school system and the students. Perhaps we've given the principals and superintendent all the "tools" they need to do their job within the confines of the teacher's union. I haven't heard from anyone who can explain how the union benefits the students.

  5. #20
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    1. Class size
    All else being equal, I can't think of a single logical reason why a class of 20 wouldn't yield better educational outcomes than a class of 25. The arguments are common sense: more individual attention, less strain on the teacher, and so on. That said, there is not to my knowledge any conclusive evidence that smaller classes as implemented do in fact lead to these improved outcomes.

    The Tennessee STAR study of at least a decade ago concluded, if memory serves me, that outcomes are improved for younger, disadvantaged students, but that these outcomes tended to diminish as the students moved through the system. One explanation that's been asserted is that schools have not effectively been able to adjust their teaching approaches to take advantage of the lower numbers. Another is that schools are inadvertently or intentionally trading off class size for teacher quality. I don't know the answer--I'm just citing what I've read.

    2. Unions
    I'm caveating this post with the disclaimer that I'm in no way referring to the philosophies, motivations, or actions of the Wayland Teachers Association or any of its individual members; doing so would be inappropriate for a sitting board member who might in the future be part of negotiations with said union.

    I fully support the right of unions to exist. That right can't be unlimited, however. I'm no expert on the detailed workings of unions, but don't like that at least some of them require public votes by their members, for instance.

    One argument put forth by some unions is that without their protection, teachers would be subject to capricious actions by administrators. Perhaps, but the same can be said of union-free corporate environments, and there's been no hue and cry there to this effect.

    One significant difference between companies and schools is that schools don't have revenue directly driven by performance. (One might contend, though, that better outcomes draw people to a town to benefit from those outcomes, as a result making more tax-based funding available.) I don't know that this necessarily increases the need for unions, but it might.

    Charter schools make for an interesting test case. If they succeed without their teachers seeing the need to unionize, then the same might be possible in the traditional public schools. Interestingly enough, the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton was recently the first in Massachusetts to unionize. It's too early to tell whether this is an aberration or the beginning of a trend.

  6. #21
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    In response to a post on the Town Crier discussion board, attached is a comparison of Wayland Middle School and AMSA on the 2008 MCAS.

    The brief summary is that Wayland out-performs AMSA (and Wellesley) by a considerable margin.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  7. #22
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    Default More detailed MCAS results comparison

    After Dawn Davies posted on the Town Crier comment area on this post

    To clarify, while on some tests AMSA is behind, in some it is ahead. That measure does not make Wayland a standout by any means. Does Wayland ever beat Weston? Wellesley?
    and

    There are a couple of occasions upon which Weston and Wellesley score below Wayland. There are also a number of times where AMSA's MCAS scores bested Wayland's, not one as indicated above
    and

    If you look at the MCAS data over the past couple of years, you find sometimes AMSA is ahead, sometimes WMS is ahead, the difference when one is ahead of the other is the same and the same number of times. It is available on boston.com, back through 2006. I have a table, but of course wouldn't want to mangle the data.

    In response to that, I posted the following summary of results:

    versus AMSA:
    Wayland 14-3-2

    versus Wellesley (Middle School):
    Wayland 11, Wellesley 8, Tie 2.

    versus Weston (Middle School):
    Wayland 16, Weston 5

    versus Wellesley (High School)
    Wayland 5, Wellesley 2

    versus Weston (High School)
    Wayland 4, Weston 3
    (noting that Wayland won all three years in math, Weston won all three in English, and Wayland won the 1 year of Science)

    I have attached a spreadsheet with the actual results over the three years for anyone wanting the data.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  8. #23
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    New information from the Boston Globe on charter schools and their under-representation of struggling students is discussed here.

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