MCAS Data Shows Pittsfield, Adams, North Adams Schools Under Performing

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Adams-Cheshire Regional School District is one of three county districts that are in the Level 3 category — meaning at least one school in the district is performing in the bottom 20 percent of the state.
ADAMS, Mass. — The school districts that serve the county's three largest municipalities are not meeting their proficiency goals.

Adams-Cheshire Regional, Pittsfield and North Adams school districts have at least one school performing in the bottom 20 percent of the state, according to the newest method of analyzing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing scores for school improvement released last month.

The scores and schools were once assessed by Adequate Yearly Progress but the state received a waiver from some federal requirements implemented by No Child Left Behind in January and have switched methods.

The new method, the Progress and Performance Index, assesses the school with the goal of reducing proficiency gaps in half by 2017 instead of the 100 percent proficiency goals set by No Child Left Behind. The reports have a stronger emphasis on student progress rather than sheer achievement.

The major difference between the two methods is that the new the Progress and Performance Index measures reward the schools for student growth, uses four years of data and isn't a simple yes or no on whether the school made standards.

Through a complicated formula, scores are given to various subgroups — such as all students, students with disabilities, income and race — and the goal is for an overall score of 75 or higher. A passing score would mean the district has hit its benchmarks for improvement in the various subgroups.

Only five districts achieved a 75 or above for all students in the four-year period — Lenox, Mount Greylock, Northern Berkshire Vocational (McCann Technical School), Lanesborough and Williamstown. In addition, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School also achieved Level 1.

The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District scored 61 this year and 53 over four years for all students; North Adams scored 29 this year with 38 over the four years; Pittsfield a 50 and a four-year score of 68.

In contrast, the county's highest scoring school districts were Mount Greylock Regional School District with 107 this year for all students and a four-year score of 88 and Lenox with a 107 and  a four-year score of 91.

Overall, Mount Greylock, because of the other subgroups, earned a  Level 1 ranking, which indicates that the goals for proficiency gaps are being met. There were 96 school districts — about 25 percent — statewide that were classified as Level 1.

The majority of both county and statewide schools received Level 2 rankings, meaning they are not reaching the goals for all of the subgroups. More than half of the schools statewide were ranked at Level 2.

The county's Level 3 districts — Pittsfield, North Adams and Adams-Cheshire — are ranked there because at least one school in the district is performing in the bottom 20 percent of the state. A total of 71 school districts statewide were categorized in Level 3.

In Adams, CT Plunkett Elementary School earned the Level 3 ranking despite scoring higher in the all-students category than the rest of the district this year and about the same as the others in the four-year aggregate. However, Plunkett is also the only Title 1 school in the district.

Plunkett showed vast improvement in the students with disabilities subgroup and improved in the students with high needs this year. Overall, the school did not improve its score for all students this year.

In North Adams, Drury High School ranked in Level 3 — showing a lack of improvement with the students with high needs and low income. However, the school did show a vast improvement in the all students category this year.

In Pittsfield, Crosby Elementary School, Conte Community School, Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School were all deemed Level 3 while Morningside Community School, Stearns Elementary School, Williams Elementary School and Reid Middle School all received Level 1 status.

Taconic was cited for having a persistently low graduation rate and the lack of improvement in the students with disabilities subgroup. Pittsfield High School met its target for all students but scored low in the high needs, low income and particularly low in the students with disabilities group. Crosby has high numbers for 2012 but are still one of the lowest performing schools in the state, according to the four-year aggregate. The school scored low in the students with disabilities group.

Clarification: Updated on Oct. 11 to include McCann Tech and BArT, which were inadvertently left out as Level 1 schools.

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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