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A graph of 2013 MCAS ELA scores. Number of students scoring proficient or above are on the vertical axis; student improvement is on the horizontal axis.
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Berkshire Arts & Tech Charter School Touts MCAS Scores

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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Principal April West discusses the 2013 MCAS scores with high school students on Wednesday afternoon.
ADAMS, Mass. — The principal of the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School told her students Wednesday to be proud — but not satisfied — with the recently released results of last spring's Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
 
True, the 2013 MCAS shows the charter school to once again be one of just two "Level 1" districts in Berkshire County.
But even more important is the rate at which students are improving, April West told an assembly of the high school students.
 
And if they keep "climbing the mountain," there is no reason why BArT cannot be king of the hill, April West said.
 
"While Mount Greylock [Regional High School] has achievements I really respect and admire, their students are not improving their skills at the rate we are," West told the students.
 
West showed the students slides based on last week's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education report that show the charter school ahead of nearly every "sending district" that contributes to its student body.
 
The exception was Williamstown's Mount Greylock Regional, which posted the county's top percentages for students in all grades demonstrating proficency or higher in English language arts (93 percent) and mathematics (77 percent).
 
BArT checked in with 77 percent of its students at proficiency or higher in ELA and 61 percent at or above the benchmark in math.
 
Both Mount Greylock and BArT ran well ahead of the statewide average of 69 percent of students proficient or higher in ELA. BArT was right on the average of 61 percent proficient or higher in math.
 
West pointed with pride to those numbers as well as the category in which BArT leads all of its sending districts — including Mount Greylock: student growth percentile.
 
In that measure of improvement among students taking the MCAS last spring, BArT posted scores of 68.0 in ELA and 62.0 in math. Mount Greylock was just behind with percentile scores of 59.0 and 51.0.
 
"Our absolute performance is not as high as Mount Greylock's, but we're growing quite a bit more," West said.
"You're growing more than anybody else [in the county]. We're going to continue to go up and up and up."
 
West emphasized that drive for improvement by singling out the students in each class who demonstrated exceptional growth on the standardized tests, dubbing the cohort "BArT Mountain-Climbers."
 
Other highlights from the MCAS report for the 10-year-old charter school included:
 
Receiving the highest Progress and Performance Index score in Berkshire County for all students and for high needs students.
Having 94 percent of 10th-graders proficient or advanced in math; representing the highest percentage of 10th-grade math proficiency in Berkshire County.
Having 97 percent of 10th-graders proficient or advanced in English.
The 7th-grade English student growth was the 5th highest in the state.
Having a composite performance index in both English and math higher than the state’s: in aggregate, for special education students and for low-income students.

Tags: BArT,   MCAS,   rankings,   

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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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