PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JAN. 4, 2013) — As those know who have followed our work in print and on the air over the years, THE PLANET has a deep, abiding interest in public education. For example, our strident coverage of the Pittsfield Public Schools has focused on areas of weakness and, more importantly, offered ideas for improving quality while driving down cost. Our bromides or prescriptions for public education need to be tried, and we guarantee they would usher in more success than the current 20-year bomb known as Ed Reform.

Education Reform, left to politicians, has proven to be a bang-for-the-buck disaster for the Commonwealth’s taxpayers. The Education Reform Act of 1993 came about because of the worry about public schools coming from three key constituencies: higher education, business, and parents. The irony of this concern is that in the grade schools themselves, all we heard was how great things were. That much, incidentally, has not changed.

Graduating High Schoolers with Diplomas but without Knowledge

Colleges were seeing Massachusetts high schoolers entering college as freshman and unable to complete in even the most basic required courses. Specifically, reading, writing, and math skills were appallingly low. How could these kids have earned a high school diploma, colleges asked, and — given that they did earn one — what could that piece of sheepskin possibly signify? Colleges began instituting what is now a staple for incoming freshman: remedial courses in writing, reading, and math to instill on a crach-course basis the elemental skills that one could formerly, and confidently, assign to high schools.

Businesses also were alarmed. Graduates were entering the work force ill-equipped with even the most elementary social and entry-level skills. That continues to be a critical problem in the Berkshires, where jobs go anting because students lack basic preparation.

Parents were alarmed, because they knew (as they know today, but without the same urgency) their children had just wasted a dozen years that would be near-impossible to reclaim. The other part of the constituency, citizens who paid taxes but had no kids in school, shook their heads as they saw billions of dollars wasted.

Ed Reform gave the politicians what they wanted: An active stance, to make it look like they were doing something. Most of Ed Reform has been a bust — most but not all. One of the things they got right was the introduction of competition to traditional public school education. They didn’t go far enough with the competitive thrust, but at least the law allowed for the creation of charter schools.

Charter Schools: A Much-Needed Shot of Competition

To receive a charter, a proposed new school has to go through all manner of hoops and garters, plus a flaming hogshead with real fire. When a school finally receives a state charter, the school finds itself under rigorous scrutiny from the back-room forces of traditional public education, who, of course, want these new schools to fail. Charters operate under the microscope. In comparison, traditional public schools have a free ride, especially in Pittsfield, where an unholy alliance of administration, school board, teachers’ union, and timid politicians basically grant the right to print money.

When a school receives a charter, it has the freedom to organize around an ethic or core set of principles. It will set up a curriculum according to its theme. It will introduce teaching methods best suited to meet the core principles. Finally, free from union straightjacketing, it will hire teachers and administrators best suited for this new approach. The emphasis is on competitive academic creativity.

A charter school controls its own budget. It hires and fires teachers and staff as it sees fit. Unlike traditional public schools, which receive more money as performance drops, charter schools are given five years of life, within which they must demonstrate success.

Traditional public schools reward failure. Charter schools reward success.

BArT Wants to Come to Pittsfield

Hold on, folks, because the BArT Charter School, currently based in Adams and enjoying a string of vigorous success, has applied to the Commonwealth seeking to modify its charter. BArT wants to expand into Pittsfield. By making Pittsfield one of the school’s core communities, BArT would be allowed to take the cap off of registration limits. BArT currently has 308 students, and more than one third of them (108) live in Pittsfield.

This being Pittsfield, of course, the superintendent — interim cheese Gordon Noseworthy — took one straight out of the GOB playbook. He dusted off Jake Eberwein‘s fusty letter opposing BArT’s request. Cheeseworthy didn’t have to change a thing, because, don’t you know, The Pittsfield Supt. Has To Be Opposed To Intelligent Reform. Why? Because the Special Interests, including the United Educators of Pittsfield, say he must. It goes without saying, then, that the Pittsfield School Committee unanimously supported Noseworthy’s “no” to BArT. Even committeeman Terry Kinnas climbed aboard the Ship of Fools for this one. What is a mother to do?

The Eberwein-Noseworthy Negativity Missive cites two concerns, both easily refuted:

(1) BArT will be a “financial burden.”

(2) BArT “hasn’t demonstrated sustained achievement.”

Sustained Achievement and Financial Burdens

Think for a moment and apply these same two standards to the Pittsfield Public School system in general. “Financial burden?” — Only to the tune of $90+ million a year on bedraggled Pittsfield taxpayers, most of whom do not have children in the system. “Sustained achievement?” — By almost every honest and independent measure, Pittsfield public schools continue to languish near the bottom of the barrel, with the academic dregs. Each year, the solution is “MORE MONEY!” … FOR THE CHILDREN.

Now to BArT and the facts:

* 98% of families who have had or currently have children attending BArT agree that “BArT teachers are caring, skilled, and supportive.”

* BArT is a rigorous college prep school with grades 6-12. It has high standards, demands excellence, and helps more students achieve that excellence

* BArT is tuition-free, since it is a public school.

* Only 20% of BArT’s students have parents who graduated college. Nonetheless, 100% — all, every — of BArT’s students have been accepted into college.

* In 2012, 100% — all, every — of BArT’s 10th graders were proficient or advanced on both the ELA and MCAS exams. 100& — every, all — of BArT’s 10th grade students passed their MCAS science exams, one of only four districts (out of 393 districts in the state) to achieve this result.

* The Massachusetts Senate recently honored BArT for “breakthrough student gains.”

More Kudos for BArT’s Performance

  • In 2012, BART’s composite performance index (a measure of how all students are progressing in the school) in both English and math was higher than the state’s in every grade level: in aggregate, for special education students and for low-income students.
  • In 2012, 100% of BART 10th grade students were proficient or advanced on both math and English MCAS exams.  These students demonstrated tremendous academic growth at BART, placing them among the top districts in the state.
  • In 2011, BART received national recognition from the US DOE-funded New Leaders for New Schools’ EPIC program for the academic growth of our students – only 18 charter schools (out of more than 5,000 nationwide) received this distinction.
  • While only 20% of BART graduates have a parent who graduated from college, 100% of all BART graduates have passed at least one college course and have been accepted into college before graduating from high school.
  • BART was ranked in the top 5% of schools in Massachusetts for raising student achievement in English and the top 6% for raising student achievement in math based on the Spring 2011 MCAS exams. 
  • BART was the only school in Berkshire County identified as a “high growth” school for both English and math in each of the last three years.
  • In 2011, BART had a greater percentage of students who earned “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the state MCAS exams than our two major sending districts in every tested subject – English, math and science.

Family Satisfaction
BART families know what it takes to achieve these successes.
 In a survey completed in the spring of 2012:

  • 98% of families agreed that BART teachers care about their children.
  • 98% of families agreed that BART teachers have the same goals for their children.
  • 96% of families agreed that BART teachers make learning interesting.

Dissemination and Collaboration

Throughout the year, BART participated in a variety of dissemination efforts, including:

  • Collaboration with local district principals to share best practices:  In the 2011-2012 school year, the school’s principal, Ben Klompus, led the Berkshire County Principals’ School Leaders Network, a group that meets monthly to strengthen principal development through a research based, peer led, professional learning community.  During these meetings, Principal Klompus has had the opportunity to share BART’s practices around teacher supervision and evaluation, data-driven instruction and student advisory.
  • Berkshire Compact for Higher Education:  Executive Director Bowen participates with the compact, an affiliation of Berkshire County educational, business and political leaders working to expand college access and aspirations so that all Berkshire County students can attain a k-16 education.
  • Principal Klompus is on the Faculty of the Readiness Center at MCLA and teaches classes on using data in instructional planning and the creation of powerful learning environments.
  • Principal Klompus led a presentation with BART’s High School Data Team (Sean Keogh, April West, Anna Bean, Alexis Dekel, Eric Trumble, Peter Thompson) at this June’s Data Wise conference at Harvard University, sharing the results of a case study that explored strategies to improve student performance on PSAT and SAT exams.
  • MCPSA:  The school’s executive director continues to serve on the board of the MCPSA, where she is a member of the Innovation and Excellence Committee, the committee that supports the collaboration and dissemination of best practices of charter schools across the state.
  • Science instructor Miles Wheat is participating in a state planning group to develop best practices in science instruction and assessment.
  • Julia Bowen spoke at the Norman Rockwell Museum in a forum, Educating Our Next Generation
  • Alexis Dekel leads professional development for local math and science teachers as part of a grant with MCLA.
  • Julia Bowen is one of two “Leaders in Residence” for the MCPSA’s new “Communities of Practice”, in which she facilitates professional development for charter school leaders statewide.
  • BART was featured in an article published by the Wallace Foundation on our arts program and extended learning time, part of the Foundation and Mass 2020’s efforts to expand learning time at the state and national levels.
  • BART was included in a best practices study by New Leaders for New Schools’ EPIC program that examined organizational structure.

This is the school, remember, that Eberwein and now Noseworthy claim has not demonstrated sustained academic success. That, my friends of a lie — a deliberate, bald-faced lie.

More Competition is a Good Thing for Traditional Public Schools

THE PLANET welcomes the infusion of competition into the hide-bound arena of public school education, especially in Pittsfield. We love the way a charter school takes the traditional notions of “pubic education” and puts them into the Vitamix, set on “high.”

A charter school can be seen as part of the growing “school choice” movement. Parents, unhappy with a city’s schools, have the right now to take their business elsewhere. Ask yourself, if Pittsfield schools were as great as the administration, teachers, school committee, and mayor would have you believe, why does the city hemorrhage about $3 million each year from parents who have had enough of Pittsfield and take them elsewhere?

Keep in mind that charter schools take no money out of public education. Charter funding in Massachusetts is determined by state law. The state simply transfers per-pupil state aid from the school district to the charter school. The money stays the same. It’s simply allocated differently. Charter schools keep not a single dime out of an area’s public school system. A charter school IS a public school.

Also keep in mind that a charter school receives less money per-pupil than a traditional public school. Moreover, by allowing BArT to set up a Pittsfield campus, the transferred money directly stays in Pittsfield itself. Thus, there is absolutely no financial argument to make against charter schools in general or BArT’s request to move to Pittsfield in particular.

THE PLANET appeals to the state department of education to take Noseworthy’s letter and use it in one of the rest rooms as extra T.P.

The Commonwealth should say “Yes” to the people of Pittsfield. The Commonwealth should say “Yes” to BArT’s request to come to Pittsfield.

This link gives you more information on BArT:






  1. Kevin
    January 4, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Kudos to BArT. I have a little experience in dealing with Charter Schools, some are much better than others and I cannot speak to Charters in MA but from what you posted above Performance looks excellent. The kids are also much more disciplined and respectful, many wear uniforms and civics are taught in many of the Charters. The knocks on charters are the claim that they Cherry pick students, no programing for special Ed. And bounce kids with any discipline issues. I say bring on the Charter schools!

    • raider50
      January 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      BArT is a great idea, but should be taken one step further. Don’t let them cherry pick!!!!!!!!!!! Force them to be all inclusive and provide a complete list of special education courses, classrooms and programs!!!!!!!!!!!!! DON’T LET THEM REMOVE A CHILD FOR BEHAVIOR OR DISCIPLE ISSUES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If all the rules are equal then you can compare the schools, until then it is just an escape for parents to remove their children from the current situation.

      • Dave
        January 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

        PPS can remove students for behavior or discipline(DISIPLE) issues. They send them to Second St.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        (sorry liked your use of exclamation pts.) If BART can do the same, then all things would be equal?

        • imabigboy
          January 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

          The spots at JRC are limited.

        • Scott
          January 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

          Hey that’s where they sent me but it was a real wake up call as the institution functioned differently in ’97.

  2. Still wondering
    January 4, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Now your talking Dan!

  3. joetaxpayer
    January 4, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    I find it funny that the people who are in it for the kids, are trying to deprive them of a education. Not all students thrive in a public school setting. If a student needs a different setting, they should be able to choose. After all it’s all about the children.

    • FPR
      January 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      The expression “it’s all about the children” or facsimile thereof is usually used by the GOB to get what they want using “the children” as pawns.

      Its worked for them in countless situations.

      They’ve even been known to use it in unethical, possibly illegal situations such as “contractgate”.

      Its an expression that if you ever challenge, you will be labeled and excommunicated and possible exterminated.

      • danvalenti
        January 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

        Yes, in Pittsfield, it’s a common GOB tactic to use “The Children” as human shields for all sorts of corruption. We call it “public education.”

  4. taxmano
    January 4, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    You need to be careful when comparing charter schools with traditional public schools. Many charters have ways of getting kids who don’t measure up (either academically and/or behaviorally) to leave. Traditional public schools accept and tries to educate anyone who shows up at its door, which is true public education.

    • danvalenti
      January 4, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      In saying this, you make the case for charter schools. They succeed because they have high standards. The Pittsfield Public Schools claim to have high standards, but, as you say, they take everyone, even those who want to waste their time … and the time of everyone else. The PPS, and public schools everywhere, should get more selective. The OPPORTUNITY for a “free” education is there for all. There’s nothing in the social contract, though, to say we must continue providing space to those pupils who want to good off.

      • imabigoy
        January 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

        There’s nothing in the social contract, though, to say we must continue providing space to those pupils who want to good off.

        Yes, there is. It’s called “the law.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

        • Kevin
          January 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

          So just open Second St. to the Charter School and let them dump the slugs just like the ED. Department in Pittsfield? Problem solved.

      • Tim Bartini
        January 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        Dan I agree with Taxman. Charter schools weed out the undisireable students. Unfortunately public schools can’t do that. What do you do with the 10 year old screw up ? Throw him out of school? Then what do we do with them?

        • danvalenti
          January 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

          How many times do I have to make the point. A charter school is a public school. There is nothing to say we cannot make all schools operate with a charter’s higher expectations. All of you are confusing “open admission” with “guaranteed outcome.” Berkshire Community College, for example, has an “open admission” policy. Anyone who applies is accepted. They are tested in reading, writing, and math, then — based on test results — placed in classes. Not all of them stay in school, though. Those who can’t cut it wash out. This is a simple point to grasp, and yet, apologists for public school systems such as Pittsfield’s can no longer see or grasp it, because the standards have been lowered beyond usefulness.

          • imabigboy
            January 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

            In K-12 the “washouts” have to stay until they’re 16. Then the high schools are punished if their “washout” rate is too high. Must be nice to teach where there is no accountability. I guarantee you could not cut it in. K-12 position.

        • Scott
          January 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

          Instead of looking at the negative they present an opportunity for lower income families to put their children in a better learning environment they wouldn’t normally have. I’ve paid for private school the last four years that s**t ain’t cheap.

  5. four in one
    January 4, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    My son went to BArT and I can vouch for every word of this report. Its a great school with fabulous staff. As for my boy, hes now in college and doing great!

  6. billy
    January 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Dan I believe once you take the school system of the municipal pension system and introduce competition and then pay for results then excellence will flourish. I think we all know that with 17 salary step increases and fourteen weeks off that does not foster excellence. I believe more parents as well as business leaders see the school hierarchy and the union as part of the problem of fixing a broken system and competing effectively in the global workforce..I echo what my fellow commenters have said “The School Department says that it is all about the children.” the sad fact is that their actions prove otherwise.they did not show up to answer questions about the 20 million dollar grant they turned their noses at. It might have made them more competitive but might have required more hours a day or longer school years.The teachers only show up in mass when it comes to salary increases and contracts, i believe if they showed that kind of zeal in competing with Charter schools or Catholic schools all would benefit. I hope The Mayor will show some kind of leadership that has been lacking and allow for what has worked to keep flourishing and not let the established status quo keep us from holding us back

    • The Kraken
      January 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      Billy, I could not agree more with your statements. Well said.

    • danvalenti
      January 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Well put, indeed. You have your finger exactly on the pulse of the problem.

  7. Richard Allen
    January 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    My daughter attends Bart and has done well there. She needed a smaller,quieter setting and has had some success. It is a good school but hardly the miracle you extoll. The teachers are dedicated, the students are…students and the curriculum is on par with all the public schools in the area. The major difference is that Bart can choose what students they take and what students they don’t. Behavior issues are a minimal issue because Bart doesn’t have to educate everyone. That is a luxury and one my daughter has benefited from. They are also very skilled at working with the “diffferent” kid. The non athletes or just the kids who don’t fit the Berkshire County ethos of sports/drama is everything. I wonder what the public schools that are regularly castigated in this blog could do if all their parents were involved and their kids motivated. If they sent their kids to school regularly, fed, them, did homework with them and nurtured them. There is only so much any school can do. I support Bart but I challenge all of you who criticize teachers and school in the public sector to spend a week in the shoes of a teacher at Reid, PHS, Drury or Crosby Elementary. Follow a Dean of Students around who puts out fires all day and then does staff trainings to little or not support. Try to teach Latin, Science or Music to kids who would much rather be online or sleeping. Try holding IEP meetings for a child whose parents won’t attend. Be a para professional or even worse a bus monitor. Those people are saints. Make a phone call home to a parent who’s drunk, working two jobs or just doesn’t value education.Try it for a week or two and then be honest. It’s much easier to look in from the outside and criticize, isn’t it. Actually working with kids is much harder. I

    • danvalenti
      January 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Thanks. You make my point: traditional Public Schools need to raise their standards and provide an opportunity for all who want to learn. There is open admission, and that is what you are addressing. Open admission, however, is not a guarantee of outcome. There is nothing in the law that prohibits local schools from setting standards in academics, behavior, dress, etc. All students are admitted, but only those who can meet the standards stay. Kids who want to sleep or who surf online have no place in a public school. They had the chance. They blew the chance. It’s harder working with kids in the PPS than with BArT, true, and it validates rather than refutes, my point.

      • Richard Allen
        January 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

        What do you do with the 10 year old kid psychotic kids? The 11 year old homeless kids who keep falling asleep in class because they have to stay awake half the night? The hungry 5 year olds who don’t know how to behave because their 18 year old mothers are still children themselves? Seriously, what is your solution? Do we start opening institutions again? I didn’t validate your point. The law requires all children to be educated. Not just the ones who don’t blow it.

        • danvalenti
          January 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

          The solution is to allow schools like BArT to move into Pittsfield.
          Your interpretation of the law is incorrect. Some children will not and cannot be educated. The system that does not allow for that is a system consigned to an otherwise perpetual mediocrity and ineffectiveness.

          • Richard Allen
            January 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

            Once again….what do you do with those children? I’m asking?

        • imabigboy
          January 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

          The psychotic kids? They are legally entitled to K-12 educational services until age 22.

          • Richard Allen
            January 4, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

            Yes they are, but according to Dan they have washed out so…

          • danvalenti
            January 5, 2013 at 9:11 am #

            Those who cannot be educated or refuse to be will drop out or be kicked out. They will do so at an age where, with maturity and Hard Knox, some will straighten out. The others will fall through the cracks, live horrible lives, be a drag on the economy, and rent the social fabric. Through higher standards, though, so many more kids will be educated and go on to live productive, good, fulfilling lives. The net gain to society will be considerable. This is not Lake Wobegone. Every kid is not a genius. We do not want to reward the deadbeats. We want to reward the hard-working good ones. What is so difficult about this? What’s so difficult about taking the charter experience and applying some of the principles of that success to traditional pubic schools. I believe it can be done. Do you? Who’s the optimist here? Me or you?

          • bobbyd
            January 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

            THE PLANET

            What you are proposing is currently ILLEGAL.

      • imabigboy
        January 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

        They have to stay until they are 16. If I remember correctly, Terry Kinnas advocated for a minimum age of 18 a couple years ago.

      • imabigboy
        January 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

        They have to stay until they are 16. If I remember correctly, Terry Kinnas advocated for a minimum age of 18 a couple years ago.

        • joetaxpayer
          January 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

          Trust me the machine “union’s” want everyone to stay in school until eighteen and are pushing for full day pre-k in all schools.

      • imabigboy
        January 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

        This is odd. On the one hand you say there’s no guarantee of equal outcome. Then you’re the first one to make comparisons of outcomes, both just and unjust, and lay blame when the outcomes do not meet your expectations.

        One can only wonder what PPS’s outcomes would look like if they had the luxury of the open exit/washout policies enjoyed by BArT and BCC.

    • Kevin
      January 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      The Parent’s have Broken the Social Contract and should be held accountable but never are, until that changes????? DSS pays our teens to be their own kids foster parents, what do we expect??

  8. Ron Kitterman
    January 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Some of the gridlock with the school committee and city council sort of showing some light again on this issue. Seems the group over First Street thumbed their noses with the Race to the Top grant, they dismissed quicker than jackrabbit,with the Allen Street crowd. All for the children’s best interest I’m sure…..

  9. Gene
    January 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Good one, Ron K. I’m with Dv on this one. BART should be allowed to take in more Pittsfield students. Thanks, Dan for this excellent story. I have a niece and nephew who went to BART and did exceptionally well after a year of languishing in traditional PS in pittsfield

  10. egremontyankee
    January 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Still waiting for you to schedule a meeting. Richard Allen is someone to listen to, although he only deals with the stuff public schools have been stuck with, at least in the post. The mission-learning-(citizenship competency, global competitiveness, STEM fluency and liberal arts lifetime aspiration)-is more than just showing up. Learning is sought about 90% of the time spent in unreceptive classrooms, though only relatively few are actually unable to learn. The training teachers and staff received didn’t prepare them for the reality they confront. Not much synchronicity between bureaucratic structure and pupil reality. It’s the community that has piled on additional PS tasks and not only because families don’t do it. The communitas has not stepped up to the plate either.

    • danvalenti
      January 5, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Will be in touch re: that meeting.
      I agree that the schools are being asked to perform tasks left in the wake by bad parenting. To admit that is to admit in a total social breakdown. That being said, there are plenty of kids that can be educated, and will be, if we leran from the charter school approach to public education.

      • egremontyankee
        January 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

        Look forward to that conversation, Dan. Check out Stress and Progress recently published by Brookings.

      • egremontyankee
        January 6, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

        Look forward to that conversation, Dan. Check out Stress and Progress recently published by Brookings.

  11. Dave
    January 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Where did we all stand when the ‘No child left behind” legislation came forward? I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the BBBBIIILLLIIIOONNSSS spent on that has not really paid dividends. So, maybe the 20 Million was just another waste of money, that thankfully we didn’t take. If we are serious about reform and lesser government, then why do we not glorify the rejection of this throwing of more money that won’t really make a difference in the big picture! All money is taxpayer money when it coms to the PPS. If BART does come into Pittsfield I think they better be prepared with extra staff in their registration department to deal with the growing discontent with the current state of the PPS.

  12. ShirleyKnutz
    January 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Did everyone read in today’s BB where the governor of our state makes less than Supt. of schools? It seems our pay scales are out of whack along with the education system. It does need to be overhauled. Vouchers would be a start along with the charter school. A focused look at home schooling, allowing students to “Skype” into classes from their homes,taking college classes at BCC and increasing vocational choices instead of decreasing the offerings. I disagree with the difficulty of teaching students who are surfing the web or sleeping the difficulty is challenging the bright students who are looking at all the nonsense around them and trying to figure out what they are doing in the school where they aren;t challenged.

    • Richard Allen
      January 4, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      The problem is the kids who only surf the web to play games or watch tv. It’s not boredom. It’s not a lack of teachers who want to help. Some kids need more help then others and charters don’ serve them. Once again…what about those kids.

      • Scott
        January 4, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

        They stay in public school and don’t excel they either make it by the skin of their teeth and graduate or drop out. (or realize what stupid choices they made and go back later like I did.) Where’s the personal responsibility? By the time you’r 16 if you don’t have parents (like I didn’t) to give you guidance and insight then you fall buy the wayside. It’s sad but I turned out OK. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as me that’s a fact I visit often in my own life that makes me grateful for the wonderful family and situation that I have now.

  13. Rick Wide
    January 4, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    DV this is exactly why the Planet is so popular, a great discussion stimulated by your column. Keep up the great work. You are a great journalist and a briliiant writer.

    • danvalenti
      January 5, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks, Rick. You are in the majority.

  14. taxmano
    January 5, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    I think you need to brush up on your educational law.
    PPS (and believe me, I’m no fan), is not alone in having to take every student who comes to their door. It is a matter of a student’s civil rights, and there is a lot of case law that protects these rights in public schools for all children. Public schools simply cannot cherry pick the way charter schools can. It is very difficult to expel a student, for example, and they have all kinds of protection regarding dress and speech. Charter and private schools have far more latitude.
    Also, open admissions will necessarily lower the common denominator (it is why BCC, as you well know, is not Harvard). But open admission instititions have worked hard to succeed in spite of this.
    Finally, many studies show that, on the whole, charter schools are less effective in educational outcomes than their truly public counterparts.

    • Scott
      January 5, 2013 at 7:13 am #

      The latest studies are saying differently. I think one of the major news stations covered this as well last year.

    • danvalenti
      January 5, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      My knowledge of the law is serviceable. Again, open admission. It’s a matter of law to provide the opportunity of education to every child. It is not, however, the law to guarantee the outcome, although that is the way traditional public schools operate. They have lowered standards (dress code is one obvious example) and pretend everything is OK. There is nothing in the law that prohibits a local school district from eliminating the so-called “protections regarding dress and speech.” The PPS could do this with a simple action from the school committee, backed by the administration. To say that an institution is an “open admission” one is NOT to condemn it to mediocrity, as you state in your last point. It’s a good one. There’s no reason why the PPS could not impose tougher standards, expect excellence, and reward those students who succeed instead of reward those who fail.

  15. Joe Pinhead
    January 5, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    We need to be intellectually honest here with this discussion, while I understand proponents of the status que wish to spin the “facts” one way and the proponents of any alternative method are to been seen as demons and reckless with “school system monies”
    1. The Charter school or any charter school is a public school
    2. The monies moved from the PPS to any charter school are NOT the property of PPS the Teachers union or no entity other than taxpayers.

    Parents need to and must have a choice in the education of their child, if they are involved in that Childs education they then will decides on private, traditional public or charter school that decision is made by parents who are involved in that Childs life, parents who know the hopes dreams and aspirations of that child and are engaged in putting that child on a path to accomplish those dreams. I hear cries of parents not being involved in their children’s education from those railing against charter schools, Those parents that are involved and educated enough do make the CHOICE as to where their child should be educated. To boil it down to a simple equation that I cannot reconcile in my pinhead from those opposed is this: one or sometimes two parents are wise enough to decide if a child should be carried to full term (born) or aborted, but that same set of parents some 5 years later is somehow not wise enough to decide where that child should be educated?
    I cannot believe the cherry picking argument for a minute has anyone done any number crunching to see how many of the current BaRT students had any disciplinary issues at their former schools? I don’t imagine that information is available to the public, maybe Bart could answer, and I find it hard to believe every student at Bart was picked from the honor roll of the sending school.
    Monies are not skimmed from PPS those monies are tied through the funding formulas to the child via ADA monies etc., yes the PPS will be getting less monies however there responsibility is decreased as well due to the fact they have one less charge. I do not hear those arguing about the shifting of funds presenting the same argument say on police funding, example every dollar spent on State Police or Sheriff’s office is monies from the Pittsfield PD. Because it is simply a ploy to detract from the quality or lack thereof of the education each child receives. And it only furthers the point that many of those involved in the education system see the answer as simply more money.

    Congratulations to the charter school for all their national accomplishments, that I bet are or were mostly unknown due to lack of publication locally.

    • danvalenti
      January 5, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      Thanks, JP. We must keep repeating the key points, because, apparently, critics cannot or will not grasp them: 1. A charter school is a public school. 2. The monies involved are not the exclusive property of anyone but taxpayers. 3. Open admissions is not the same as equal success. The first is given to all. The second is earned by performance. 4. The success of BArT makes the case for such higher standards in traditional public schools.

      • Richard Allen
        January 5, 2013 at 10:19 am #

        Once again the point needs to be made that all children are legally mandated to go to school. Period. Till 16 or longer? So if we must educate all children there will remain schools that will reflect the population that does not want to be there and will do no work. The kids that simply refuse to take the state and federally mandated tests that all this data is driven by. Or just fill in the bubbles. You would be surprised at the sizeable number of kids that do that especially in Middle School where there is no requirement to pass the test. There is no diploma refused if you don’t pass the 7th grade MCAS. The kids know this and some just don’t care. Some don’t have the skills. Some are having a bad day. As I said, my daughter goes to Bart, we chose to send her there. It’s a good school, and no, not all of the students are Rhodes Scholars, but they can and do send children back to the non charter public schools due to behavior and other reasons. It’s not like they recruit but they are very good at focusing on the population with which they work. That said, I like dress codes and most teachers would applaud that idea, makes the job much easier. I still want to know how the Non charter public schools are supposed to complete when they have a mandate to educate all students, not just the ones who can behave themselves or have involved and motivated parents. Great debate!!

        • four in one
          January 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

          Great points, Mr. Allen. I applaud you for being an involved parent obviously seen in your decision to send your child to Bart. You and DV have stimulated a great discusssion.

        • Joe Pinhead
          January 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

          I agree and am aware that all children are mandated to go to school until the age of 16. The very questions you raise can be in part answered by Charter schools and other methods of education or schooling. It would appear as if the Bart Charter school has found a way to connect with a certain segment or demographic within the population, you stated: “ they are very good at focusing on the population with which they work.” So what would be wrong with the current educational establishment breaking down the rest of the school age population and steering them towards charter or other type of schools who might have a better chance of engaging the children? Or developing in house programs to capture those children in a meaningful way? As I understand it and I do not profess to be an expert the Bart school focus on arts, could we use a school with a different based charter say focusing on science or engineering or something else?
          I contend that we the taxpayers pay good money towards the big business of education; as such don’t both the taxpayers and more importantly the children deserve more? Not in terms of money but in results be it from a charter school or from some similar type vehicle? Has the PSD taken the opportunity to work with Bart or any other Charter school to see what and why things are effective?
          Because all children are mandated to be in school until the age of 16 doesn’t mean we should have no expectations or bend to the lowest common denominator each student deserves an opportunity at an educational experience best suited for them. Should we punish all children with a one size fits all approach because some will not behave? Or should we try to find a way to engage them? No we will never have 100% success but for the money we “invest” we should be getting a better return.

          And I am glad we can have this debate an education for all of us.

  16. Insider
    January 5, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I have worked with students in both PPS and BART. Having been inside both systems I would like to offer a few comments. I would like readers to know that I am not an employee at BART but am employed by PPS.

    I’m not sure about Taconic but the last time I was inside PHS there as a display that highlighted the MCAS achievements of the student body. In math, english and science, the proficiency scores were all around 65%. That means a third of the school is not proficient and will not receive a high school diploma. That is a staggering number and when you compare it to BART’s 100% and the fact that BART has a higher than average special ed population, you can really begin to appreciate what they have accomplished up in Adams.

    From reading through the posts, it seems that the big knock against BART is this idea that they cherry-pick their students. I know for a fact that is not true. I will state it even stronger, the notion that BART cherry picks their students IS A COMPLETE LIE.

    BART is a public school and so long as there is room in their enrollment your child can attend. There are only a couple of cases, that I am aware of, where a student was denied enrollment to BART and that was on the basis of FAPE. The disability of those students was so severe that BART didn’t feel they could render the needed services to them.

    That is not cherry picking, that is responsible and compassionate education.

    There is this other notion that whenever BART has a problem student they just kick them out. To my knowledge BART has never expelled a student. I believe there was one instance where a severely problematic student was given the option of leaving on their own or being expelled but that was just once since the founding of the school.

    So why do the problem students leave BART?

    They leave because the parents get sick and tired of being held accountable by the school. If a student is not in school BART goes after the parent because it’s the parent’s responsibility to make sure their child attends school. If necessary, parents are threatened with legal action by the school.

    That is not cherry picking, that’s being serious about educating children.

    If a student is screwing around in school, not doing homework, disrupting classes, failing in their studies, parents are dragged into school, action plans created, students and parents are held accountable.

    That’s not cherry picking, that’s being serious about education.

    After a while, some parents get sick of being held accountable for their own children and they pull them out of BART and shove them into another district where they won’t be held accountable, districts like PPS.

    The biggest difference between BART and PPS is the academic environment. One is pushing the students to achieve their absolute highest and achieve the dream of attending and graduating from college, the other system is just managing failure and trying to move kids along from grade to grade until they hopefully graduate. One is not ashamed to post a 65% MCAS proficiency rate publicly and the other would be shut down by the state, it’s charter removed, and its doors promptly closed if it had anywhere near that kind of dismal performance.

    You be judge which environment is more conducive to an education and then decide whether it was wise for PPS to oppose the expansion of BART’s charter. As an employee of PPS, competition from a serious education institution like BART may be the only thing that will save us. Without competition we will just keep going the way we’ve been going and the children of Pittsfield will be the ones who pay the heaviest price.

    Please support the expansion of BART into Pittsfield and by doing so, help save PPS. Thank you for listening.

  17. Terry Kinnas
    January 5, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    The reasons I voted for opposing the extension into Pittsfield for the BArT Charter School were: I was given assurances that Pittsfield students will still be able to go to the current charter school and as a school committee person I have never seen the BArT proposal for Pittsfield. It would have been interesting to have BArT Charter School make a presentation before the school committee.

    Dan, I was not aware of most of the information that you provided in your article. However, I was aware of the Boston Globe’s ranking of all the schools in the state.

    Quick district summary for grade 10
    BArT is ranked 1st in math and English, 71st in science

    Lenox is ranked 64th in math, 36th in Eng. and 31st in science

    Pittsfield is 234th in math, 255th in Eng. and 233 in science

    McCann is 214th in math,215th in Eng. and 223 in science

    • joetaxpayer
      January 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      Thank you Terry for your reply and information. Keep up the good fight.

      • Terry Kinnas
        January 7, 2013 at 8:34 am #

        Boston Globe’s ranking of all the schools districts for grade 8 in the state.Quick district summary for grade 8

        BArT is ranked 200th in math, 116th in English, 184th in science
        Lenox is ranked 39th in math, 10th in Eng. and 30st in science
        Pittsfield is 200th in math, 221th in Eng. and 249 in science
        North Adams is 261th in math, 261th in Eng. and 264 in science

    • dusty
      January 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

      I would be willing to bet that most or all of the other school committee members are either unaware of these mind boggling numbers or just don’t care. I honestly do not believe their intended purpose for being on that committee is to better education in Pittsfield and it shows in the way they comport themselves during meetings. They are as embarrassing as the school system they manage.

      Bring in BART and lay out the red carpet for them. The Pittsfield school system has no where to go but up. PPS has had more than enough chances to try to get it right and have proven the task is way too much for them. To my mind if they callously push BART away they prove my point that education is not their main agenda.

  18. FPR
    January 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    “You who are on the road
    Must have a code that you can live by
    And so become yourself
    Because the past is just a good bye.

    Teach your children well………”

    — CSN

    This whole notion of a “Public” education is insane. Parents should teach their children, not an institutions set up by the State.

    The town I moved to – I pay $274.00 per year in property taxes on an $80,000.00 house with 2.5 acres of land.
    $174.00 of which is school taxes.

    Why should school taxes be 174% of what your property taxes are?

    If a married couple choose not to have children, why should they pay for those who do? Is this not rather a Communistic ideology?

    I know this not the 1800’s and its not the way it is. Isn’t it time to stop the madness and take a serious look at the Frankenstein monster that has been created.

    Dan pointed out a few weeks ago that 70+% of the money you pay in taxes goes to the schooling of “the children”. That’s whether you have any children or not. Freakin insanity!

    Parents should have the #1 responsibility of educate their own children. If due to circumstances beyond their control they cannot, schools like BArT can be used funded by parents who use them and voluntary donations and grants.

    When they wanted to install a lottery system in Massachusetts, we were told that the monies would be used to finance the schools. Did that ever happen?

    The State needs to totally step out of this responsibility to educate your children.

    • dusty
      January 5, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      I would love to know what the administrative costs of the running the lottery are. And who gets the contracts for printing billions of detailed color tickets. Who is contracted to design the tickets? Who gets paid to distribute the tickets? Who gets paid to maintain the lottery terminals?
      Who gets paid to do the bookkeeping?

      And is there any independent oversight to any of this monstrosity which sucks in ginormous amounts of money each day, week and year?

      I also remember back in the 70s when the lottery came out. They said that it would all but eliminate taxation for schools because it would pay for almost all of it. Quite the contrary apparently because things have gone totally wayward in the interim.

  19. Yaz Datchinan
    January 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Time to reexamine the entire concept of public education. FPr makes a good point here. Why should those who choose not to have kids be responsible to educate those who do? Why should my property taxes be used on public education given the failure of the PPS to use my money responsibily? Why should we have an obligation to “educate” those who do not want it?

    • FPR
      January 6, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      If the city of Pittsfield were not a city and was to incorporate as a township/city/municipality today. And the citizens were told that they would be taxed very heavily on their property. 70% of which would go to very inefficient school system with poor results. The teachers would receive raises by over taxing the people and keeping the money to be labeled as “free cash”.

      Do you think the people would stand for that?

      Because this was done slowly, over time, the people have become “comfortably numb” to it.

      If you throw a frog in boiling water he will jump out. If you put him luke warm, comfortable water and slowly turn up the heat, you can cook him — he will adjust to it “comfortably” until its too late.

      • danvalenti
        January 6, 2013 at 9:56 am #

        The answer to your insightful rhetorical question is: “No way would they stand for that kind of crud.” It’s time to shake people out of their lethargy. No more comfortably numb. We stand for: “Uncomfortably alive.” That’s our theme for this new year.

  20. tito
    January 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    @Terry…Keep in mind the accomplishment at BArT is fantastic, also there were only twenty five or so students tested,compared to hundreds at Other schools. a question Terry, why isn’t BArt ranked in the lowers itch, seventh grades, etc.

  21. bobbyd
    January 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm #


    | | Gr 6 | Gr 7 | Gr 8 | Gr 10 |
    | | ELA | Math | ELA | Math | ELA | Math | ELA | Math |
    | BArT | 86.7 | 81.0 | 88.6 | 66.0 | 95.7 | 76.6 | 100.0| 100.0|
    | Reid | 86.5 | 89.0 | 92.3 | 83.6 | 91.8 | 76.8 | —- | —- |
    | Herberg | 88.5 | 86.4 | 89.8 | 75.4 | 91.5 | 75.3 | —- | —- |
    | Taconic | —- | —- | —- | —- | —- | —- | 93.2 | 85.9 |
    | PHS | —- | —- | —- | —- | —- | —- | 93.7 | 88.2 |

    Focusing in on Grade 10, BArT tested a total of 25 students in ELA, and 24 in Math–about 5% of the number tested in Pittsfield. This is less than 1/2 the number they tested the year previously in 8th grade. Furthremore, in Grades 6-8, 14.7% of tested BArT students were minority students. In Grade 10, it was only 8%. This has been a histroical trend since they began testing Grade 10 in 2009. Why the predictable exodus of minority students? My guess is they leave for the oportunity to play certain sports.

    Furthermore, when you remove studens with special needs from the mix, in 2012 the Non-Special Education students at PHS had a CPI of 97.3 in ELA and 92.5 in Math. Taconic Non-Special Education students had a CPI of 96.5 in ELA and 91.8 in Math.

    I would not wish to take anything away from BArT. They have certainly accomplished a lot and have made significant gains over the past 5 years. However, the performance differences are not as significant as you would like to think, particularly at the middle school level. Compared to all other Middle/High Schools in the state, they perform at only the 43rd percentile.

  22. bobbyd
    January 5, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Sorry, formatting tags are apparently filtered by your blogging script.

  23. tito
    January 5, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I like the two gentlemen’s comments at the City charter review committee, no pay for the School Committee, and if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

  24. joetaxpayer
    January 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Really feel it is about what the student is looking for in a school.If they are athletes and want to partcipate in sports, than bart is not for them. But I thiink they offer a great oppertunity for students with other interests. There is a need for this school and they deserve the right to expand. It is not about what school is better, it is more about what school fits the students needs.

    • bobbyd
      January 5, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      I agree. One of my five is at BArT and it has been great for him. The others have been or are in Pittsfield schools, which have been great for them.

  25. tito
    January 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Is it in the charter not to have sports? BArt does have a sports team.

    • imabigboy
      January 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

      It has a cross country team.

      • joetaxpayer
        January 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm #


  26. Gene
    January 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    One thread that’s appraent from these comments: the educational estabpishment, sometimes called by DV the “apologists” are threatened by anything that offers competition. Charter schools, vouchers, privitization, anything that threatens the teachers’ unions stanglehold over public education, gets put down and criticized. Unions control the administration (and their outrageously high salaries), politicians, and obviously teachers. Unions have been disastrous for public schools.

  27. Gene
    January 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Sorry for misspellings. Doing it in a hurry.

  28. tito
    January 5, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Gene,right on! And that is a very important point, some unions are good, don’t get me wrong, but unions for teachers are and have been a disaster for the taxpayer.

  29. DUSTY
    January 6, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    I seem to recall a Pittsfield hotshot on the school needs board, ex teacher?, who would send her kids outside the city for an education. That spoke volumes.

    I believe she went on to bigger and better things in Boston. I wonder how she feels about BART these days.

    • danvalenti
      January 6, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Yeah. She was so good, she ran unopposed. She thought so much of PPS that she used school choice to send her kids to Lenox.

  30. SI
    January 6, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Please take the time to understand the facts, charter schools are public schools. Any child that wishes to enter BART may enter. There is no admission exam, no way to, “cherry pick.” BART takes students’ strengths and capitalizes on them and provides intervention for deficit areas in academics as well as behavior. It is a huge misconception and mistake to believe that BART has a selection process. I encourage you to come to the school and see for yourself the difference. What you will see is a genuine acceptance for all, based on respect. Everyone in the community is valued, therefore, students want to be there and choose to behave in a manner that is supportive and kind to everyone. The answers are really much simpler then everyone speculates and those that are, “truly for the children,” should take time to learn what charter schools are doing, so they can replicate and our country could thrive with true ed reform.

    • danvalenti
      January 6, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Excellent points. We’ve been trying to present the information on BArT, and on charter schools in general, in a way that is both neutral going in, and truth seeking once in. That is the information we presented. We must repeat what you say here: There is no “cherry picking” at BArT.

  31. Scott
    January 6, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    All this talk about gov’t regulated forced education I say this is exactly what you get when you let the gov’t get involved. Kids who have ignorant parents who aren’t involved in their education breeze through the public school system and become statistical examples for people who have kids and give a crap about them. I’m not saying it’s not sad or unfortunate but the public school system already has measures in place to deal with these kids they either get it by the time they’re old enough to have cognitive thought or they don’t. That’s part of why our prison system is at capacity.

  32. Scott
    January 6, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Statistical examples and hurdles in most cases which is why you see parents looking for other options when it comes to the well being and quality education of their own kids.

  33. Ron Kitterman
    January 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm # – When I have trouble sleeping, this is the go to web site to see where our $$ is going.

  34. Gene
    January 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Ron that’s the website that keeps me from goingto sleep!

  35. Julia Bowen
    January 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    @Insider and SI: Thank you for explaining that we do, in fact, serve all students at BART. Your assessment is spot on. Our student demographics should speak for themselves.
    @Terry: We sent a copy of the request to include Pittsfield in our charter to Alf Barbalunga, Gordon Noseworthy and Mayor Bianchi. I met personally with Noseworthy and Bianchi.
    @ BobbyD: It is a mistake to only look at achievement levels when assessing performance; you must also look at growth of students over time, using the state’s student growth percentile model. This is especially true when evaluating a school like ours, that starts at 6th grade (not kindergarten) and draws from a number of districts. Using a combination of these metrics, the state has deemed BART to be a “level 1” school – within the top 25% of districts statewide.
    @Everyone: Please – call us to visit the school. We would love to give you a tour so you can assess BART for yourself. We also have many volunteer opportunities – from one-time events to regular roles in the school. We’d be happy to have you involved!

  36. Piedmontese 1228 East
    January 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    In a dream world BART would come to Pittsfield and provide for both the academic and emotional education of our children. This is what is truly needed here. For students who require the extra support because they experience challenges in their own homes and families this could be a great possibility. Why can’t a BART student participate in a sports team at another school? Hockey teams have been doing this for a long time, taking students from different schools to form a full team. And one step further, what about Ms. Canning-WIlson being the Director of the BART Charter School? Wouldn’t everyone in the so-called network shake then?

  37. Ron Kitterman
    January 7, 2013 at 5:35 am #

    @ Gene now that you mention it I always have horrible nightmares from looking at that site ….