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Amity’s Academic Performance Remains Strong

October 26, 2023
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Amity’s Academic Performance Remains Strong

Community Polarization in Addressing Student’s Requests For Inclusivity Led To Amity’s Ranking Drop On Niche

Last month, Patch.com published an article titled “Amity Regional High School Lands Among Top 25 In State,” celebrating Amity’s number 24 ranking on Niche.  On the surface, it seemed like good news.  Amity scored an A in academics.  Only eight schools, seven of them from Fairfield County, scored a higher grade of A+.  Amity tied with 15 other schools at A for academics.

As an Amity BOE member and a Woodbridge parent, I was puzzled by why we ranked 24th when only 8 schools surpassed us in academics.  My analysis of the Niche data shows that if not for our community’s inclusion controversy, we would be ranked 16th, comfortably in the top 20.

Niche Grades

Among the 15 schools tied for an A in academics, Amity is competitive on other factors.  It holds an A- on Teachers, College Preparation and Clubs, which is at par with this set of schools.  Our B+ on student diversity reflects the student population of our three towns͢–it is about average among these 15 schools.  Amity falls short comparatively only in one area; with a C grade, it is at the bottom 10% of all Connecticut schools for administration.  This C grade drives our rank down.  Why is this grade so low?

Polarization around Inclusion drives down Administration Grade and Amity Rank

Niche’s ratings for Administration are derived from comments and ratings on its website.  So, I looked at all the comments and ratings from 2017 to 2023.  The chart is remarkable in how the share of comments on inclusivity tracks Amity’s rank drop over the last 6 years.  I highlight the history and the main takeaways across the last 6 years.

Pre-2017-18:  No mention of inclusion in comments.  Amity ranked 16 in 2018 and had a 4.8/5 rating (not shown in chart).

2018-19, Antisemitic Incidents:  Share of comments asking for more inclusivity increase from 0% to 33% in 2018-19.  Rank drops from 16 to 20.

2019-20, Amity Inclusivity Efforts:  Amity commits to inclusion efforts with help of local clergy, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Amity launched “No Place for Hate” initiative with ADL and committed to integrate inclusivity in curriculum.  Share of comments seeking more inclusion drops from 33% to 23%.  Rank improves from 20 to 18.

2020-21, Racial Bullying:  Racial bullying incidents increased calls for more inclusion (33%).  The average rating fell to 3.4/5.  School ranked at 19.

2021-22, Opposition to DEI:  Community opposition to DEI efforts arises.  Average rating declines to 3.2.  Rank drops to 22.

2022-23, Polarization:  As opposition to DEI increases, more comments (45%) urge for more inclusivity.  Comments against inclusion efforts appeared for the first time (27%, not shown in chart).  Together 72% of comments mention inclusion.  Ranking drops further to 24.

How share of comments wanting more inclusion track Amity’s rank drop on Niche

Addressing student concerns on inclusivity is not merely the right thing to do, but the analysis also suggests that it will help Amity improve its rank.  The inclusion efforts at Amity are commonsense initiatives in response to student requests.  Opposition to the inclusion efforts based on what has been done elsewhere intensifies and amplifies inclusion concerns among our students, but it also increases polarization.  The controversy hurts our rank.  The rank drop has nothing to do with academics, as that grade remains an A.

To assess how much this controversy and polarization has hurt Amity’s rankings, I reverse engineered Niche’s grade-to-rank relationship with a statistical tool called regression.  I find that if Amity had scored an average B+ (among the 15 schools with an A) on administration, it would be ranked 16th—identical to its 2017 rank prior to these controversies.

U.S. News also has an Administration component in its ranking, but since its data is not visible to the public, I am unable to analyze how the polarization impacted Amity’s rank there.

Let us move past the division on inclusion and celebrate Amity’s excellence

There is much to celebrate about Amity’s academic excellence in terms of real performance.  In the 2021-22 state assessments, we ranked 9th, 11th and 17th in Math, English and Language Arts, and Science respectively.  In the National Merit Scholarship competition, we were 5th in the state with an impressive 27 out of 315 students (8.6%) recognized as “semi-finalists” or “commended scholars.”  Amity is pursuing excellence in an inclusive way͢–both among the top students, and across the board.

There is more.  Amity’s Math Team placed 1st (Large School Division) in the CT State Association of Mathematics Leagues competition, beating long-time winner, Greenwich High School.  Amity’s student newspaper, The Trident, placed 1st (for the 2nd year in a row) among schools with 1,000-1,700 students in the American Scholastic Press Association’s annual student newspaper competition.  These are just a glimpse of what we can take pride in.  Let us honor our students and our educators who make this possible.

It is disheartening that there is a harmful and misleading narrative by some in the community that Amity’s academic excellence is declining and its inclusion efforts are the reason.  This misleading narrative of declining academic excellence is demotivating for our hardworking students and educators.  It needlessly hurts our school’s reputation and harms our community’s attractiveness.

Let us remember that Amity’s commonsense inclusion efforts arose from our students’ emotional pleas in 2018 and 2020 for a safe and inclusive school environment.  Further, our efforts are no different from those at other top ranked districts, who remain highly ranked.  Neglecting student concerns and pleas for a safe and inclusive school environment is not right.  There is little reason for division around it.

Amity’s academic excellence remain strong.  It is time we as a community move past division and controversy around this issue and refocus on our shared goal of continuing to provide the best education for all our students in a safe and inclusive environment.

<span class="fineprint">This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.</span>

This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.

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