Amherst Regional High School Ranked Ninth In Greater Springfield Region By U.S. News And World Report


Amherst Regional High School. Photo:

According to the survey published by the U.S. News and World Report this week, Amherst Regional High School (ARHS) ranked 120th out of 365 public high schools in the state and 9th in the Greater Springfield region. The rankings are based on metrics that prioritize college readiness and college curriculum breadth as indicated by the percentage of students taking and passing Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams; graduation rates; math and reading proficiency and performance; and performance of underserved students. Nationwide, Massachusetts was ranked first among all states. Three of the top five schools in the state are charter schools. Boston Latin was the top ranked school.

In another ranking system, Niche rated the Amherst-Pelham school district 19th out of 404 districts in the state.

At ARHS, 37 percent of students took an AP exam, with 33 percent achieving a passing grade, producing a ranking of  178th in the state on AP exams. Math and Reading proficiency and performance ranks were 108 and 76. Breadth of curriculum was 230th and the graduation rate of 91 percent was 248th.  At top ranked Boston Latin, 96 percent of students took and passed an AP exam,  and 98 percent graduated.

The student body at ARHS is 41 percent minority. Fifty-nine percent White, 16 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, 9 percent more than one race, and 7 percent Black.

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion School in Hadley was ranked second in the state. Its 102 high school students are 48 percent minority, with 18 percent Asian, 15 percent two or more races, 8 percent Black, and 7 percent Hispanic. PVCIS offers the International Baccalaureate program in which all students participate. Graduation rate is 95 percent. 

Other area schools ranking in the top 100 in the state are Hopkins Academy in Hadley (49), Smith Academy in Hatfield (59), Northampton High School (72), Frontier High School (93), and South Hadley High School (96).

Per pupil expenditure in Amherst was over $21,000. The cost per pupil in Northampton is $15,600 and at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion School it is $16,800.  However the latter two districts do not have the transportation costs of the Amherst Regional School District

In response to the report, Amherst Regional School Committee Chair Allison McDonald said, “While ranking reports such as this can be helpful for getting a quick scan across a large number of high schools, it is but one data point and one that is misleading in its oversimplification of what constitutes a ‘top’ high school, and it’s blurring of the substantive differences between schools and the communities they serve. We have much work to do to reduce the education debt in our schools, especially among our economically disadvantaged students, and this is reflected in the MCAS testing data used in the U.S. News ranking. Changing our math curriculum beginning in the school year after that last MCAS will help, and continued funding of level services in our schools is necessary to ensure we continue to improve how we are educating our richly diverse student community.”

Amherst Superintendent, Michael Morris, declined to comment for this article.

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11 thoughts on “Amherst Regional High School Ranked Ninth In Greater Springfield Region By U.S. News And World Report

  1. “At ARHS, 37 percent of students took an AP exam, with 33 percent achieving a passing grade…”

    Am I to understand that 67% of the ARHS educated students taking AP exams fail? Please tell us this is a reporting error.

  2. Sorry for not making this clear. 33% of the total student body received passing grades on AP exams.

  3. To me, the headline is misleading because when I read “region” I think New England, whereas the article means the Greater Springfield region. (Perhaps I think this way because UMass Regional tuition rates apply to students from the six New England states.)
    In New England, ARHS ranks somewhere between #120 (MA) and #3044 (national). This ranking is disheartening.
    Does the “region” conjure the greater Springfield metro area to others?

  4. The headline does not give an accurate description. Actually, we rank 120 out of 365 high schools in Massachusetts. Considering that this is a town abundant with educational institutions, I would expect our ranking to be higher.

  5. PVCICS is ranked second in the state, the first in the state is Boston Latin. AMRHS ranks 9th in the Pioneer Valley, please let that sink in. As someone who lives in Amherst and has a child in both schools- what is ARHS doing to rank 9th in the Pioneer Valley? Why do we pay so much in taxes compared with our neighboring districts for so little?

  6. What fresh nonsense is this? It’s an open secret that U.S. News and World Report college/university rankings are just a proxy for colleges’ wealth and ability to game the scoring system. Now they’re ranking public high schools? There is no way these rankings are an accurate reflection of what schools do for students. School rankings are at best oversimplifications and at worst lies.

  7. As Tony alluded, rankings like these tend to correlate a lot with affluence. You can use the state doe school profiles site ( to explore some of the differences between schools. The public, non-charter, non-exam schools near the top are all in very wealthy districts. I’ve pulled out the stats for “economically disadvantaged” students and “students with disabilities” for the top 5 that are not charter or exam schools, plus the two schools of very local interest, ARHS and PVCICS:

    Bromfield: 6.0% Economically disadvantaged, 9.7% students with disabilities,
    Belmont: 7.3%, 6.8%
    Lexington: 4.8%, 11.5%
    Dover-Sherborn: 3.5%, 14.6%
    Weston: 5.4%, 18.9%

    ARHS: 26.3%, 19.7%
    PVCICS: 18.7%, 9.4%

    If a school wanted to move up in this particular set of rankings it could, for instance, try to influence more students to take AP exams. I have a senior who took many AP courses and did not take many exams, knowing that they wouldn’t really be that useful at colleges where they were applying. I think some charter schools encourage their students more aggressively to take those exams, though I don’t have any idea if that affects the rankings people are looking at here.

  8. Thank you, Kate. That’s really helpful and interesting information that offers more context to this ranking system.
    I pulled the expenditure per pupil for the schools you listed as another data point in comparing these schools.
    District Total Expenditures Per Pupil
    Weston $25,846.23
    Amherst-Pelham $22,835.09
    Dover-Sherborn $21,412.93
    Bromfield (Harvard) $19,957.36
    Pioneer Valley $18,777.09
    Lexington $18,687.44
    Belmont $14,820.36

  9. Thank you for the clarification. I am not accustomed to being informed of test results for people who have not participated in a test. Is there a utility for such a metric?

  10. The Amherst School system has way too many administrators, and those administrators, who do not even know the students, make crucial decisions about what individual students can and can’t do . The teachers, who actually know the students, have very little say in the matter. Plus, administrators usually earn significantly more than teachers, and several times what the paraprofessionals earn.

    If you count all of the paid staff with teaching credentials, and then count all the students, you will have a really low student to staff ratio. The last time I did the math, it was less than 5:1. But then when you count all the administrators, who don’t teach, you winds up back with a “staffing shortage.”

    Years ago, I had a long-time much-loved teacher say to me, “You wouldn’t believe the number of people working in this school system who have nothing to do with kids.”

  11. School funding is not a dollars-in excellence-out proposition. These rankings are highly reliant on standardized tests, which do little to measure critical thinking, flexibility, or preparedness to navigate life. Public schools’ job is to educate children, not to get them to take as many tests as possible. These tests line the pockets of private entities like the College Board (which pulls in over a billion dollars annually). Re: Kate, a school isn’t worse if it teaches AP-level classes and lets students skip the test because they don’t think it will give them anything useful. These metrics incorrectly assume otherwise by factoring in how many students take AP tests, so Chris, I personally don’t trust them. All measures cease to be effective measures when they become targets.

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