Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Dr. Spindler Responds

Last week, Gossips published the link to the U.S. News & World Report annual report on the state of schools in the country and the data it provided for the Hudson City School District, information that was also shared by Ken Sheffer in his April 25 opinion piece, "Now, More Than Ever, It Is Time for an 'Emergency Intervention.'"

Yesterday, Gossips received an email from Dr. Lisamarie Spindler, superintendent of the Hudson City School District, explaining that the school rankings in U.S. News & World Report do not accurately reflect the academic achievement in HCSD and seeking to set the record straight.  With her permission, the text of her letter is reproduced below. 
I saw your blog post about the U.S. News & World Report school rankings, and while I do appreciate your interest and reporting on the school district, your post is missing important context about these rankings and it paints an incomplete representation of the Hudson City School District. You pointed out that Hudson is ranked 736th in the state and scored 47.81 out of 100, but you did not mention how this ranking system is based on extremely narrow criteria--test participation/scores and graduation rates--or how the Hudson City School District faces challenges that many of the top-ranked schools in this list do not face--particularly the high percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
Admittedly there is room for improvement in student performance on state exams, however, it should be noted that many factors contribute to student test scores, and some factors are more prevalent in a district like Hudson comparted to more affluent communities, such as poverty, food insecurity, and nonpermanent or transient housing. The District does what it can to address these issues, such as school food pantries, clothing closets, and employing social workers to support families in need, but these factors can greatly impact a student's ability to do well in school.
Another issue with the ranking criteria is the narrow definition of "college readiness" and heavy emphasis on how many students took and passed the Advanced Placement exams. It costs almost $100 for a student to take an Advanced Placement exam, which is a steep price for many families in our district and a huge barrier to AP exam access for those who cannot get financial assistance. The U.S. News rankings measure "college readiness" solely by "participation and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams," thereby labeling Hudson High School with a low college readiness ranking because fewer students are able to take these exams, let alone multiple exams. Furthermore, a student's ability to be ready for and succeed in college is not dependent on whether they took or performed well on an AP exam. There are many opportunities for Hudson students to become college-ready other than AP exams that allow them to earn college credits, including the Bard Early College program and more than a dozen college-credit-bearing courses offered at Hudson High School. We also have multiple articulation agreements with colleges to offer early college high school pathways that are not acknowledged in the data used by U.S. News. Also, it must be recognized that college is not the desired path for every high school graduate and many graduates choose to enter the workforce instead of attending college. The U.S. News' narrow criteria for college readiness are incomplete measures of our students' actual readiness for college (or career). It is unreasonable to put so much emphasis (40% of the total score) on these narrow definitions of college readiness when assigning a score to represent the overall quality of a school
Lastly, Hudson's graduation rates are not nearly as dismal as [implied in the post "Now, More Than Ever, It Is Time for an 'Emergency Intervention,'" which] claimed that Hudson High School's graduation rate is "at a cliff's edge." . . . [T]his is far from true. The data below from the New York State Education Department shows Hudson's graduation rates over the last decade, and if they are "at a cliff's edge" it is only because they've climbed so much since 2013 and are reaching the top of the cliff. The data clearly shows that Hudson's graduation rates are comparable to and sometimes even higher than the New York State average (when looking at the Building graduation rate, which is specific to the students who actually attend classes in Hudson High School, whereas the District graduation rate includes special education students who attend out-of-district programs that Hudson has no control over--an important distinction to be made when using graduation rates to judge a school and the quality of education provided to students in its buildings). The U.S. News school rankings seem to use the District graduation rate in its criteria instead of the Building graduation rate, which is a more accurate representation of the school.
While improving student proficiency on state assessments continues to be a priority for the Hudson City School District, Hudson's progress is something to be proud of, and to see the hard work of students and staff being undermined by inaccurate and incomplete reporting is disheartening. The lack of context and the reliance on a single and limited source of information in these posts is a disservice to our school district, your readers, and the Hudson community. . . . 


  1. What a nasty response. I lose respect for people who deny there is problem. If the standing was high I am sure the ratings would be enthusiastically embraced.

  2. Cost per student is at nearly private school tuition levels, all for "average" results. So sad and unsustainable.

  3. John Friedman submitted this comment by email:

    The HCSD is run and operated for and by its faculty and staff, not the students. We are charging AP students $100/exam? When we’re paying close to $31k/student/year? That alone tells me the foxes are in the henhouse. I’ll look beyond the new supe’s defensive bloviation and hope she’s got the fortitude to bring wholesale change to what is, her protestations notwithstanding, a failed and failing school district. Otherwise, she’s just here like the rest of the foxes.

  4. In summary, the HCSD has a huge budget of over $ 25,000 per student. it is perhaps even higher and may go over $ 30,000.

    Here is a link to the Albany Academy, a highly rated private school founded in the early 1800s.

    Its tuition is for $ 13,500 to $ 23,100 per annum depending on the age of the student.

    It is not the lack of funds for the students. in fact, Hudson spends more per student than highly rated private schools in the area.

    HCSD is a patronage system that costs more than most schools in the country with ratings at the lowest levels.

    As the Registar Star once reported, "it is one of the worst schools locally, regionally, state wide and even in the nation".

    Most of the taxpayers in Hudson have no control over the system. In Hudson, you get much less for much more. All these new arrivals will learn their lessons soon.

  5. Ken Sheffer submitted this comment by email:

    After seeing a very similar explanation by Supt Spindler on the official school website yesterday, I wrote directly to the new Supt. I sent her the first 10 pages of the US News methodology and I have about 55 pages more I am ready to send her. I reminded her that many financially challenged districts in the State did very well in the rankings and celebrated the results. I told her that US News does not just make these numbers up and does not target Hudson’s weaknesses in any way….that is just silly and defensive thinking. I also asked the new Supt. to be a “different kind of school leader than her predecessor.” Instead of attacking the dismal rankings (just before a $55 million budget vote BTW) she should embrace all of these school rankings and if they are bad she should say to the District, to the teachers and to the kids, “Fine, I am in charge now. I have a new approach and together we are going to beat these numbers. We are going to use these rankings to inspire this entire District. So, bring it on.” I also asked her to start building a community of people who love the school district, even those who may be critical of the way things are going there. Otherwise we should have just kept the past failed team…..we didn’t need to conduct an expensive search for another leader who is hostile to criticism and just keeps piling up millions of dollars to run a failing system. I told her that I was a NO on the budget but a YES for the kids and YES for the Supt’s success. I told her that I hope in 10 years or more we are opening a “Spindler Building” in Hudson for all the new students the improved rankings would bring in. I also asked for the contingency budget numbers which are out today (and are public information)…….I got no reply. Already, I feel like it might just be more of the same.

    Ken Sheffer

    1. Hudson might as well cut the school budget in half. The system might do better.

      Clearly, too much money has spoiled the teachers and the administrators.

      Excuses excuses excuses.

      money and funding just is not working in the HCSD.

  6. In NY 10% of that cost goes to pensions. Another 21% to support services (non-instructional). So 1/3 is already not going to instruction. Then add in that school administrations in NY have grown 65% over the last 2 decades. Money drain, and it's not going in the teacher's pockets.

  7. A reader provided some information about AP (Advanced Placement) exams. They cost about $100, but fee waivers are available to students that meet these criteria:

    Their family income is below 185% of the federal poverty line
    The student is in foster care, homeless, or a migrant
    The student lives in a household that receives food stamps or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
    The student's family receives food distribution on Indian Reservation benefits
    The student participates in federal TRIO programs or other programs designed to help low-income students
    The student is an orphan or ward of the state

    The information is provided here: https://study.com/academy/popular/how-to-get-an-ap-exam-fee-waiver.html

    Dr. Spindler's comments about the affordability of such exams seems to apply to students who do not meet the criteria for a waiver but for whom a $100 fee is a hardship.

  8. This comment was submitted by email:

    The debate over the $100 AP fee shows how a solvable problem seems to confuse the HCSD and how they use it to gain sympathy at budget time. And to play down a bad academic ranking. I spoke with the NY State Education Department today at length and there are multiple sources with easy to meet requirements to get a near total or total AP fee exam waiver. Interestingly, part of it includes the District refusing its 9% rebate. Also, Districts CAN help pay for AP exams with their own funds…..it is allowed based on consistent standards and if properly budgeted. For all AP exams and fees the District Administrators are in charge of all applications for exams and for waivers etc “since they will know best who qualifies.” So, you see, if the community pitches in and hunts down all the correct information we can solve problems for the school district (BTW we had NEVER been told of this issue by the District before.). And many of us would be willing to support a student on fees if they absolutely could not get a waiver. WE WANT THESE YOUNG PEOPLE TAKING THESE AP EXAMS and not being left out. The HCSD has about $7 million hanging around in its bank accounts, so to throw in our faces the $100 AP fee hurdle is pathetic. Break open the vault. GET THOSE KIDS into those exams, by hook or by crook!!! For Dr. Spindler, a professional budget development specialist, who has been hired to solve problems, this seems like a no-brainer. If she cannot solve this problem she should just get out of the way and we will handle it as a community. Finally, Dr. Spindler used this as a shield to protect the HCSD’s image so she MUST NOW release to the public the number of kids who were left out of AP tests (this year and last year) because they could not afford them (she needs to back her argument up with the facts)……then she should take that money out of her $55 million budget and get those kids to the exam center NOW! What a ridiculous thing to throw at the HCSD taxpayer. Ken Sheffer