Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hingham School District - A Legend In Its Own Town

Hingham is a recently yuppified town southeast of Boston, Massachusetts.

Ask anyone around, there anyway, they have the *best* schools. I've even heard local apologists assert that they are the best government schools in all of Massachusetts.

I've perused their MCAS scores - and they look OK, but nothing that could bestow any *best in state* designation.

In fact, the only scores that stand out at all are those from the 10th grade testing:

Because the elementary and middle school scores are nowhere near those levels. Click the link above.

Obviously, Hingham school district chauvinists claim that no matter how the kids start off in early grades....that how they leave the district, i.e. 10th grade, is most important.

Fair enough. (Although after 10th grade, they've still got 2 more years...)

But still, averaging those 10th grade scores ranks them 23.33 out of 350 public high schools in the state.

Bear in mind those ranks are based on *averages*, not on the upper tier's performance. So if a town has a little ghetto subdivision, its overall school grade can be dragged down. Note that Hingham has no such pockets of economic diversity. Furthermore, I've heard that they are very aggressive in designating kids *special ed* because in that case their testing scores don't have to be counted. (Though, I bet more than a few schools are guilty on this count.)

Consider how much lower Hingham would rank if weighed against the state's private high schools. Because of the prohibitive cost of homeownership homeborrowership in Hingham, 600k for a dilapidated 2,000 square could easily argue that in fact Hingham should more accurately be deemed a *private school*.

I grew up in Massachusetts; and I never, ever heard anything about Hingham schools until I moved to the South Shore. Remember I competed throughout HS in math competitions, regional, statewide, and up. So I had some familiarity with the Boston-area schools, specifically which ones were highly competitive on the math front: Canton, Westwood, Newton, Boston Latin, etc. Again, *Hingham* never rang a bell reputation-wise.

One would think that if the Hingham school district was anywhere near *the best* or *one of the best* there'd be some inter-scholastic way to prove this other than blunt AVERAGES, right?

What I wanted to know, was how schooled were Hingham's best and brightest. As a parent of precocious kids (aren't we all?), I could care less about mean performance. Read this from last year:

Fourth in its league? Are you kidding me?

And one of those schools above it - Notre Dame - is an all-chick situation! I don't need to say it because Obama's Larry Summers already did.

How the bleep can Hingham schools be soooo good if in an intense competition of four contiguous comes in fourth?

At my private HS, which was really *one of the best in the state* when I was there anyway, our worst we might finish fourth, but in the entire county! (And not ever when I was there.)

IMO, if Hingham's star mathletes can't even beat those of neighboring towns, I think it takes some real stones to be talking about statewide educational supremacy. Of course I'm a biased math guy; but still, math has to at worst the second or third most important academic subject.

This post may read overly-extrapolative, but it's grounded in my firm hunches. There are so many towns out there, across the fruited plain, that delude themselves into thinking they have *the best* schools. It's really ridiculous - not to mention mathematically impossible to have so many superlatives.

For those of you familiar with Hingham, enjoy this clip I just found of the OTHERWISE beautiful town:

I really like that music! Can someone enlighten me as to who it was?

UPDATE - My MIL informs me it's Edith Piaf.


Anonymous said...

Bumped into this and thought it might interest you.. perhaps you know this link already :

Anonymous said...

Hingham's reputation is a front to bump up the value of the real estate holdings. How many times have you heard from the real estate agents about how wonderful the local school system is? I bought my house in a similar town called Bedford, NH. We didn't even have kids and the reason we were moving was to reduce my commute. The agent went on and on about the schools. I on the other hand was much more interested in the property tax rate which was much lower than surrounding towns for the reason of wealthy massholes moving in and building mcmansions. Of course my taxes have gone up 25% (they built a new HS) since 2005 but still considerably less than Manchester a $hit hole with terrible schools.

By the way C-nut, i got my 2.75 yr old on that website you suggested for reading and she loves it. Getting her to use the mouse is a chore as my patience is limited but she is slowly getting the hang of it. I also have her down to about 2 hrs of tv a week. Nielson stated that 2-5 yr olds watch on average of 32 hrs a week of tv.

CaptiousNut said...


It is 100% true that real estate agents peddle *good schools* for most towns.

When we were looking at buying in Hingham, some two years ago, it was an incessant bleat: "the schools...the schools....the schools..."

My tack was always to assert that I went to school in the projects of Worcester through 8th grade. The implication is, "Are you calling me a dummy?"

Then I ask the agent, where THEY went to school.

Grew up in Dorchester, huh? So you yourself must be an uneducated Moron!

Of course they are, but that's beside the point.

Whenever an agent starts giving me their *spiel*, my wife's eyes roll and she leaves the room with alacrity. She knows what's coming. I really lay into these quacks - calling them on all their BS.

Then they shut up.

CaptiousNut said...


Thanks for that link.

No, I don't think I've come across that chick.

Her last post has 174 comments!

What a juggernaut. When women like something....they all like it.

I will hyperlink it for the Luddites in our midst:

Pioneer Woman - Homeschooling

Anonymous said...

I love this post, and it's so very true. There's an undercurrent of speculation in Hingham that the schools aren't /actually/ as good as we all think, but it's only spoken in whispers. Sacrilege! How dare anyone suggest such a thing? But anyone with any brains (or any ability to read the numbers) knows it's true.

Here's some similar analysis someone in town did:

I live in Hingham and found your blog by Googling for information about homeschooling in Hingham. If I'm going to have to teach my kids everything they need to know anyway, I may as well go all out, right?

CaptiousNut said...

Thanks for the link as it confirms my hypothesis somewhat.

Methinks Hingham suffers from a severe lack of *Asians* - at least when it comes to top student testing performance.

Hingham, IMO, is still a great place to live for an abundance of reasons - even if they delude themselves about *the schools*.

I've even seriously considered getting a bumper sticker made saying *Hingham Schools Suck* but thought better of the idea. Would piss a bunch of clowns off, if nothing else.

I've heard that they pack the town hall with toadies when education voting is on the agenda.

Check out that blog from the video I've embedded if you haven't already.

Anonymous said...

I do read that blog, and I wouldn't rely on it too much. I even agree with much of what's on it. However, it's something of a joke as far as I'm concerned. Even besides the hysterical tone, it has too many factual errors to really be taken seriously. He also seems to have a fairly limited range of information sources. He completely misses some of the juiciest town gossip. There's something coming down the pipeline relating to our beloved superintendent that he hasn't touched upon, for example.

As for that bumper sticker, well, I don't think it would have the effect you hope for. The people you want to piss off aren't bright enough to realize it's true, so they would just think that you were crazy. It wouldn't even occur to them that there was the slightest chance that you were on to something. It would just be too bizarre a concept for them to be able to take seriously.

You'd probably just sell a lot of those stickers at your town's high school, as they seem to be rivals with us. (Which is news to me, I thought we were rivals with the town on the other side of us). Speaking of which, your town's schools really surprise me in their tepidness. I've heard that the elementary schools are good, but all of the parents with money and connections send their kids to private school for high school, leaving the public high school bereft of much of anything. But at least your town isn't always bragging about being the best district in the state (On what list? According to who? Since when? All I can do is roll my eyes but nod when I hear this.)

And the town hall packing: well, it's probably not any different than any other town, or any other issue: people who care run GOTV drives, and in Hingham GOTV involving school issues hit a large portion of the population. We DID need a new elementary school. The current middle school bullshit is beyond the pale, though.