Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Class rank procedures

From another post:

fixit said...
I apologize if anyone thinks I am attempting to highjack the thread, but it seem an appropriate time to ask for some professional help. I am trying hard to understand class rank in high school and the weighted/unweighted GPA impact to rank. Recently I became aware of a scholarship available only to the top 5% of a graduating class. One student was almost excluded because her unweighted GPA put her under the 5% line (by one position), which is used on transcripts. Her weighted GPA put her above the 5% line. How is valedictorian decided? Weighted or unweighted? And does the policy come from PPS or PDE? Does this only apply to PPS because we are a CAS district as opposed to an AP/honors district?

March 31, 2009 7:15 PM

Anonymous said...
In answer to the class rank question, according to the 2005-6 student handbook, the unweighted average inluding phys ed, health, and summer school is used to calculate class rank. Weighted class rank is calculated for post-secondary institutions interested in the level of the academic program pursued by graduates as high school students.

March 31, 2009 7:31 PM

No "do-overs"

On the March "Start a new post," Anonymous wrote:

Remember as a child the idea of 'do-overs'? Well, our children will have no chance of a 'do-over'when it comes to their educations. If PPS learns from its mistakes, great for the incoming students but tough luck for those in the system. We as PPS victims are being pushed down a path that leads to a cliff. If you believe we have real 'choices' you are one of the leaders to that cliff. If you believe a PPS diploma will be worth the paper it's written on then you get a 50% for effort (heck, the students do or not, I'm confused). If 'new and improved' is you style then PPS is for you (maybe we'll even have a boy and girl themed school). If you believe the Promise will help you kid, let me know how that works out for you. But remember that in this ongoing mess there will be no do-overs for your kids!

Posted by Anonymous to PURE Reform at March 31, 2009 11:05 AM

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Elimination of CAS?

On the March "Start a new post," Anonymous said:

I heard that there are plans to eliminate the CAS program. Does anyone have information about this?

March 28, 2009 9:51 PM

"Community Dialogue" about magnet admissions process

In addition to the Community Dialogue about facilities, according to A+ Schools a Community Dialogue is being held about the magnet admissions process. It is not clear whether the "Community Dialogue" name indicates that the magnet meeting will also be based on a questionnaire and small groups.

Unfortunately, this meeting will be held during spring break, when many families are away, as well as on the second evening of Passover.

The event does not seem to be on the board or parent engagement activities calendars at this time.

Community Dialogue: Magnet Admissions Process

Pittsburgh Public Schools invites you to a city-wide community meeting about the proposed magnet admissions process.

Thursday, April 9, 2009
6:00 to 8:00 PM
School library of Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5
810 Arch Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212The purpose of the meeting is to learn about what is being proposed and provide feedback prior to the April 29, 2009 school board vote.

Attendees should RSVP to superintendentoffice@pghboe.net by April 7th at 5PM. For more information call 412 622 -7920 and see the PPS invitation.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Community dialogue about facilities"

PPS has commissioned a half million dollar facilities study. While the study is sometimes referred to as an update of a study done about 10 years ago on the condition of PPS buildings, the facility review portion of this new study accounts for only $170,000 of the $498,000 cost of the study. A large part of the study is devoted to which programs should be located where.

Posters and flyers prepared by the district invite the public to a "City-wide Community Dialogue" about the study, to be held next week. They announce that "discussion at the City-wide Dialogue will focus on diversity, student travel time, school enrollment, high school, career tech, as well as other academic and facility topics."

Based on these flyers one might envision a panel of experts and decision-makers, presenting district observations on these topics and then conversing with and answering questions posed by community members. Alas, that is not the case. Rather, those attending the event will be given a 14 question scan-tron document to answer, with additional space to enter comments. Any discussion will be in a small group led by a facilitator. Transportation is provided by buses leaving specified locations 45 minutes prior to the event.

A question is how participants will view the time and effort asked of them in relation to the benefits obtained. As a practical matter someone using the district's transportation will spend about 4 hours in all. In return they will have the opportunity respond to a set of general questions that may have a very indirect relationship to their particular concerns.

Monday, March 23, 2009

PPS plans for stimulus spending

PG article on local schools' plans for stimulus funding:


In this article Superintendent Mark Roosevelt implies that an Obama administration emphasis on "student gains" forecloses significant spending on school renovation. In reality, though, the intention of the recovery package has always been to invest significantly in school renovation, even if overall spending is "primarily" on programs.

The Superintendent also indicates that if "any" money is spent on renovation the top priority would be career and technical education- seemingly overlooking the possibility of placing CTE in Peabody, a school that would require little renovation and where the community is eager for a center for CTE.

As for Schenley he states that stimulus money would not support a project "of that magnitude," even though the magnitude necessary is very much in question. And, while CTE at Peabody would seem to make most sense, the issues of CTE and Schenley could both be addressed by renovating Schenley for CTE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pittsburgh Promise expands statewide

Starting next year, Promise funds can be used at private colleges, universities and trade schools state wide.


Report on CEP/Clayton

After presenting the first Transparency Watch, PURE received information that the following information about CEP/Clayton was available on the PPS website:


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Advice on how to improve education in America

Advice to President Obama about how to improve education in America, from writers of NYT Letters to the Editor (including one writer who urges him to "lose the words 'achievement' and 'rigor' ":


Monday, March 16, 2009

Transparency watch

At today's public hearing PURE Reform launched Transparency Watch. Due to a technical problem with the PURE website this testimony is posted below rather than on the announcements page.

Transparency Watch

Today PURE Reform launches Transparency Watch, a new feature we will use to identify important pieces of information about the Pittsburgh public schools which to our knowledge have not yet been provided to the public. We hope the administration and the Board will view this as a tool for ensuring that relevant information reaches the public.
Here are this month’s topics:

Grade 6 – 12 Format- We have not yet seen evidence supporting the benefits of this format.

CEP- As of a month ago we were told that no evaluation was available on the performance of this very expensive school ($5M per year). Also, updated enrollment information does not seem to be posted on the PPS website. NOTE: We learned after the hearing that information on an evaluation should now be available on the PPS website.

University Prep- Details of the arrangement between PPS and the University of Pittsburgh do not seem to have been provided yet.

Stimulus package money- It does not appear that information has been released as to what the district is doing to obtain school construction funds and what is being done to make projects shovel ready. There were also promises made last summer to seek funding opportunities for the Schenley building and so information on this issue should be provided.

Cost of renovating Schenley- Information should be provided on whether the $40M plan devised by the Schenley Building Task Force is acceptable and whether this is the figure that should be used when considering the cost to make Schenley available.

Asbestos plaster schools - Clear information is needed on when schools will be considered unsafe due to asbestos plaster issues. For example, over the past three months alone at Vann elementary there was an emergency cleanup of fallen ceiling plaster from the auditorium (copy of invoice attached) as well as removal of loose asbestos plaster in the library and a classroom. Over 200 Pittsburgh residents (additional signatures submitted today) have requested but not received a comparison of the condition of the plaster at schools such as Vann to the plaster at the Schenley building.

Incentive programs -Information should be provided on which schools have incentive programs such as rewards for attendance at extra standardized test preparation, the amount being spent on these programs, and the evidence the district considered both for and against this type of program.

Magnet lottery procedures- Information should be provided as to who is developing these procedures, what type of parent and teacher input has been obtained, and what are the specific goals that require a lottery different from one chance per applicant?

Board committee meeting minutes- These should be posted on the PPS website.

We as taxpayers pay over $500 million a year to fund the Pittsburgh public school district and so it would be difficult to imagine that we should not have a right to this type of information, preferably in advance of the time relevant decisions are made.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION omitted due to time constraints: A step in the right direction is the fact that meetings of the recently established facilities committee are open for observation by the public.

Teaching to the test

Letter to the editor in today's PG: "Teaching to the test isn't education":


Facilities Committee Meetings

Facilities committee meetings are open to the public to observe. One meeting has already been held. Here are the dates and times for the remaining meetings:

6:30-8:30 at the BOE building, Conference room A

March 19

April 28

April 30

May 28

June 4

First Board Watch Report Card

From the PG, the first grade awarded by A+ School's Board Watch is a C+.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

For success, ask successful teachers

On the March "Start a new post," Cornelius Figgyfin wrote:

Everything about the Broad Program is yet another step in the process of the government getting out of the education business. Read the website and understand what is transpiring in Pittsburgh--our darkest days are being shared in other cities.

If you want to turn around education in this urban setting, bring together the most successful teachers in every school---from every department. Let them come up with real world scenarios in which kids can achieve and academic integrity can be maintained. Let them discuss the real problems our kids face--the real dilemmas each teacher faces each and every day. Let them discuss the neighborhoods our kids come from and the many problems which are there in the home and in the community.

Get rid of the superintendent and his staff immediately. Urban education is no place for corporate types and no place for failed teachers who have matriculated into administration. It's not a place for those who devise policies so grossly out of touch with the realities of the classroom that their beliefs seem to emanate from comic books.This is a crucial time in education, and this is no time or place for pseudo-educators.You want success? Ask the most successful teachers.

Posted by Cornelius Figgyfinn to PURE Reform at March 15, 2009 12:18 AM

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is a concerned parent to do?

On the "Search PURE Reform's blog" post, Anonymous wrote:

Please, someone help our kids!What is a concerned, outraged and confused parent to do, REALLY????

"Short" senior year and loss of electives

On the "50%" post Anonymous and Parent'o3 wrote:

Anonymous said...
Do you realize that many seniors actually have enough credits to graduate (except senior English and PE) after their junior year? Some already take an extra year of PE in their junior year (against policy of course) to eliminate that their senior year. And many of them take "fluff" courses senior year, not higher academic courses,to fill their schedule. Many get a "work" release to get out of school early and this is not fully supervised. So for many, senior year is a "blow-off." And since a large number of electives have been eliminated, choices are slim to none. For many, senior year is a holding tank before having to move into the real world.Students could actually graduate in 3 years if scheduling were done correctly. But, in reality, school is a "babysitting" place, not an academic institution.

March 14, 2009 3:39 PM

parent'o'3 said...
You have to have four years of math, too, though that's still a short schedule. Rather than shorten to three years I'd rather see kids offered useful and/or interesting and/or enriching classes that will either make them more successful adults or make sure they have skills in the job they're aiming toward.

March 14, 2009 3:58 PM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preventing violence in PPS

Here is PG online's report of an incident at Allderdice today that resulted in the arrest of 20 students:


A question is whether there is someone at PPS working proactively to prevent these occurrences, for example by staying on top of current issues and neighborhood tensions, or is PPS just reacting to incidents after the fact?

Chart showing projected school stimulus money per district

From today's PG:


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Paying students for high scores or attendance at extra classes

An experiment being funded by the Broad Foundation is the idea of paying students for higher test scores.


A parent here in Pittsburgh reports that in a program that began last year, students are being compensated with gift cards to attend Saturday PSSA prep classes, extra tutoring, etc. There does not seem to have been much if any discussion of this program in the media, during televised Board meetings or on the District web site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hearings on PPS building study

Today's Tribune indicates that hearings will be held for the public to comment on the facilities study being conducted by a consulting firm from Ohio.

Reportedly, the firm will look at building conditions, possible programs in the buildings, projected enrollment and the PPS financial condition. The study will cover open buildings as well as four closed buildings (including Schenley but not Reizenstein).

"Regional" public hearings are to be held on May 13 and 14 at 7:00 pm at a location not yet announced. A "city-wide" public hearing is planned for March 30 on the South Side. The facilities study is to be completed in July 2009.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Broad Foundation Influence

From another post:

Anonymous said:
I agree about all the forces against teachers and administrators (and parents) speaking out and getting heard (rather than just nodded at). I don't have a solution, but I do think there are some things each of those groups can do. One is to get together a group -- perhaps teachers from different schools who all live in the same board member's district. Set up a meeting with your school board member and talk about the changes for the worse that have been seen in the last few years. Talk about the fear of speaking out. Recommend times that those board members should come to visit schools. Include like-minded parents.Make suggestions here for what's needed in terms of change or what's been lost. For instance, there have often been calls here for a comprehensive long-range plan, something that spells out 5 and 10 year goals and plans for buildings, programs, etc.

Sometimes just having lots of different people saying the same thing gets that message heard.For parents, the Parent Hotline does seem to get quick action on specific school issues if they haven't been addressed when you dealt with the school directly. It's my understanding that a school has a pretty short turn-around time to get back to the BOE with information regarding those calls. If only the parent hotline were set up to take complaints about the administration...

This is more abstract, but I do think we all need to realize that this isn't just a Pittsburgh/current administration thing. This is happening in districts across the country and Broad "trained" administrators are heading them up everywhere. Check out the Broad program website and read the details of the "10-month" program:www.broadacademy.org It's got a pretty partisan view but this blog pulls together all sorts of news stories and research about the current wave of "reform":http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/

March 8, 2009 10:06 PM

Anonymous said...
The post about the Broad "trained" administrators hit the nail on the head. When a Broad graduate gets a position, ie. Roosevelt, they are supposed to bring in other employees from Broad. Roosevelt has brought in at least one Broad trained person. I can't remember who it is right now. Broad is like a giant pyramid scheme taking over the education in our country.

March 9, 2009 6:42 AM

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gym time

In today's PG Letters to the Editor, a writer indicates that most CAPA 9th graders have not had gym all year. Unfortunately the letter does not explain why that is the case- are there temporary or permanent facilities issues, or a decision to eliminate gym for certain grades? Aren't there state and district requirements for gym class?

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09066/953805-110.stm sixth letter.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Two views of NYC's reform process

From today's NYT, an article called "Taking sides on New York's Chancellor."


The chancellor is NYC's version of a superintendent, but the chancellor is appointed by the mayor. The article describes how some view the chancellor as an innovator willing to take on the teachers' union, while others view him as an "arrogant outsider" who will not consider the views of parents and who values "law degrees over teaching experience when selecting his top deputies."

Changes have included new small and charter schools, changes in admission to gifted programs and data-driven experiments.

As for results- strangely, while state test scores have risen, that is not the case for the national tests taken by eighth graders. The article does not discuss why both national and state tests would not show improvement.

Call to televise school board public hearings

From Letters to the Editor in today's PG, in support of Kathy Fine's op ed "You Call This Reform?" and calling for the monthly public hearings held by the school board to be televised:


Note that PG Letters are now available for comment in blog format:


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maintenance issues

On the March "Start a new post" Anonymous wrote:

At a program at Allderdice yesterday I noticed the stalls in one of the bathrooms had no locks. I thought maybe this was intentional but another bathroom did have locks. How can this type of basic maintenance problem be overlooked or considered unimportant? What are the chances that the stalls at the Bellefield building have no locks?

Posted by Anonymous to PURE Reform at March 5, 2009 8:13 AM

More on grading scales

Another article from the PG, stating that per some experts there is little difference among grading scales, although these experts do not seem to be addressing situations where a set GPA must be reached to qualify for ex for a Pgh Promise scholarship or entry into a magnet program. The article also does not address the fact that the 0-5 scale works essentially the same way as the 50% minimum to bump up grades when assignments are skipped.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New procedures for magnet programs

From today's PG, new proposals for giving various types of applicants a greater chance to be selected for various magnet programs are being proposed. The PG mentions that comments may be made at the March and April public hearings. It is not clear where the new proposal may be found for review.


Lack of responsiveness by PPS administration/board

On the March "Start a new post" Anonymous(s) wrote:

This PURE Reform forum has made 2 points crystal clear for me: 1) There are many, many people who are really concerned about the students and the future (or lack of) of PPSs, and that; 2)board members, administrators, and their boss don't read this blog, don't care to admit they read it or just think that they are smarter than the rest of us which gives them the right to make decisions that affect our children but not theirs.

March 3, 2009 8:17 PM

Anonymous said...

Like-mindedness tends to scare me. It tends to be dangerous, especially in these times. It's troubling that such an incredibly outrageous issue like the grading policy does not spark debate within administration itself. That alone tells me that we are dealing with a mindset and to me, it does not bode well for me or my kids.Don't discount arrogance. There is an ample amount to go around on Bellefield Avenue. That these folks actually believe they are above the fray is disconcerting.

March 3, 2009 9:10 PM

Monday, March 2, 2009

50% minimum grade policy amended

The PG reports that students who refuse to do work will receive a grade of 0 for that work. Students who make a good faith effort on an assignment will still receive at least a 50%.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Search PURE Reform's blog

You can search for particular subjects in PURE's blog by using the "search" function on the upper left of the blog.

Start a new post

To start a new post, reply to this post with your question, comment or suggestion for a new topic. The adminstrator will then start a new post with your topic as a title.You can post anonymously if you prefer. Click on "post a comment". Type in the word you see for word verification. Choose how you would like to be identified in the post click "publish your comment".