Sunday, June 14, 2009

Retaining students in PPS

On the June "Start a new post" anonymous wrote:

At a party this weekend I met someone who had moved their family to the suburbs due to PPS. The parents had called the principal at their feeder 6-8 school and explained that they were considering the school but would like to meet with someone at the school for more information. The principal informed them that there would be an open house the next May and that after that they could call in with any questions. The response was not particularly welcoming and they didn't wait around for the open house. Should PPS be doing more to retain families at transition grades?


Anonymous said...

With everything that is being put upon principals and teachers at the school level, the onus is upon central administration to take care of these details. After all, here is a group of people with nothing but time on their hands.

It would seem to me that given the district's numbers that indicate exodus from the city, the administration's view that the Pittsburgh Promise will actually bring families into the city is being viewed as propaganda in the homes of current achieving students, and well, it should.
The district has a number of things going for it--the IB program, the Promise for true achieving students who are worthy of college, CAPA, etc., but it has too many problems in the average schools. I don't have the answers, but it would seem to me that non-teaching staff in the PPS should come up with some bright ideas to justify their hefty, taxpayer-based salaries.
This was a case where central administration would likely have done what they do best---hid in an office somewhere.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Hell yes. PPS should be doing much more to retain kids and families in the district.

We've got to RECRUIT and RETAIN kids. And, we've got to RESPECT the families and their wishes, questions, views and decisions.

The best person to do the hand holding for a parent isn't the principal. It is another parent, frankly. This is plain old word of mouth. There is trust there -- or it can be developed and cultivated by some. Or trust can be blown too.

Our community networks need to be stronger. In the city -- they are bigger than in the burbs. So, the reach between nodes can be harder to make with connections. But, this is where real value resides.

Anonymous said...

I was at a meeting where a board member said "If you want to send your kids to public school, fine; if you want to send them to private school that's fine too"- which sounded to me like "take it or leave it."

deegazette said...

In the retaining department...I saw a few minutes of last night's agenda review on PPS Tube via Mrs Hazuda asked questions of Dr. Lane about the "summer help" for gifted ed. It is difficult to discern without referencing the documents but it seems PPS is trying to identify children to be evaluated for gifted ed. This was brought to light during the pilot for gifted ed. Expanding gited ed, a way to retain students in PPS and Pgh?

Anonymous said...

Mark, well said. I guess the only problem is within the idea of 'parents' themselves. For every good parent who cares and values education there are two who simply don't know, don't care and sees things with tunnel vision associated with just their own kid, if at all.

I tend to see the glass as half empty at this point. I think most teachers are good and caring, but the few who aren't in that equation spoil the mix. I tend to think of most administrators as well-meaning, but see the few who view the education process as a validation of their own thought processes as being part of the problem. I tend to see most parents as being caring but realize the absentee parents are the ones behind the apathetic students, and there are many.

I wish I had the answers.

PPSparent said...

Retaining the students of apathetic parents isn't the problem though -- those have some of the highest retention levels in the district, if not in any one school.

The point, though, is that involved, middle class parents -- the kind that volunteer, run PTO/PTAs, organize fun fairs, run chess clubs and the like -- are a vital part of the mix. We need all kinds of kids in the schools. But those parents are also the kind that need the sort of personal attention and even hand-holding that Mark is talking about, I think.

If those parents buy in long enough to see (what's left of) the good stuff and the good teachers and programs, will be the ambassadors to others like them. The kids of the apathetic parents benefit greatly when there are parents like that around schools. They get read to, they get attention in small groups, they get more field trips and other enriching experiences.

[I'll say in advance that I'm just expecting some post about the ivory tower, pie in the sky, blahblahblah mentality, so feel to bring it on, but don't expect much energy on a response!]

But those parents are losing hope and faith that this system is going to survive the latest rounds of reform. They hear the rhetoric from the BOE building and the upper administrators but when they're out in the schools, they know it's not like it used to be. They know that teachers are demoralized, that programs that sound great on paper or in presentations don't look the same when they see them in real life.

Those are the parents that need to be encouraged and helped along to stay and help change what needs to be changed, rather than to flee to private schools, charters or the suburbs.

Anonymous said...

Parent, I would tend to agree with your comments here, but I have to wonder about the schools many of our kids leave for--the Central Catholics, the Oakland Catholics, etc.--and the perceptions parents have about the ability of such schools to deal with the needs of their kids. Of course, this is especially true for parents whose kids begin in private schools. What are the selling points to have them leave such places for PPS, other than price?
Parents of achieving schools don't need to hear about the Promise and they don't want to hear about grade deals that ensure "success" in the classroom--along the lines of doctoring grades. If it's true we have lost a ton of families and kids in the past 4 or 5 years to private schooling, I have to wonder how we sell them on returning/coming into the district, other than via IB programs.

Mark Rauterkus said...

It was posted, "Mark, well said."

Thanks for the kind words.

If there are only one parent who cares to two or three who don't -- or who can't really HELP at this juncture, then that means more of us who do care have to step up 3x or more.

Really, it only takes a few to make a huge difference.

More soon.

Mark Rauterkus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Rauterkus said...

Each school and each classroom / grade needs a cadre or crew of engaged boosters. Most of all, these are parents. They are volunteers.

There are many different roles to fill. Some can be used at different times to contribute in different ways.

Sure, at different times and for different duties -- most are not that effective. But, the there are keys. The right nodes in the network need to be active at the right times.

The mission critical things are best left to the paid professionals -- but -- there is much more to life than just the classroom.

To flourish, it takes a village. (jargon sin)

These support elements need coaching too. And, it is often with informal communication where much happens. Social networking. Word of mouth. The BAZAAR, and not the CATHEDRAL, is powerful.

Anonymous said...

Mark, a catch-phrase of the 90's was, "your perception is your reality." That terminology is appropriate to this topic. I would bet that the majority of parents within the IB program, within CAPA and elements of Allderdice have positive perceptions of how their children are progressing within their respective schools. Add to this that these types of students usually have supportive, involved parents, and it follows that getting the word out makes sense and is something that will get done. And I would bet there are parents of CAS, AP and perhaps even PSP and mainstream students at Brashear, Perry, Carrick, etc., that would say and do the same.
The perceptions are not of perfect scenarios but overall, the idea is that the system works.
Perhaps these types of people know best how to attract similar parents to their schools, but it seems to me that the district has lost achievers. It seems to me that we have lost the achievers in parts of the city where the comprehensive high schools have had their shares of troubles. Oliver. Carrick. Langley. For whatever reason, parents have opted to send their kids to Seton LaSalle, to OC, to CC, to get the picture.
And I am sure this is even more true at the middle and elementary school levels.
The natural come-back from a parent whose kids go to the IB, or CAPA or Carmalt, etc., is to travel from your part of town to the area where the school is.
In this day and age, some folks won't do that.
It is an interesting time, however, as there are two different conversations here--
On one hand, there are the families that move out of the city. How do we get the word out to people contemplating the same move? On the other are city residents who send their kids to private schools. How do we show them that some schools and programs are wonderful? Given the economy, perhaps there will be a turnaround soon, but this latter scenario seems to be the place to focus efforts.
Sorry about the length.

Mark Rauterkus said...

What doesn't work, faceless, nameless commenter, is putting your thoughts and words into the marketplace of ideas and making the assumption that they are MINE.

Do speak for yourself all you want. Fine. Be long too. Challenge what I say with better logic and specifics on counterpoints. Fine.

But the gross generalizations about ME are off the mark.

For instance: You say, in part,

"... I would bet that the majority of parents within ..."

Faceless and nameless one, don't be quick to speak for those others either.

"... The perceptions are not of perfect scenarios but overall, the idea is that the system works..."

I am a HUGE fan of "think again." I'm a huge critic of "the system." IMHO, the system is broken.

I agree, the district has lost achievers. And, the district has lost a lot of others too -- of all types. The big shrink continues. Many, who can, choose to vote with their feet.

I've seen families depart the city when the oldest child hits middle school. Not so much at high school as when the kids hit grades 6 and 7. PLUS, you say this as well.

Sure, many go to the Catholic schools, but many of them are closing too. The city's shrink hits them as well.

Not many people in this city's history have traveled beyond their own neighborhoods. Okay. So. People of Pgh are well rooted. But, the IB and CAPA kids do choose to roll elsewhere, as do those at Perry and other city-wide magnets / charters. This isn't FRESH news, generally.

1. Families that move out of the city. How do we get the word out to people contemplating the same move?

Good Q.

2. City residents who send their kids to private schools. How do we show them that some schools and programs are wonderful?

Great Q.

My top Q:

How do we lay the shovel down? I want to focus on the kids that are here. Pittsburgh needs to grow ourselves out of this quagmire of folly at the schools.

I don't want to cater to those that are not here. I want to cater to those that are choosing to stick around and fight the good fight.

Gotta run....

Teacher 2 said...

Mark, I think you misread anon's post and took his/her comments as a reflection on your own thoughts. The net and blogs are wonderful, but they do not act as a substitute for true discussion.
That said, you posit a number of good questions which likely have no across-the-board answer. Today in the PG, we are treated to the idea that more schools will be closing thanks to school population decline.
Is this a good thing or bad thing? What does it mean to parents, to students, to teachers?
Lastly Mark, please understand why some here decide to stay anonymous. These are dangerous times within the district and I feel you are astute enough to sense the type of administration in control right now. This is not a group that places a great deal of faith in the ideas of classroom teachers. This is not a group that welcomes parental discussion. Instead, this is a group that seeks to squelch dissent, castigate those on the ground level who see the bigger picture, a group that wants to stomp on anyone who questions.
They have made John Thompson and Dale Frederick appear to be something of a cross between Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, and I did not think that possible.
Keep asking questions and seeking improvement, Mark--and all posters here. Just remember, you're fighting on the same side. It's always good to make the three headed monster feel somewhat nervous.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Understood on being anonymous. No problem with me. Just be sure to attack messages and not messenger, as I'm exposed like few others.

And, tip to anonymous folks -- get a HANDLE. Log in and be 'cupcake' or 'pizza lover' or something. Then we can better have a clue as to the tone and direction of these threads. In 6 months -- toss the handle and pick a new one, if you wish. My role is not to out anyone -- but troubles and problems -- and that goes far beyond individuals.

Yep: This is not a group that welcomes parental discussion. Most in power act that way from time to time.

As to closing schools -- it is BAD to yank around families. I'd love to see a "pittsburgh pledge" that says kids that enter a school will be able to evolve out of that school. We need more long-term vision on the closing and a longer process to close out a building - should that be necessary.

Exacalibur said...

Mark, I have always felt that when you are dealing with schools and local government, people intrinsically involved are the ones who make the best choices. Roosevelt is not a Pittsburgher. He's not even an educator. Thompson" Not a Pittsburgher. Frederick? Nope.
Certainly, Pittsburghers like Faison, Brennan and Dick Wallace (a guy who still has local clout) understood the complexities and dynamics of schools and communities.
Now, we have individuals with no clue calling the shots. Everything is black and white. Dollars. Test scores.
Unfortunately, no one told Roosevelt or his cronies that education is a people business. The best interest of the kids is what counts.

Questioner said...

More important than being a Pittsburgher would probably be having decisionmakers with a long term commitment to Pittsburgh.

Excalibur said...

Oh, I agree with you, Questioner, but we are talking about the same individual here. You know, someone stood up and said something to Roosevelt during the Schenley public hearings that was spot on, something along the lines of "You make the decisions and then leave town for greener pastures while we are the ones that will have to live with and pay for those decisions." An older woman with a great deal of courage and vision.

justaparent said...

The Catholic schools Mark refers to as closing are at the K-8 level. I have seen reports in The Pittsburgh Catholic and in reports from Catholic High Schools showing increases in enrollment at the 9-12 level. It is common in many Pittsburgh neighborhoolds to send your child to PPS til 8th grade, taking advantage of gifted ed and other PPS programs, save your money for private high school ed, and then put your kid in a catholic high school. This happens for South Hills and South Brook kids sometimes.

Really, ask any parent of a kid at a private or parochial school why the kid is not in PPS and the top answer is that they feel their child is safer at the non-PPS sacool. Any mention of "Metal detector" is followed by a gasp which is such BS. Nothing wrong with metal detectors and all schools will have them soon enough. (An aside, can we put a limit of the number of pieces of jewelry a kid can wear to school? It irritates me to see kids standing out in the rain while jewelry and belts are being removed.)

parent of 2 said...

It would go a long way in retaining students in PPS if we had a leadership interested in education. And by that I don't mean scores, statistics and money spent on yet another study. I MEAN TEACHING AND LEARNING!
Not being a Pittsburgher is not truly the issue but being an educator is.

Excalibur said...

No, dear parent, the issue is to allow teachers to teach. Maybe you missed the school year that just passed. maybe you missed the idea of "canned curriculum", replete with hideous pacing, poor selections of material in all content areas and the complete destruction of academic integrity via the 50% grading policy, which later gave way to an even worse grading policy.
Scores and data are what drive this administration and in true trickle-down fashion, all university-directed curriculum will be written to enhance scores, to get even the most academically apathetic student onto the pathway to the promise, and this is all meant to have parents like you feel good about your choice, PPS!
Wave your terrible towel now. Maybe we can have a ticker tape parade for the Roosevelt bunch. They've never been in a classroom before...heck, they avoid going there even now...but they sure have parents like you fooled.

parent of 2 said...

I apologize if I was unclear. Believe me I missed nothing this year with the canned curriculm and all the other garbage that came with it. I do want the teachers to be allowed to teacher which in turn may allow students to really learn.
My point was that it is the quality of the people at the board not where they are raised that is important

Anonymous said...

I have posted about this before and wanted to say one more time how good 1975 was. Just a few years ago my kid was not getting Math and the meltdowns were awful, and mostly mine. He started to bring home worksheets with a copyright of 1975 and things began to click. A math teacher stuck out a neck and personalized instruction to help a kid. It is frustrating to think I could not publicly express gratitude to a teacher for this effort due to worry I might get her in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Most parents know what is going on. Most understand that your central administration and top offices are not educators. Never were, never will be.
These people have attached their fortunes to one issue: The Pittsburgh Promise. Everything from the earliest elementary years to senior year is attached to it. Public relations will continue to trumpet it.

And all it is--is a way for students who don't do well academically to have their grades inflated and get into college.

The curriculum? Canned. preconceived..and not in a classroom environment, but from college professor types. Teacher individuality? No thanks. Now more than ever, a group of people is imposing its will not only on what the kids learn but what they should think.

1984. Orwell was right.

A new day said...

Over the many months the PURE Reform Blogg has great conversations identifying many of the problems that face the City and the families and students in our City. Lets put a twist on our thinking and brainstorm ways we can help improve the district. What will it take?????????

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful idea, but not a new one. It will take a new superintendent to achieve this, however. Many of us who have been closely involved with doing just what A New Day has suggested have found that any well thought out, well researched input has been ignored. This superintendent has repeatedly invited concerned and knowledgeable citizens to form and participate on committees, only to disregard any constructive findings. The strategy is to "keep them quiet by keeping them busy."

A new day said...

Your on the right track.
1. New Superintendent
(how can we achieve this?)
2. Curriculum
(What, where etc...)
I know their not listening but how can we trump that?
Am I making sense.

Questioner said...

There seems to be sincere interest on the part of the district in input on how to market programs. And of course parents/community members are welcome to sign on to programs with a well-defined role for community members, like 6th grade mentoring or reading to students, or to hold bake sales and support sports teams.

Anonymous said...

The superintendent will leave on his own before enough board votes could ever be obtained to make a change.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, a great many board members are part of the problem, too. Colaizzi is no help, simply a mouthpiece for an incredibly poor administration that has killed academics in the city. But then again, what could you possibly expect from her or a Jean Fink to begin with?
Look, you can try to put a smiley face on all of this. The trouble is, the policies of this district have seriously hurt our children. THAT is the problem. The idea of farming out curriculum writing to third parties NOT in the classroom should give all parents great pause. The thinking behind the selections of each piece of literature at all grade levels should make us wonder. The thinking behind what gets studied in social studies and what doesn't should make us ill.
Who is behind these decisions? Why aren't teachers consulted? Why are they being made to adhere to implementing horrible curriculum?
What is the point?

A new day said...

I TRUELY UNDERSTAND YOUR FRUSTRATIONS. I am a parent, not an administrator, teacher or enemy. I have two girls one has recently graduated from PPS. BUT you ask "What is the point?" What is the point to continue to complain and complain and complain. We need to move from this point on and try and beat them at their game. OR our board should be appointed. At this point we voted these people in Lets rally to vote these people out. Lets try and inform the people of the City that what is going on in the district is BAD. The only people that know about this blogg ar those who what change.

Anonymous said...

Which board election would that be? Candidates are already set for November. And voters in a particular district are not likely to vote out a director who really looks out for that district.

As for an appointed board- how independent is the mayor from the superintendent? Realistically, would there be any more oversight than there is now? It's sad to think that things will change only if the situation gets really, really bad.

Parent said...

I believe that an appointed board (which was discussed back when John Thompson was here and Murphy was mayor) has no ability to tax. So, the school district's budget would then be under city control.

It's amazing how many frying pan/fire scenarios there are in all of this.

I do think THE most important thing people here can do is to talk about these issues at every opportunity. (And to be a bit snarky, talking about them doesn't actually mean calling everyone who doesn't agree with every word you say an sometimes happens here where we're all basically on the same page.)

Teachers need to talk about what's good and bad, parents need to talk about the changes they've seen for better and worse.

Honestly? Whenever people begin to ask about things like the IB move/Schenley close and what's happening, if you JUST tell them the basic facts of it all -- they think you're crazy. And when they realize that you are just telling the truth, the think the planning is crazy. And it is.

That all ignores the fact that this reform has been carried out at the HS level in the most backwards way possible. Successful programs have been "reformed"/changed/moved first. Years after Roosevelt got here, the struggling HSs are struggling more, losing students every day and have seen the least investment.

K-8 schools to help poor, low-achieving students were put...into two buildings, thus recreating the middle schools they were meant to replace, only in putting middle school kids in buildings without middle school facilities...

It goes on and on, even before you get to the curriculum and that's certainly a whole book on its own.

Another Anonymous said...

But somehow we have a board that ignores all of this...

Parent said...

True that.

What I think happens is they hear some things they don't like. Then they go over to Bellefield and they're told in great detail that the people (parents, students) they are talking to don't really know what's going on in the schools, or that the one school they're talking about is the exception.

They're spun the tales that the admin is so good at -- and honestly, the way they tell it sounds great! So, it's easier to assume that the problems they hear are isolated and to assume that the people they have to spend hours in meetings with are being totally honest with them.

I wish board members spent half as much time dropping in on schools, unannounced, as they do in meetings. I don't mean that punitively, either, in that everything they saw would be bad. But they'd realize that having the right posters on the walls and the right slogans and standards on the board has NOTHING to do with the learning going on in that room pretty darn fast.

One thing we can do is encourage everyone we know to complain in writing to their board member about these sorts of districtwide issues. (Meaning, tell teachers and principals about the classroom/student issues, but alert the board to all systemic, curriculum, waste of the teacher's time issues. Most parents that are in the schools at all quickly learn that there are lots of things teachers and principals wouldn't mind having brought to the board's attention!)

Maybe I'll start carrying cards with the board members emails and stamped envelopes with their board address on them!

Oh...and tell parents/teachers about this site as well. More people here means more information for all of us.

Rick Derringer said...

Someone asked "what's the good of complaining?" I think it does a great deal of good, to be truthful.

Talk to most average Pittsburghers and they will likely tell you what a great job Mark Roosevelt is doing and they base that all on the PR he has gotten for The Pittsburgh Promise. If you are reading this---and there are no "idiots" here, from what I can see--then you know what a sham the promise is, at least where the academically able are concerned. The entire district has decided to abandon the idea of academic integrity for the promise, which basically acts to help the lowest common denominator in the district achieve the goal of going to college. It will not aid your kids in getting into Pitt---the district killed its own image in the eyes of the admissions reps--it will not pay for your kid's education. It is a plus in that it bridges the gap between a college expense and what grants/aid/scholarships your kids can get. But it has decimated your kid's reputation by handing grades out to kids who do nothing.

Why complain? Riots at Allderdice, the closing of Schenley, the fights at Oliver, innuendo involving teachers....the list goes on and on...and the PR machine snuffs it out to remind residents of the promise. It's all about the promise.

What we have seen in this town is truly amazing. That this gentleman and his cronies continue to be able to call what they are doing in the district "education" is unbelievable.

A new day said...

Mr. Derringer
My point is we (the PURE Reform blogg group) know what the hecks going on. We all care about whats going on. We have a clearer perspective that most of the board members and alot of the people in the city. I think we need to use these creative and intelligent minds to do something pro active. The reason I mentioned complaining and I agree complaining is good, but if you go back to the beginning
that is mostly what we've been doing. I'm excited that everyone here is so intuned to the problems and passionate. I just keep tinking whats the next step, where do we go from here.

Rick Derringer said...

And that is the point where I would think that I differ from many here. I tend to feel that this superintendent and this board have no desire to engage the public in debate or discussion. The Schenley debacle taught me as much. The idea seemed --and certainly seems--to be, "Let's go through the motions and do what we want." It says something that a group of people who make their livelihoods via public funding can be so cavalier. Then again, this is a group that ramrodded home curriculum that emanates from groups outside of the classroom (with a few teachers throwing in their ideas, for what it is worth)and a teacher evaluation program...a group that somehow got the teaching staff to swallow hard on "raises" that didn't keep up with the standard of living and added a step on the scale, a group that enacted grading scales that completely cut the legs off of true teachers across the district---
and never looked back.

This is a group that feels it can do as it pleases, my friends.

Parent said...

Absolutely agree that this is currently a group doing what it pleases. BUT, as "a new day" points out, that is in very large part due to the press the administration is getting.

If you don't have kids in the schools and get your information from reading the paper or talking to people at foundations or talking to people who do those things, you believe that things are not only not getting worse, but that things are getting better.

That's why it is so vitally important that those of us who do have contact with the system and can refute these false impressions do so.

I find the hardest part of this is not sounding crazy. As I mentioned above, when people hear about what has happened, is happening and what they're talking about doing next, they don't believe that those things have actually been planned and carried out.

BUT, then they can go back and read the articles and recognize that when you strip away all the "excellence" and "rigor" and "high expectations" that what you've described is exactly what's happening. I find the grading scheme, along with HS reform starting with the best first and still not getting to the worst problems years later are the strongest talking points.

Anonymous said...

I have a neighbor who thinks that Roosevelt is doing a good job. What makes this scary to me is that this neighbor is an educator with a child in a PPS high school.

Anonymous said...

Agreed- most people don't have a clue. They are told that a particular grade for example did well on the PSSA's and assume that is representative of results across the board, not realizing that performance in some of the other grades did not change and in some grades even declined. And they definitely don't stop to challenge the focus on PSSA's.

Anonymous said...

To beat a dead horse....and it perhaps it is reflective of my age that I enjoy challenging authority...what is disconcerting is the idea of an agenda behind curriculum selections. I hate the idea of molding kids into thinking in one certain way. Sorry, I want kids to think for themselves. With this in mind, I have a real problem with literature selections in the high schools. Isn't anybody paying attention to what the kids are being forced to read??? Even the teachers think it's outrageous.

Let's take that into social studies. How do you ignore so many vital parts of American history to focus on miniscule events that make one portion of our society look better or seem more empowered? If you believe in team, then you understand that a great many people participated in forming the nation. Why are we singling out groups? What's the agenda? Sorry, it goes beyond being politically proper.

And friends, that's what bothers me. In literature, so many great authors of all colors wrote in a style that opened minds and drove the idea of thinking for one's self. Read and make your own connections. So much of history is absolutes. Events happened. Period. And some simply were more vital than others in shaping the nation. Is the idea that if we ignore it, someone can revise it?

There's a danger in allowing university types to dictate curriculum, and there's a danger in allowing corporate types to make pronouncements about what is academically right and sound...and what isn't.

These are dark times for students and for adults who look at the mind as something that holds endless possibilities and not as something that should be shaped in one direction. Sorry it seems that average Pittsburghers--like average Americans--have no clue what is taking place.

bball mom said...

Anonymous 5:02
My next stop on my computer was the suggested reading list on This blog has hosted the discussion on the literature selections several times and from what you say I think we are in agreement without going into detail already. My fear is that soon we will see the upper levels of the admin declare success and move in to the national consultant arena. I will look for a Pittsburgh Quarterly article about a student from Pitt recently given a Gates award as soon as I logoff. In the story she mentioned how high school left her unchallenged and without a clear direction because the emphasis was all on the test scores. Her grades were mediocre in high school. Gates is funding her grad school. Hmmmmm. What do I want for my child? A teacher who knows how to challenge my kid and find her clear direction.

Anonymous said...

If it's true that teachers are required to follow tightly scripted lesson plans, it is hard to see how they will get to know your kid well enough to help her find a clear direction.

Parentx3 said...

The suggested reading list is for summer reading, it is not the curriculum.

Someone before had posted the reading lists for each grade -- or at least one grade. I'll look for it, because, honestly, I didn't find it horrifying.

My kids have read a mix of old (Iliad, Odyssey, Shakespeare), not as old (Dickens) and new (uhh, shoot, these never stick with me as well! Yellow Raft in..., and, uh...)

It would be immensely helpful if we actually had an outline of the expected reading/curriculum for this discussion, rather than ominous mutterings!

Of course, the fact that they don't at least have something like that on the website is distressing as well.

Anonymous said...

I think I found the solution! Maybe the dissatisfied areas can secede from the school district!

Kathy Fine said...

Below is the reading list for CAS and mainstream grades 9 and 10.

CAS English 1

Perrine’s Sound and Sense, 12th Edition

Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing
Deirdre Mullane, ed.

Summer Reading:

The Wave by Morton Rhue

House on Mango Streetby Sandra Cisneros

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

“The Furnished Room” by O. Henry

“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter

“Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather

“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

The Odyssey by Homer

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

CAS English 2

“A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

Perrine’s Sound and Sense, 12th Edition

Summer Reading:

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Out of This Furnace by Thomas Bell

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Perrine’s Sound and Sound and Sense

Romeo and Juliet, dir. Baz Luhrman

Romeo and Juliet, dir. Franco Zeffirelli

West Side Story, dir. Jerome Robbins

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

The Last Days of Socrates by Plato

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Oedipus The King by Sophocles

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Richard III by William Shakespeare

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

The Miser by Moliere

Night by Elie Wiesel

Marty by Paddy Chayefsky

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Mainstream English 1

Various Short Story Selections from The Language of Literature:
“Harrison Bergeron”
“No Witchcraft For Sale”
Excerpt from “Montgomery Bus Boycott”
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
“Exile” by Julia Alvarez
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Selected Poetry from The Language of Literature
Black Boy
Nectar in a Sieve
A Separate Peace
The Chocolate War
The Secret Life of Bees
The Brave

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Mainstream English 2

“Monster” by Walter Dean Myers
“Trifles” by Susan Glaspell
“Night” by Elie Wiesel
Selected poems from The Language of Literature
“The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
“On Being Seventeen Bright-and Unable to Read” by David Raymond
“The First Appendectomy” by William Nolen
“Brothers are the Same” by Beryl Markham

“Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Glory and Hope” by Nelson Mandela

Schennley speeches:

“Ain’t I a Woman?” by Sojourner Truth

“Remarks to the Convocation of the Church of God in Christ” by William J. Clinton

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

solutionsRus said...

There has been some discussion about what we can do as stakeholder's in the PPS. We have to take the energy from this blog and succinctly and respectfully present our concerns to the school board. I know that many are cynical (I am myself) about whether the board members will actually listen, but if we had 30 people at every public hearing testifying with organized, fact based and specific concerns, I think it would have an impact.

The PURE Reform website has an email address that could enable organization on this front.

Come on folks, be a part of the solution!

Questioner said...

Some people cannot speak in public out of concern for their jobs, but to everyone else who expresses concern on this blog- to do more than complain, email to PURE about your willingness to meet and organize this type of serious testimony.

Anonymous said...

First of all to Ms. Fine, where did you find the list you have provided? Is this an old list, or is it for the coming school year? In regards to 10th grade mainstream English, it is not what was used this past year.
You would do well to list the literature in English 3 and English 4. In examining the year long list for English 3, please also list some information about each book, if you truly want to do justice to what is being read. In regards to English 4--look at the first semester especially and list not only the works, but also a bit of background for each.

You see...listing book titles without background info for those who are not familiar with the titles means nothing. There is a reason that this district is spending a tremendous amount of time in reading stories from the civil rights and slavery eras, as well as the years in between. It's a shame that your kids are paying that price. And for anyone who would equate such comments with some sort of racist slant---bollocks. Literature should do more to examine our similarities than to expound upon our differences and create problems. There are so many authors of all colors that high school students should have exposure to. Unfortunately, your list proves that they aren't receiving that exposure but instead being given lessons in political correctness. Why are we constantly traveling the same old ground over the 4 years kids are in high school?

Parent 3x, teachers receive their curricula a week or so before they are to implement it. Supposedly, it has been written by teacher-writers but in each case and at each level, the work teachers did is farmed out to the Pittsburgh Institute, an offshoot of Pitt, and is highly edited/changed to be in keeping what they feel PPS kids should be doing.

It is no wonder that nothing is posted online. They make this up as they go along.

Kathy Fine said...

Dear anon 8:00,

Since someone had said they remembered the post and were going to look for it, I reposted the list that was given to me from a Schenley English teacher that was, I believe, for the 2008-2009 school year. I am making no judgment on anyone's question regarding the worth of the required reading but simply trying to provide information. If this list does not match what was actually used this past year, I apologize, I am just relaying what I was told was the official reading list.

Anonymous said...

Ms.Fine, no need to apologize! I thought you had a scoop. The list looks to be slightly in error, perhaps from 07-08. Some of the selections did not come this year.

All I am asking is that anyone who would post a list in fairness also post some background about the titles. Only then can you understand the themes which are constantly being revisited.


Questioner said...

Anon 9:55, since you have knowledge about the background and subject matter of the selections, why don't you post this information and then we'll start a new topic?

Anonymous said...

Questioner, I do have knowledge and I do see a great inconsistency in the proceedings. I have this thing about pushing an agenda that comes from some other source. Heck, I have this thing about pushing ANY agenda. That's not what education is supposed to be about. I appreciate your offer, but it's not my place.

Huh? said...

Anonymous 11:01:

You have the knowledge, you don't want to push an agenda, but you want someone else without the knowledge to put up summaries of the books?

Giving out information anonymously isn't your place? I truly don't get it!

BTW, the list for CAS is accurate for this previous year.

Pale Rider said...

Huh? 11:43, read between the lines. Just exactly what is it that you are looking for? It seems to me that the listings are uneven in scope. What would I know? CAS may be the only area that there is some thought about exactly what students should have exposure to.

Questioner said...

Pale, it seems that 11:43 wasn't looking for anything, but rather responding to your suggestion that background and subject matter information be posted and not understanding why you would hesitate to go ahead and (anonymously) share this information.

deegazette said...

Hello all. Just a reminder, the parents who put this blog together did so as volunteers and continue to keep it going as volunteers. I find it remarkable that the blog was born from the turmoil of the Schenley closing and the moderators still have the dedication to keep it up despite the loss they suffered. Ms. Fine can't be expected to provide the summaries of the literature selections. Perhaps others with knowledge can comment on individual works. In an ideal world the PPS site would provide the information we'd like. And, wouldn't it be great if kids were asked what works provided them the greatest lessons and literature selections for the following year were based on that "data."

I think the only curriculum posted on the PPS site is for CAS.

To all, keep posting. The more I know the bigger pain in the neck I can be. BTW, the A+ site offers an opportunity to participate in the Parent portal phase of

Questioner said...

Thank you Deegazette for your support and encouragement!