Thursday, July 23, 2009

PPS requesting input in planning for summer literacy programs

Announcement from Mark Conner:

Calling all future middle school parents,If you have a child that will be in middle school (6th through 8th grade) during the 2010/11 and or 2011/12 school year and even if you don’t, your input is requested and severely needed. As we discussed in May, the focus of the ARRA or “economic stimulus” money will be on middle school literacy. We know that literacy is the most important skill a child can learn; a literate child can go anywhere. It is also true that many kids that drop out in 9th grade do so because of academic problems, we want to end that Now. You also know that we plan on extending the school year through the use of summer camps…this is where you come in. We have hired an exciting team of people to plan and implement these summer programs, they have made parent engagement a top priority and they want you involved from the beginning. Join us and meet the team on August 27, 2009 at 6:00 at the Hill House, 1835 Centre Ave. (Hill District)Please RSVP to Wanda Spencer at or call at 412-622-3617. Light refreshments will be served so it is important you respond. Thank you in advance for making yourselves available during the summer; we appreciate your help in designing programs that will benefit our students. Mark A. ConnerDirector of Family and Community EngagementPittsburgh Public Schools341 S. Bellefield Avenue, Ste 422Pittsburgh, PA 15213Phone: (412) 622-3941 E-mail:

PSSA 2009 Preview

From today's PG:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Retaining PPS families

This seems to be a perennial topic...

From another post:

Anonymous said...
As a PPS Parent, PPS Teacher I am scared for the future of our schools. The money wasted? How about that rally for district employees. I was told that the money was fondation money and if it was not used it would be lost. It was used, but it was a waste. These foundations dictate how the money is to be spent, none of the money goes directly to teaching or even to our crumbling schools.

What is scary is all the house for sale signs I see all over the South Hills part of the city, Brookline, Westwood, Banksvile, ect. people are not complaining to the school board, there leaving. I have two on my street and they have school age children. When Thompson dropped the residency requirement for teachers many of my comrades ran for the suburbs. I stayed out of a sense of pride, being a PPS grad. The way things are going maybe I should reconsider. I have to say I considered leaving the district as a teacher the last few years because of the hostile enviroment I have to work in.
Frustrated and losing hope
July 21, 2009 2:07 PM

Parent said...
I agree that many people don't bother to complain or to do so very loudly. They figure this is what the city offers and they should take it or leave it -- and many choose to leave.

Parents that do get involved have generally been those more likely to stick around in the past. However, under this administration particularly, the more involved you become (particularly outside of a single classroom or school) the more quickly you realize that the devotion to "parent engagement" is a crock.

They handpick parents to be on various committees and then say that parents were involved. Most parents and teachers I know who have been on some of these committees figure out pretty quickly that they're being shepherded through a process designed to get the outcome they planned on.

It's not a good combination for successful schools -- letting the less involved just slip away and make those who want to stay and be involved in improving schools increasingly cynical and angry and aware of how very little impact they can have. I think teachers see this too -- you can either be a part of their already made plans and have no real influence using your own knowledge or you can shut up and do what you can in your own classroom can leave.
July 21, 2009 2:23 PM

Anonymous said...
Re: parents/teachers figuring that outcomes have already been decided- committee member attendance seems to go way down after the first meeting or two. Many people seem to find the committees are not what they hoped, or to decide they are not worth the time.
July 21, 2009 2:49 PM

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Candidates Identified

Since the "Candidates not identified" post changed partway through to "Candidates Identified," this new post will be for discussion of the candidates.

From the "not identified" post:

Questioner said...
Updated article describing the applicants.
July 15, 2009 1:08 AM

Anonymous said...
I'm glad that the names of the applicants were published but there is no mention of the fact that 2 of the applicants from Highland Park have never had children in the PPS. Both of them have sent all of their children through the Sacred Heart-Central Catholic route. In fact, the mayor didn't go to public school either! One of the applicants was on the high school reform team, so we can most likely expect an alliance with the MR administration. She is also the mother of a toddler, and will also be in the same position as Heather Arnet as a working mother who will have to leave her child to come to the numerous meetings (too many) that the school board has.

There is no mention as to where Shannon Barkley lives, and is Downtown, where Matt Harm lives, in District 2?Lastly, there is still no mention of a very real reason that Heather Arnet is no longer on the board- she will be moving out of the city and the PPS district. Her house has been sold and she is in the moving process.
July 15, 2009 8:49 AM

Mark Rauterkus said...
It is bad when Board members 'bail.' And, H.A. is not the first. Dan R did too, (thankfully).Interesting to note that some of the 8 are NOT even in the district. Could this be true? And, Dick S. - OMG. That pick would be a hard one to cope with, short and long term.
July 15, 2009 10:25 AM

Anonymous said...
Let's face it. The mayor and Roosevelt will consult (despite saying otherwise)and will chose the person most likely to be an ally of Roosevelt's. I bet that the chances of one of the PURE Reform members getting it are slim to none. Roosevelt doesn't want anyone questioning his questionable decisions. That would be like letting a fox into the hen house.Re: Heather ArnetWhy is she leaving the city? Does anyone know?
July 15, 2009 10:45 AM

Anonymous said...
Unfortunately, anon is likely on target. I think most of the candidates are qualified to run, Ms.Fine especially. I think if anyone is lacking, it is Mr.Skrinjar and yet, given his connection to the O'Connor Administration and knowing how both the Roosevelt and Ravenstahl administration work, his appointment would not surprise me.With them, it's never what you know but where your allegiances lie. Please don't misunderstand me. I think that Dick is a good man, just not the right person for this position.
July 15, 2009 1:36 PM

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Many ALA vacancies posted

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

The most recent teacher postings included MANY ALA positions. Teachers can't change positions unless they are displaced or there is an opening somewhere because of retirement, resignation, etc. Where have/are all these people gone/going that there are so many vacancies? Also there were several positions that were one part in one building and another part in a differnt building. The next board minutes should reveal if there have been a number of retirements/resignations leaving all these positions open.

School board applicants not identified

From today's PG:

The article notes that three candidates have voluntarily identified themselves, but that the mayor's office is not identifying the remaining candidates because they were not told in advance that their names would be made public.

A spokesperson for the mayor indicated that candidates would be contacted and the office would consider releasing names after the appointment is made.

The article also refers to "demands of some PURE members that the new District 2 representative be more critical of the administration than Ms. Arnet had been." It is important to emphasize that to "be more critical" refers to the need when appropriate to critique or question more closely the administration's proposals, practices and announcements.

Monday, July 13, 2009

PSSA scores to be released

PSSA scores are to be released at a presentation by the district on July 23.

Ideally, the data would be released prior to the presentation so that those attending would have time to study the information and prepare questions in advance.

Here is a link to a useful article on how to evaluate results of this type of test. For example, city gains/losses should be compared to statewide gains/losses as a clue to whether the test has become easier or more difficult. State results should also be compared to results on national tests such as the Terra Nova and SAT.

While some may disagree with conclusions drawn by the article (for example, that more charter schools are needed), it does seem to provide information that will be very relevant in interpreting the upcoming PSSA results.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Lessons to be learned from dropouts"

From today's PG, deputy superintendent Linda Lane would like to investigate why students have dropped out and whether anyone reached out to these students prior to the time they dropped out.

"Fundraising not the only goal of Pittsburgh Promise"

From today's PG:

The article states that goals of the Pittsburgh Promise include "luring people back to the city after decades of neighborhood decline and spurring neighborhood revitalization," and that the Promise's executive director has stated that he wants to stop the population decline by 2012.

However, as has been noted in other PG articles, the rate of population decline has slowed and demographers are predicting a leveling of population. State department of health data shows live birth rates leveling off after 2001. So, Promise or not, it seems that Pittsburgh's population level is stabilizing.

For many people, though, the need to pay city taxes remains a great deterrent to living in the city. City taxes are not likely to be lowered until non-profits that operate similarly to for-profit companies pay taxes more like those for- profit companies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mayor to appoint new school board member

From today's PG:

Some historical perspective

From Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, "In One Room, Many Advantages":

The article notes that in 1913 over half of the schoolchildren in the US attended single teacher ("one room") schools; by 1960 only 1% did so, with the change to "consolidated schools" prompting concern in parents and the community about whether they would lose their "say" in their children's education.

Start a new post; search PURE Reform's blog

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pgh Promise reaches first year fund raising goal

From today's PG online:

An impressive $15M was raised to obtain $10M in matching funds from UPMC. One year down, eight to go!

Population decline in Pittsburgh slows

From today's PG:

From the article, "The figures released publicly today estimate the city lost 1,038 residents from July 1, 2007, to July 1, 2008."

Again, these figures suggest that population decline explains only a relatively small part of the decline in PPS enrollment. Consultants could help most by identifying the extent of the various causes of declining PPS enrollment and resarching what can be done to stem this enrollment decline.