Saturday, August 29, 2009

$50 million requested to improve teacher effectiveness

From today's PG:

- As a starting point, it would be interesting to know if institutions like Pitt's School of Education have looked into improving teacher effectiveness, what was done and when, and what the results were.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Transparency Watch by Topic

PURE Reform's Transparency Watch has been updated and organized by topic and is available at:

Middle grades summer camp

From the PPS website:

Summer Middle-Grades Program

Save the date for next summer: July 12 – August 13!*

A Premier Summer Camp… for FREE!

Pittsburgh Public Schools is proud to announce the launch of the 2010-2011 summer camp (name to be determined by the community) for all 2009 – 2010 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students. The summer camp will offer a comprehensive approach to literacy, life skills, high school and college readiness, and of course summer fun. Students will participate in literacy instruction and extracurricular activities infused with themes to broaden their exposure to the community and the world around them. Each camp location will be themed and students will have the option to choose their themed site. In addition to participating in daily literacy instruction and activities, campers will also have the opportunity to engage in fun activities every afternoon through partnerships with organizations around the city of Pittsburgh. (Are you an organization interested in becoming an Activities Partner?)

*Dates are tentative

- Is PPS up to running a summer camp, with so much already on its plate?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Title IX Audit

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

The Title IX audit results should have surely been announced by now. Remember the Board made a big deal out of this "self-audit" they paid Peggy Pennepacker $10,000 for. I don't know of one person who ever saw the woman. The Board shouldn't need this much time to take her "results" and put their own PR spin on it.

Posted by Anonymous to PURE Reform at August 27, 2009 6:45 AM

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"SAT scores slip as gap widens for minorities"

From today's WSJ:

The article notes that results are "discouraging in light of a more than 25-year effort to improve U.S. education" and that gains on state tests often are not reflected on national tests.

However, it also notes that a record number of students took the exam and that while in 1999 only 29% of test takers were minority students, in 2009 40% were minorities.

For a meaningful measure of progress or lack of progress, it would seem that adjustments should be made to reflect factors such as the percentage of test takers from low income families.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

High school achievement levels shown in new Featured Topic

A new Featured Topic has been posted showing the progress of the classes of 2005 through 2010 in reaching proficency during each class's first three years of high school. Go to:

School board appointment

From the PG:

Lawsuit involving harrassment

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

Sexual Harassment Article in PG

Is anyone else bothered that the leadership in this new 6-12 school will be the same administrators and counselors in this article about Frick? If people are truly concerned about 11 year old girls being in the same building as 18 and 19 year old young men (I know, I know, they're in different wings), why aren't parents up in arms about this article? Parents and a few teachers have expressed similar concerns about this kind of behavior being tolerated way too much at Frick. A couple teachers have even told me that their attempts to intervene in similar situations have often been ignored or even twarted by the principal. Is anyone out there discussing this?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lunch schedule

Some high school students are reportedly scheduled for lunch at 10:00.

Does this raise any issues? For example, if a student entitled to a free lunch eats at 10:00, is that meal sufficent to allow a student to participate in after school activities which may last until late afternoon?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ACT results suggest most students unprepared for college

WSJ article:

Of four subjects- English, reading, math and science- students were least prepared for college science.

The article also notes that according to a Department of Education report released in April of this year, US high school students "haven't made any significant progress in reading or math for nearly four decades." This study was based on National Assessment of Education Progress results. It quotes a representative from an advocacy group who notes that the class of 2009 was in the 5th grade when NCLB was passed.

Initiative to determine equality in city schools

PG article describing project by A+ schools:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pennsylvania state test results

More test stuff...

A PG article reports that Pennsylvania was the only state whose public schools showed improvement in both reading and math at three achievement levels for 2002-2008.

The president of the organization that prepared the report noted that both state and local action were likely responsible. He did not however address the issue of whether there are safeguards in place to prevent states from making tests easier each year.

Tribune article on regression of classes' PSSA proficiency scores over time

From yesterday's Tribune:

PPS expected to receive a Gates grant

From today's PG:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Exit exams

On another post, deegazette wrote:

My opposition to exit exams comes from a taxpayer's perspective. We CAN'T afford them right now. I thought we had dodged that bullet for the foreseeable future. I make it a rule to not disparage on blogs but here's an exception: Tell those knuckleheads in Harrisburg to back off and invest in education initiatives that have more positive impact.

August 18, 2009 9:21 PM

Monday, August 17, 2009

PURE Reform testimony posted

PURE Reform's testimony from today's public hearing has now been posted. Go to the announcements page and click on today's date, "PURE Reform Report."

Topics included a longitudinal look at PSSA scores (ie, following the same class over time) and the trend in PPS PSSA scores from 2000-2001 to the present. Also the next installment of Transparency Watch was presented.

In addition, a number of speakers from the Pittsburgh NAACP spoke about the NAACP's strong opposition to the recent proposal for graduation exams.

Public schools try public relations push

From today's Wall Street Journal, "Hard-hit schools try public relations push":

PPS is mentioned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Downward spiral?

Monday' s PPS press release quotes the PA Secretary of Education as stating:

"Six years ago it appeard as though Pittsburgh schools were in an irreversible downward spiral."

However, reports from 2003 and 2005 do not seem to show a downward spiral.

See this RAND report for 1997-2002 page 17 showing an upward trend in PPS scores and a narrowing of the gap between PPS and state PSSA scores:

See also this 2005 report by the Council of the Great City Schools (page 24):

It would probably be helpful to compare progress between 2001-2005 and 2005-2009, also taking into account demographic changes that may have taken place during that period.

More than half PPS make AYP

From the PG:

The article notes that 7 of 9 middle schools made AYP, but only one high school made AYP.

And, that 16 of 18 K-5 schools made AYP, but only 5 of 14 K-8 schools.

So, in terms of making AYP, the most successful configuration seems to be K-5 and 6-8- even while middle schools are being eliminated.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Substantial progress?"

The district's report to the Education Committee states that

"In 2006-2007 the District made modest growth in student achievement."

"In 2007-2008 the District made substantial progress across the board."

"In 2008-2009 the District continued to make substantial progress in student achievement at almost all grade levels."

Overall, the impression is that substantial progress was made over the past 3 years, but how well does the data support these claims?

In reading from 2005-2006 to 2008-2009 the change in proficiency was:

Grade 3 51.3% to 62.3%

Grade 4 54.6% to 56.2% Less than 2 percentage point increase

Grade 5 47.6% to 52.1%

Grade 6 51.2% to 47% Decrease

Grade 7 53.6% tp 54.8% Less than 2 percentage point increase

Grade 8 58.3% to 71.4%

Grade 11 51.5% to 50.7% Decrease

So, while progress in reading in three grades over the last three years truly does seem to be "substantial," it is difficult to see how progress in the other four grades can be considered "substantial."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

EFA PSSA goals- four year results

PURE Reform's summary of the results for the district's PSSA goals for the 2004-05 to 2008-09 period has now been posted. Go to the Featured Topics tab of and click "Excellence for All Goals: Results".

The summary shows that 6 of the 19 PSSA goals were met and that 5 of the 6 successful goals were for 8th grade.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New fitness opportunity at Schenley; fitness challenges for students

On the August "Start a new post," Mark Rauterkus wrote:

It is time to play water polo. At Schenley in the fall, at JCC Monroeville in the evenings in August, at Citiparks' Hill District's Ammon Rec Center pool in days in August (11 am), and elsewhere.

Let's talk about productive, fit, challenges for our kids beyond the school year and school day. What did you do this summer for enrichment? What's up next? Are you and your kid going to run the Great Race?

August 7, 2009 8:55 PM

Start a new post; search PURE Reform's blog

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".

To search PURE Reform's blog, use the "search function on the upper left of the blog.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

PELA questions

On the July "Start a new post" what next wrote:

This question concerns PELA. The PPS website provides minutes of legislative board meetings and the ability to watch previous board meetings. PELA was mentioned during the press conference at Sunnyside on the PSSAs. The June legislative meeting included time spent on PELA (pages 313-315 minutes). Is PELA to principals as Broad is to superintendents? IS PPS in such dire need of principals that we open PELA to non-PPS principal recruits? How do individuals outside PPS even know how to apply to PELA? Do we advertise in a magazine that we have the academy available? When the grant money used to begin PELA is all gone will it continue?