Monday, September 28, 2009

"Obama: More school, less play"

From today's PG:

The article notes that "Education Secretary has a vision of schools as the heart of the community."

- Investment in quality buildings in which people enjoy being for extended periods of time, located in places that are safe and easily accessible, would further this vision.

Extension of superintendent's contract beyond 2011 under consideration

From the PG, the current contract ends in 2011 but an extension beyond that time is being considered:

- The article mentions a desire for stability for the district, but there does not seem to be anything in place or planned that would prevent the superintendent from choosing to leave early, extension or not.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


On another post, Mark Rauterkus wrote:

"What areas within PPS are sources for great trust for you?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"When I Ruled the World"

A new marketing video for the Pittsburgh Promise is set against Coldplay's "When I Ruled the World." It shows images of Jonas Salk and steel mills and makes observations along the lines of "once Pittsburgh mattered in the world" and that it is up to our current generation of students to make it matter again.

Of course our students should be inspired to achieve, but this video just seems off, especially given the commentary about Pittsburgh in connection with the G-20 summit. News reports include headlines like "What a difference 25 years made in Pittsburgh; Hope, grit, sweat resurrected a city felled by rust" and point to Pittsburgh as a model for green and sustainable projects and economic transformation in general. And certainly there were accomplishment between Jonas Salk and green buildings... Andy Warhol and Dr. Thomas Starzl (liver transplanation) come to mind. Of course more can be done, but "sweep the streets I used to rule" does not seem to fit the city that in a single year won both the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup!

PPS celebrates even its own modest accomplishments. It would be hard to believe that actual Pittsburghers had any role in making this video.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The District works for the taxpayers

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

Last night, the Jefferson Hills School District suspended its superintendent for attempting to preclude the hiring of a well respected and well qualified teacher in one of the Thomas Jefferson School District buildings. While the superintendent was within her rights to not hire the teacher, she apparently went the extra mile in insuring she would not be a full time staff member.

This item spoke volumes to me.

A hundred parents came out in support of a teacher who was heretofore simply a sub. A school board kept in mind that the most valuable commodity a district has is its teachers. It kept in mind that it works for the taxpayer. A superintendent was presented with the fact that she too works for the taxpayer, and that her teaching staff is the most valuable asset where employees are concerned.

And then I remembered where I live.

I remembered a school board that is clueless about teaching staff and its value, that plays politics instead of prudence where voting is concerned, that honors a superintendent that has largely destroyed education in the district and placed more unqualified individuals in administrative positions than the Bush administration.I remembered that it would appear that no one has the guts to remind our leadership that the interest of the students and their taxpaying parents come first, that the teachers are the ones pushing forth learning, and not someone so out of touch that one would think he is reading a fairy tale.

Thanks, Thomas Jefferson. You've renewed my faith. Somebody in this region has it right.

Posted by Anonymous to PURE Reform at September 23, 2009 9:18 PM

PSSA/ special education/ inclusion

This PG article explains how the special education subgroup is measured for AYP purposes, and suggests that the need to meet PSSA standards may be prompting some districts toward greater inclusivity of special ed students:

It also notes an upcoming change in state standards that will make it easier for districts to make AYP in the special ed subgroup.

PSSA/AYP/struggling districts

From the PG:

The article notes that PA's State Education secretary reports that 95 percent of districts and 78 percent of schools meeting their AYP targets. The article notes that

"Because schools and districts received credit for improvement or growth, some districts made AYP even though their scores were considerably below the state targets for proficiency.
One dramatic example is the Duquesne City School District, which made AYP, where just 6.3 percent of the high school students scored proficient or above in math and 25 percent in reading."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Graduate Pittsburgh Summit

- Something we really need!:

November 12, 2009
YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh (Downtown)

More than one million American high school students drop out every year.
That’s one student every 26 seconds, and nearly 7,000 young people every school day.

As part of the national Dropout Prevention campaign, 105 summits are being held in states, cities and communities nationwide over the next two years to stimulate discussion of the problem and generate solutions.

On November 12, 2009, Mayor Ravenstahl is hosting the “Graduate Pittsburgh Summit: Creating a Community-wide Strategy to Combat the Drop-out Crisis,” at the YWCA (Downtown) in an effort to develop a localized action plan to increase graduation rates and improve college readiness in our community.

Please feel free to circulate the attached “SAVE THE DATE” throughout your network. The invitations will follow.

For more information on the Graduate Pittsburgh Summit please contact ……..

Thank you for your assistance.

Sabrina S. Saunders, MSPL
Manager of Youth Policy

Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
541 City-County Building 414 Grant St. Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412.255.2637 direct 412.255.2258 assistant 412.255.2174 fax

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Asbestos inspection report

At yesterday's public hearing, PURE discussed the results of a plaster inspection at three Pittsburgh public schools. The complete discussion is at the bottom portion of this page:

PURE noted that

'The report shows numerous areas of plaster damage in these schools. In 30 to 40 classrooms at each school, there was an area of damaged plaster where repair was listed as a “high priority”'

and called for an evaluation by an independent expert of the risks and relative condition of the plaster in these schools and the Schenley building.

State/ Pittsburgh PSSA comparison

At yesterday's public hearing, PURE Reform presented charts comparing State of Pennsylvania and City of Pittsburgh PSSA scores over the past four years. The complete presentation including charts is at

From PURE's report:

First, it is interesting how city scores and state scores tend to follow the same trajectory, rising and falling from year to year by similar percentages. In other words, each time the scores went up or down in the PPS, these results were nearly identical in the statewide results. This pattern raises the question of whether tests are easier or more difficult in particular years. We will be following up on that question.

Second, we all know that urban school districts tend to have lower levels of proficiency than the state average. However, we were interested in how the PPS is doing in closing the gap between local and state scores. What we found is that for most grades the gap has pretty much stayed the same or grown. Out of the scores evaluated from 2004-05 to 2008-09, only four comparisons showed any decrease in the gap between PPS and statewide scores while ten comparisons showed no change or an actual increase in the gap. These findings make it clear that we have much work to do to ensure that our students are prepared to be competitive in an increasingly competitive job market.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Milliones enrollment

On the September "Start a new post," SolutionsRUs wrote:

Interesting note: The PPS "flagship school" known as University Prep or Pittsburgh Milliones has open slots in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades.

I have been puzzled from this school's inception that a district that prides itself on using data and best practices would ignore the many experts that say that poor students concentrated in one school often fare less well than poor students in schools with a more diverse socioeconomic population.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

President's address to America's schoolchildren

The transcript is available at:

High school students at "below basic"

On the August post about trends in high school achievement, Anonymous wrote:

"Looking at only the % of kids that are advanced or proficient does not take into account whether or not kids are progressing from below basic to basic. Increasing percentages of advanced kids could still mean a growing achievement gap if the below basic kids aren't taken into account also."

This was an interesting question and so PURE graphed the trend in the portion of students at the below basic level for the classes of 2005 through 2010. Again the approach is longitudinal, showing the percentage of students in these classes at the below basic level in grade 8 and again in grade 11. Results are in the bottom two graphs at and show a recent increase in students at the below basic level.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PSSA and AYP results for 2008-09

Results can be found at:

AYP reading target met through new "growth model"

From today's PG:

The article reports that for the grade 3-5 span the district easily met the math target without any special allowances, but that for reading AYP was met based on a new "growth model" measurement created by the state.

State audit of CTE curriculum

From today's PG:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"106 ways parents can help students achieve"

One of PURE Reform's core values is parent engagement.

In recognition of the start of a new PPS year tomorrow, here is a link to a list of "106 ways parents can help students achieve." The publication points out that between birth and age 18 children spend just 9% of their time in school and notes that after decades of research, "the link between parental involvement and higher student achievement is undeniable."

This list was brought to our attention earlier this year by one of the PURE blog's commentators. Please post any additions to the list or comments that are especially relevant to PPS.

PPS classroom and school blogs

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

Where are the best classroom and school blogs in PPS? them above.

September 2, 2009 8:27 AM

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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.