Friday, June 25, 2010

Single gender education in PPS

PG article:

The administration is quoted as stating that an experiment last year with single gender classes at Westinghouse, Peabody and Milliones drew "not a single complaint from a parent or student." However, others have told us of parents who did object. And, because families were not informed that they had a right to co-ed classrooms, they were unlikely to make that request.

It may well be that rather than objecting, a Westinghouse area student who is not enthusiastic about a single gender, 6-12, year round school with uniforms will just shift to a school in Wilkinsburg or Penn Hills, since there is already a lot of movement between these schools.


Questioner said...

Also interesting is the fact that students who do not want to attend a single gender school have a co-ed option, but students who want to attend a racially diverse school do not have that feeder option- even though the only comprehensive school in the East End, Allderdice, has a diverse student body and about 30% excess capacity.

It seems that students from certain neighborhoods are being guided or pushed toward schools that are segregated by race and gender- perhaps with the best of intentions, but which are nevertheless segregated.

Anonymous said...

Parents tend to complain to each other, possibly thinking they are powerless or that despite voicing their opinion, change comes slowly, if at all.

Questioner said...

The PG has a poll on "whether single gender schools will be good or bad for students." Unfortunately, it doesn't include an option for "may be good for some students and bad for others." The fact that about the same percentage of people think it is "an excellent idea" and that it is "definitely bad" suggests that a single gender school would work better as a magnet than as a feeder pattern school.

Read more:

Randall Taylor said...

In reading today's paper and listening to Marty Griffin you would think there is at this time a debate about single gender schools. There is not--yet. The problem is (1) Was single gender instituted in response to the Hazelwood charter school proposal, if so that is politics. (2) Derek Lopez announces to the Board's surprise that single-gender classes had commenced at westinghouse and Milliones in September 2009. There was no spproval from Board, no training of teachers, no notification to parents or community. A violation of the rights of student involved.
Those are the questions at this point that the parents and the community should be asking about.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how much debate occurs when the issue of school uniforms comes up. I can't wait to see how board members come out for or against single gender...possibly FOR single gender as long as the kids don't have to wear uniforms? I believe it was Dr. Lane who carried the district's ball on the issue in previous instances. I believe the steps needed to even consider the uniform option are very detailed. My point is, we should watch to see which issues are seen as hot button by boardmembers and the public.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I still think it is less than wise to have single gender schools in building with both genders.

Also, how about a school with FOUR principals? One for the boys HS, one for the girls HS, one for the boys middle school, and the fourth for the girls middle school.

Let's insist that PPS put the boys in one building and one CAMPUS -- and then the girls in another building and another campus.

Questioner said...

Before devoting 2 buildings to single gender, it would make sense to check that there is enough demand to support them. Would the people who are saying single gender is a good plan actually send their children to these schools? Why are folks from the North and South sides not seeking single gender for their areas, or asking about getting their kids in to the single gender schools in the East End?

Re: Randall's comment asking if single gender was (hurriedly) put into place in response to the Hazlewood single gender proposal- it should also be noted that a social justice component was proposed for Westinghouse soon after another charter proposed this theme, even though the school would already be adapting to single gender, 6-12, new CTE arrangements and a new internship program.

Anonymous said...

When will parents and the community start reading Portland , Oakland, KIPP, and seattle public school blogs?

This just started, and we are being" "Broad-sided". best of luck

Mark Rauterkus said...

To say no feeder pattern for all PPS is to also ask for single-gender as an option for those in the South and West.

There is one answer.

BTW, much in life is 'reactionary.' More in certain segments than in others.

Furthermore the "demand" for single-gender schools in the city (different campus for different gender) is proven with Ellis, Central and Oakland Catholic, I dare say. (Plus Chatham for college too.)

The "demand" for two single gender academies thingie as put forth by PPS is UNPROVEN.

Questioner said...

"Demand" for single gender education IN THE GREATER PITTSBURGH AREA is proven by Ellis (and to a lesser extent by the Catholic schools since some families are simply seeking a Catholic education). Whether there is enough of a demand within city limits to support ADDITIONAL single gender schools is not proven.

The change of Winchester from a girls school to co-ed and the change of Shadyside Academy from a boys school to co-ed suggests possible difficulty attracting enough students to single gender schools, even when those schools have a strong history and tradition in the area.

deegazette said...

Sorry Mark, pointing to the private and parochial schools as evidence of demand for single gender in PPS or Pittsburgh is way off. Consider the population served by those schools. If we are honest, families opting for the schools mentioned do so more out of family tradition or for social status and entre into the better colleges. PPS families opting for the schools mentioned or even for co-ed private and parochial schools, do so with financial sacrifice and by applying for every conceivable form of aid they can to reduce the tuition burden. It is a fine option, I just think based on the total number of students served in PPS, you are over-estimating the demand. Options are good but costly and caution must be exercised to offer the most highly demanded options before the money is spread so thin that quality is affected.

Your point about the number of principals made me think that it could be a strategy to employ the PELA grads. The more people on the upper half of all those ladders will need to go somewhere, right?

Anonymous said...

How many PELAs are there? Are they still accepting/creating new ones? Why do we need a large supply of principals if they really expect decreases in enrollment and consolidation of schools? Or are they planning for a high burnout/failure rate?

Would not expect to see all those principals at Westinghouse. The 6-12 model so far has a single principal for the 7 grades with assistant principals (or other names for that in between level adminisration).

The two K-8 schools that are going to go back to being K-5 under the latest plan had one principal for all 9 grades and each school was housed in two different buildings.

Questioner said...

Wouldn't it be ironic if the middle grades were first moved in with elementary, then with HS, and then in several years returned back to be housed on their own once again. At least we would be able to say we tried out all the options.

Anonymous said...

I know a teacher from a K-5 school who applied and was accepted to the PELA program for fall 2010. I am sure the board minutes probably includes the reassignment info somewhere for those accepted into PELA.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I didn't OVERSTATE the demand. I just say that there is a demand. And, that demand is for quality schools of a single gender. That value and what we may have brewing here might be miles apart or both under the same roof (pun).

Christchurch, New Zealand, about the same size as City of Pgh (300,000+/-) has 4 single gender schools.

Philly and other cities have public single gender schools and some of them do well.

Furthermore, building a single gender school is CHEAP, not costly.

CAPA (music and arts) and Sci-Tech (not even using grade names of 9, 10, 11, 12) are much more costly (vs. 1 gender school) in terms of creation of new classes, etc.

Building an all-boys-public high school is easier and less expensive than XYZ. And, it still has that 'specialized' option for the students and community.

Anonymous said...

It's a done deal though. There aren't going to be separate buildings. There will be Milliones and Westinghouse and they'll tinker and rearrange, but not change the curriculum or ask the teachers what should be done to raise scores. In a few more years, they'll rearrange again.

In a few more years after that the only students left will be those that literally have no other options and then they can close and rearrange a little bit more.

Anonymous said...

Mark, what you continue to spew is pure baloney. Are you going to be running for something? You sound like a politician.

deegazette said...

As soon as I hear half a dozen parents state that they will choose the single gender option for their kids I will soften my tune a bit. Single gender for our urban population?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Baloney. How? Why? Be exact and on topic and less of a bully.

What I advocate is BETTER than what PPS is trying to do. To put 6,7.8 and 9-12 boys and girls plus wrap around services into one building established with the facilities of only a high school is impossible. Once again they try to jam 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag. It won't fit.

That's more than baloney on steroids.

I'm not running for anything except, perhaps a tri (swim-bike-run event). I'm staying put.

I doubt you'll hear half a dozen pick the LONE single gender option as it doesn't make sense as constructed by PPS. Doing a girls only school but keeping boys there is lunacy. It doesn't fit.

I'd go so far as saying if they only have ONE building available, then they should open only ONE school with ONE gender. But, they don't have that constraint. PPS has plenty of buildings.

BTW, ask people if they'd consider sending their young male students to Central Catholic if there was no tuition and no priests. Some would. Same question for girls but say Ellis -- and don't even mention the church elements.

Of course, this isn't for everyone. But, if it has quality, it will be great for those that attend.

Otherwise, with PPS and its four schools, one roof, plus extras might be a bad fit for everyone.

Anonymous said...

So, Mark if there were no IB and you only had the choice of a single gender (all male school) or IU Prep where would you send your son? or what if the only option was single gender school would you send your son to that school?

Anonymous said...

Will the single gender schools also have single gender teaching staff? Are there teachers who are eager to go to work there?

Anonymous said...

There are some requirements I would set in order to consider a single gender school for my child. Convenient location. Can he take one PAT bus and get there or would he have to transfer in town? I believe the 54C travels south, and north, plus Bloomfield and Oakland. Uniforms would be mandatory, Mrs. Colaizzi has always been opposed, but I bet she would be outvoted on the issue. There would have to be accomodations on sports in order to field a team large enough to be competitive. Those are just a few.

Anonymous said...

Even though in the paper it said there have been NO parent complaints about the current single gender classes, that's not what I've heard. I've heard that parents of girls do not like it.

On the teacher end, I've only heard of teachers who want to teach boys in that age group. Usually no, the teachers aren't single gender to match the class (all those legalities again, too).

Anonymous said...

See, that could be the problem, parents are not complaining directly to Mr. Lopez. If they are talking to other parents that doesn't change much. Maybe parents should complain to A+ (seems to have some influence)and the parent hotline and Mr. Lopez and Dr. Ottuwa (6-7-8).

Mark Rauterkus said...

We have considered Central Catholic for our boys. If there was no IB in PPS, CC would be an option with more weight. CC is still an option even with IB if the IB school gets goofy with the treatment of my children, of course.

If there was a public all boys high school that was equal to the educational and community value of Central Catholic, then we'd consider it. That is a big 'IF.'

Furthermore, these single gender schools do NOT need to be BIG. For the all boys or all girls public high schools to thrive, they can be quite small. They'll have grades 6-12. They can be sized like the old Sacred Heart HS. Falk is small. Waldorf is small.

I don't know how many go to Ellis, but it isn't so large in numbers.

A school with 25 kids per class would be okay if those kids are solid students. It might grow (4x or more) in future years / decades.

The question about the "ONLY OPTION BEING X" is what I'm fighting against, clearly. I want ALL CHOICE for ALL PGH. Bogus question.

We live in a city that has more than a dozen options for high school students. You don't get that security/insurance/opportunity in Bethel Park, Penn Hills, or Avenworth. We are in a city that is in decline with total population. The city and PPS has not played to its strengths by allowing anyone in the city to attend any high school.

Rather, PPS feels fit to yank our students and families around, giving some kids 3 schools in 4 years. NOT GIVING, but INSISTING, FORCING, LIMITING.

Anonymous said...

Wow is the idea 25 per class or 25 per grade, Mark?

Anonymous said...

Mark, I apologize for picking on you because understand your passion for being and involved community member. HOWEVER, your answer to my question regarding sending your son to Westinghouse single gender school proves a point.
In your response I believe you are saying that you would not choose the single gender school unless it was "equal to the educational and community value as Central Catholic" as well as bring Central Catholic up which is way out of the reach of a low income or religious realm of families is not fair. The families that are going to be forced to make this decision between single gender or u prep have no options. They will be forced to take what is offered no matter the quality or value of education. Only the few lucky low income families can afford Central. So for me please stop advertising that single gender is a great option. We need to help the families that frankly have no options.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Sorry to not be so clear. I used 25 per class, as really 25 per grade, as in the "class of 2015", etc.

Let's see.

Class of 2011 is the final class of Schenley.

Class of 2012 is the first class to graduate with PPS / Pgh Obama degrees.

Class of 2011 could be the first graduates of Sci-Tech if there are some there that are 3 years in high school -- as advertised.

Class of 2011 is also the last class to graduate from Peabody HS.

Westinghouse final graduate class is slated for when? Will it be single gender Westinghouse?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Your problem is not going to be fixed by picking on me -- but rather by picking on what is written and covering the 'whys and 'hows' of our city's landscape.

IMNSHO: Single gender is a GREAT option for the city's residents and the PPS if the quality of the SCHOOLS (plural) is HIGH and if those schools are but one (either for boy or for girl) of MANY HS options.

I am pushing for great quality.

I am pushing for boys and girls high schools to be in different locations.

I am pushing for all the people in the city to have options to attend all the various schools -- so as to end the 'feeder patterns.'

So, this does NOT compute: "We need to help the families that frankly have no options."

We should help the families by INSISTING that they have options.

In my dream PPS, all families have options. Hence, all families get serious help.

Help improve PPS by insisting that the feeder patterns to high schools be eliminated.

That is a winning strategy -- this week!

Anonymous said...

Parents want good, well-run schools. The more options there are within a school the better. The closer to home the easier it is.

My beef is that all of the changes we've seen so far do not seem to be driven by the desire for quality schools, with lots of choice within, spread through the city. Single serving, flavor of the week schools haphazardly spread around the city is what I see.

There's a reason Falk and Waldorf only go to 8th grade as well -- in HS, for adolescents, smaller (or smallest) isn't better. You need a certain critical mass of kids to offer enough options that kids with different interests and abilities can be challenged and can still interact with kids with DIFFERENT interests and abilities

That's less of an issue at an Ellis, say, because most of those parents can pay to provide extracurricular experiences in sports, music, the arts, etc. Kids with wildly variant abilities often won't even be admitted there

In a mid-sized comprehensive high school there should be enough levels and electives offered that most kids can have most of their needs met. Most of the specialty schools are under pressure to offer less -- fewer electives, only one language with only a few levels, etc. There are fewer opportunities to try things, fewer options for extracurricular activities.

So, parents are told we're being offered "more choices" but when you look at the experience that will truly be offered it will often be far more limited than what people are accustomed to.

Also, trying to keep the least motivated students interested in school is NOT going to be achieved by offering less of the "extras" like sports and music and anything that's different, it's going to make it far harder to keep them in school instead.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I agree with the above post, 100%.

These botique schools can tend to be with a more narrow vision. Right on. That is a serious problem that needs to be battled with every day, every night, every weekend and at every AM water polo practice.

I will stand with any and all who want to expand afterschool experiences for our kids and communities. Let's do it better and more. Let's go out of the box.

However, the new Westinghouse, so say the PPS administration, is to have 'wrap around services.' Blah, blah, blah.

I do have a fleeting hope that the sports, music, afterschool, options, clubs N@ -- N@ squared even -- is getting pulled off the back-burner at PPS. We have to turn up the heat there. We have to do more, without the union, without the principals, without the double-time of the building custodians.

These botique schools need to have great afterschool experiences. And, that takes leadership with vision.

Finally, Peabody, Westinghouse and Oliver -- as they have been -- called "drop out factories" -- need serious attention. All in all, I'm glad that this day and these discussions have finally surfaced.

I'll go out on a limb and say that the afterschool experiences and opportunities are THE MOST IMPORTANT mission for our schools to thrive. And so far, I have hope, but PPS has been failing greatly in this realm. FAILING. Hence, the school district has been shrinking over the years.

If these smaller schools do it well, there can be an expansion of opportunities, IMNSHO. Hint, PPS Schools need to be more like New Zealand and less like China. In NZ every child is valued as a treasured athlete as they have the mindset that there are none to spoil and waste. Everyone's talents must find places to play.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go off topic, but if you watch the replay of the most recent board meeting where awards and recognitions are done at the beginning, Schenley/Obama has a lot to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

That's the perfect reason to squash it like a bug. What a shame. I hope that someday the adm. and the board will look back and regret what they have done.

Anonymous said...

Single geneder plays absolutely no part in academic outcomes, except for at a certain level in the past for girls. At this point, girls are outperforming boys, making the argument for single gender irrelevant. The "data" presented to the board by the administration was culled primarily from websites promoting single gender schools. As noted by a previous poster, we must v=be very wary of "educational research" as much is not empirical, scientific, controlled research, but more or less "observational".

Using private and charter schools as examples of the success of SG schools is not appropriate because one cannot pull out the SG component and state that it makes a difference. Charters and privates have much easier time with student behavioral issues, teacher hiring and firing, etc. To attribute the successes of these schools to SG is not reasonable.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Perhaps single gender plays no part in academic outcomes. Let's, for the sake of the discussion, give that point.

However, there is much more to life and the success of the students and community beyond the pure academic outcomes.

Schools need to be safe. Some might consider a single gender school safer.

Schools need to allow for the cultivation of a person's creativity. Some might argue that more creativity can be better enriched with a single gender school.

Schools need students. Some might attend because the school is only for one gender.

South Vo Tech was a bad school in terms of academic success. It was impossible to justify, so they said, and it was closed. On a academic basis, they were right. In terms of the whole view -- I say think again.

Closing Schenley was a bad PPS decision that still hurts. (i.e. regret) The closing of South Vo Tech, is full of regret too, IMHO. South needed an overhaul. But we lost a generation of kids who could have been educated there in a better way because of their "fit."

Most of all, the single-gender thoughts is relevant because it is ON THE TABLE now with the PPS BOARD. A big vote is looming.

Finally, sure charters and privates have a much easier time with certain elements and hurdles (hiring, etc.). But, public schools have a much easier time with other elements as well. No tuition. Great income stream from our taxes. Capital building projects from taxes too.

Anonymous said...

sorry, should have been more specific. No effect on academic or non academic outcomes

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:03, what do is said? Where can I find it?

Anonymous said...

To June 28, 2010 1:47 PM

The comments offered here are "dead on" and well-worth reading and considering very seriously.

There is no question, in my mind, that education can be substantially improved for ALL students in PPS____education that is comprehensive and includes the arts, music, athletics and electives that will enhance the academic achievement for ALL students.

What is be proposed by PPS Admin. reflects a lack of understanding about what constitutes successful schools, best practice, how people learn, commitment, caring, communication, diversity, equity, and excellence for all.

Rather, the proposals reflect a desperate grasping at any straw to prop up the PR/image. We must demand better for our children. It is DOABLE!

anon said...

Anonymous 5:49, I was referring to the video available of the legislative meetings of the board. These are replayed on cable channel 13 the Thursday (eve) and Friday morning after the meeting. They are also availble from the district website, Prior to the meeting the monthly recognition is given to students and staff for outstanding achievement. Schenley/Obama students are often recognized for accomplishments. It almost has a feeling of "and again, Schenley..." during the presentation.

Anonymous 6:08, I was one of the multitude of parents who criticized the design of NCLB and I expected great improvements under the new administration. I am disappointed that the new design for educational improvements feels ugly in some ways. Does the "race" begin to feel cutthroat to anyone but me? Does anyone feel as though creativity at a school disrict level is being squelched the way all creativity has been removed from classrooms where teachers once celebrated the advances of their students? It begins to feel like a wagon train effect with Duncan in the lead wagon.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:44 PM
Given the current state of education, particularly in PPS, it would be very difficult to disagree with your comments. It appears that politicians, foundations, business entrepreneurs, corporative entities, and (seemingly well-meaning) non-educators have taken control of the education landscape; but, they have NOT the where-with-all nor the fundamental skills/understandings to bring about genuine progress, reform, etc. The superficial approaches/applications do neither deep, nor profound, nor productive.

Anonymous said...

Anon June 28 9:44

In response to your concerns with NCLB, I share them too. However, you must realize that the purpose of the bill was to create a sense of urgency for school reform because Johnny, the star basketball player, who graduated from college cannot read. School reform is only a disguise to pacify the public's concern that Johnny can't read. The true purpose of the bill is to rapidly push through the progressive agenda, and what better way than to indoctrinate the easily impressionable youth. Remember, 'a good crisis should never be wasted but used as an opportunity.' With this in mind, you are better equipped to tackle the issues. Yes, the decision makers do not care about the children but care only about control. Now get 'pissed,' dig in, stone wall, and put up a good fight. Your children are worth it.

Questioner said...

According to this article, "public schools are experimenting with single-sex education on a small scale, but the nation's biggest pilot project in California has shut down."

The article explains how single gender classrooms often reinforced gender stereotypes.