Sunday, July 25, 2010

Teachers' Academy FAQ's

On another post Anon wrote:

Given that Summer Dreamers is having mixed success, how will the district do with its Teachers' Academy? See this link for some of the details. Apparently the students at these schools will have numerous teachers in their core subjects.


Questioner said...

From the FAQ's:

"...few preparation programs prepare teachers with the classroom management and instructional skills and
specific focus on teaching African American students so critical for an urban district."

- So it seems that teachers will be prepared with a "specific focus on teaching African American students." Can someone explain what a focus on teaching African American students would involve? In what way are African American students be taught differently?

Old Timer said...

I have great reservations about this idea and sincerely believe that at its core, this initiative amounts to grandstanding for $40 million dollars and indoctrinating teachers in concepts much as PELA did for prospective principals. Simply put, this is a great deal of administrative style over real world substance.

I was struck first by this quote from the FAQ's:
"District students who attend The Teacher Academy will experience a learning environment and
school culture that fosters a life-long appreciation of learning for teachers and students alike.
Energized by the ideas and hard work of the new and experienced teachers who rotate through
the program, and anchored by a select group of highly effective teachers, The Teacher Academy
will prepare students to take advantage of The Pittsburgh Promise®."

First off, it's hard to imagine students will suddenly feel some appreciation for learning with a revolving door approach. No matter how one cuts it, students generally warm up to learning thanks to inspiration from teachers. In general, they will latch on to one or two. By its very nature, we have inexperienced teachers coming through or teachers making wholesale changes in their subject area...or teachers designated for refinement as dictated by RISE. I'm not seeing where this enlightenment comes from. Are students simply going to fall in love with a robotic curriculum?

Meanwhile, participants at the center will be immersed in the following:
" Instructional practices that maximize student learning and Promise-Readiness;
 PPS core curricula and programs that prepare students for college;
 Data-informed decision-making, including summative, formative, interim, and diagnostic
assessments to monitor and adapt instruction;
 Race, race relations, and its implications for teaching;
 Cultural competence and culturally relevant pedagogy;
 Classroom management and student relationship building strategies;
 Student motivations and aspirations for college-readiness and completion; and
 Access to latest research from PPS’ partners: the PFT’s Educational Research and
Dissemination (ER&D); the University of Pittsburgh’s IFL and Learning Research
Development Center."

First off, there's the indoctrination into an insufficient curricula across the board. Secondly, there is the corporate approach to teaching...through data and assessment. I've carped long and hard about how testing simply does not tell the story of what a child has learned and how effective a teacher is. Ivory tower types would not know any better, of course. Next, there is the idea of classroom management being passed down by people NOT in the classroom, by people who were there for a relatively short amount of time and by people who likely have researched what is applicable. Uh, no.
Next, the commentary about college readiness which, thanks to sub-par curricula, is a redundancy in itself. And finally, more lines drawn to partners---groups not in the classroom. More ability for these types to come in and talk to prospective teachers about pie in the sky.

I guess I would place great stock in such a program if resident teachers were hired and told to build a curriculum. Like everything else in this district, the classroom teacher is not part of this scenario. Oh, he will model what he is told to, but he is not writing curriculum that addresses any of the above areas. He is not brainstorming ideas that are real world in the classrooms of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Questioner, once again I have to wonder about why the biggest part of the equation--the teacher--is neatly kept out of the leadership process.

Questioner said...

Re: "Data-informed decision-making, including summative, formative, interim, and diagnostic
assessments to monitor and adapt instruction;"

- The District's own decision-making has not been particularly data informed. There are a lot of references to data, but when for example requests are made for data to support 6-12 and other configurations and single gender classrooms, no real data is provided.

Old Timer said...

Research itself is that long and winding road, a continually changing endeavor that can be attributed to so many factors and can certainly provide individuals with a career. Researchers, consultants...wonderful employment if you can get it and zero accountability. Simply blame failures on changing trends.
In PPS, a district already top-heavy with administrative types NOT working with students also has numerous "partners".

When will someone audit the books and ask some serious questions as to taxpayer money?

Anonymous said...

Questioner @ July 25, 2010 8:56 PM

Our PPS district will be using the VAM-the Value Added Model to measure teaching with student learning an achievement.

Go to it Old Timer--
When will someone audit the books and ask some serious questions as to taxpayer money?

Let;s start right now!!!

Let;s investigate.

Anonymous said...

Q. Will teachers currently at Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh King K-8
retain their positions?
A. The Teacher Academy sites will open as new schools in 2011-12, and therefore all teachers
will be required to reapply for their jobs.

Well, that's interesting, all the teachers at two schools need to re-apply? Talk about musical chairs. If they get a high enough turnover, maybe they can convince the powers that be that it really is a new school, even if the kids are all the same, the name are the same, the grades are the same?

Questioner said...

Will Brashear HS still be Brashear HS, or is it being changed to "Pgh Teaching Academy"? If it will no longer be Brashear, much more effort should be made to notify the Brashear community of this change BEFORE a vote occurs. Do Brashear parents (and families now choosing Brashear) realize that all teachers will have to reapply?

Anonymous said...

Does this meet the qualifications of the one yr exemption For Brashear and King from PSSA for 2011-2012 school year?

This shell game is hard to keep up with.

anon said...

I can assure you that families in the Brashear and King communities are NOT aware that after this year their children will be attending a different school with different or some re-hired teachers. The FAQs was posted July 19, a week ago today. So unless they have been watching the Board web site very carefully they are unaware of this change to come.

Of concern not only to Brashear and King families is the fact that "experienced teachers" will visit the Academy for 6 weeks at a time to work with "Master teachers." During those 6 weeks a "Resident teacher" will take their place. Resident teachers are basically new and inexperienced teachers. The translation of this is: if the district thinks your child's teacher needs some retraining they will send that teacher away and replace him/her with a brand new inexperienced teacher for 6 weeks.

The FAQs goes on to explain that "We will work with residents to ensure the transitions are smooth and student learning is not compromised." Will this involve yet another administrator?

There is no doubt a very good reason why the Board publishes things like this in the middle of the summer. When parents get wind of it in the fall it will be too late to do anything. So although the Brashear and King communities may feel the worst of it, this new Teachers Academy will affect all students in all schools.

Anonymous said...

When they came for Schenley, most did not speak out; they were not from Schenley. When they came for Peabody, most did not speak out; they were not from Peabody. Now it's Brashear's turn.

Old Timer said...

What we learned during the closure of Schenley High was that the Roosevelt Administration understands basic human misery: let them whine for a little while. They also understand human nature: the only people who will whine is the Schenley segment of the population.
In time, the whining will stop and we'll have our way.
So it goes.
I suspect any initiative Roosevelt wants is floated along this path. Controversy fades. Give some modicum of window dressing where residents get to speak their minds and over time, it will all face.

Watching the Ship Sink said...

To anon 8:02

"When they came for Schenley..."

Very appropriate comment. And, certainly, there's much more to come.

The same could be said for those teachers who voted for the new Roosevelt-enabling contract.

"I had not yet been focused/displaced/forced to go to a "job fair", and there was a raise, so I voted yes..."

incredulous said...

As a parent this thread makes me ill. Brashear is just building itself up and now they are going wreck it installing a teachers' academy. To be sure PARENTS and stakeholders do not understand the ramifications and it seems unti the 11th hour won't "get it" if even then. Same can be aid about CTE. Some will be blind-sided that to get the program they want for their kid he will have to be a full-time student at Oliver. I really believe that there is soooooo much talking from the admin that all that gets heard is a dull continual hummmmmmmm.

If there are parents out there holding a list of teachers who provided a positive experience for their kid keep the list handy or better yet send a complimentary letter to a principal about the teacher.

Watching the Ship Sink said...

To incredulous,

You're right, this whole thing is crazy, and quite damaging, and it has to be stopped.

Not only will this Academy turn Brashear upside down, it will turn every school with teachers involved upside down.

It is my understanding that every teacher, even those with experience, will have to spend time at the Academy.

So who will teach those classes when teachers are pulled out? Long-term subs, I would assume.

Think of the loss in continuity!

And what are chances of getting qualified subs in math, science, or foreign languages?

And this is all for nothing!

Is there some enormous amount of knowledge out there that is not taught in schools of education? That even experienced teachers don't know?

Can't this nowledge that be imparted to new teachers in, say, a two week in-service before school starts?

Is the educational knowlege that the Roosevelt administration alone possesses really that vast?

The union has abandoned their responsibilities. The teachers are now powerless, like leaves in the wind.

The parents are the last hope here.

Old Timer said...

Unless I am mistaken, and that could be, not every teacher will go through the academy. New teachers, yes. Teachers changing subject areas, yes. Teachers who want the experience, yes. Teachers who are evaluated as being needy through RISE, yes.

But not every teacher.

Anonymous said...


It's even better than long-term subs -- when the experienced teachers come for their time at the Academy, later in the school year, the plan is that the new teachers will be going to their classrooms for up to 6 weeks. (With "lots of support," of course, though who will be giving it? The academy teachers have to still be at the academy with their students and the experienced teachers. It actually sounds like administrators will be the ones giving support to new teachers dropped into other teachers' classrooms.)

Now if you look at your calendar, looks like teachers will be asked to leave their classes behind during pre-PSSA season. SO, not only will that teacher be evaluated at the academy, same teacher will also be later evaluated on the test scores of the kids left behind for weeks on end in the hands of teachers who have never prepared for the PSSA before.

Pure Genius!

Old Timer said...

Again, unless I am mistaken, this does not apply to every teacher other than the ones I listed. That said, the board logic is that "veteran" teachers coming into the program weren't making it in the classroom anyway, so no great loss.

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt's and PPS's philosophy is that students/parents come and go. Parents may whine and complain, but won't have a vested interest for very long. Thus, ignore parents and keep on doing whatever we want. Who is going to stop us? The Board members and the PFT sure aren't. It is a dictatorship and Roosevelt and his cronies can do whatever and however they want. (and they do)

Anonymous said...

Please purview the enclosed advertisement.

ONEe-We know he will not be announcing the PSSA scores on this date

TWO-hw will be talking about his Teacher Academies because they are entwined with his “Eddective Teaching” component For "Excellence for ALL”

Now a National Tour for his agenda!

He is a HERO for the change agents

Mark Roosevelt

WHEN Friday, August 6, 2010, 10:45am – 12pm
WHERE Amphitheater
WEEK-BY-WEEK Week 6—August 1-7

TICKET PHONE 716.357.6250
NOTE Week Six — "Excellence in Public Education"
Since his appointment as superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools in August 2005, Mark Roosevelt has pursued an aggressive reform agenda called “Excellence for All.” Four years later, the district has a comprehensive plan to maximize effective teaching that is one of only four such efforts to win support through a highly competitive $40 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



For now hw sends his cloonies to do his talk and walk the walk for the East End.

What is your take fellow parents, taxpayers and educators?

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the description of his lecture:

The main lecture page says "Chautauqua's knowledgeable audiences have the opportunity to participate in question-and-answer sessions at the conclusion of the lectures."

Guess PPS parents just need to go to Chautauqua to be able to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Old timer, I think you're correct in the teachers you list. However, some of those categories could be very small or very big. The RISE referrals, for instance, could be as many or as few as needed.

I wonder if principals are given a curve to grade on? Will they be required to find a percentage of their teacher to be in need of re-education? Will there be limits on the number of teachers found to be proficient or above?

Mark Rauterkus said...

A FAQ & A should compare and contrast the former PPS teacher centers from a decade ago to the new ones to come in 2011.

Anonymous said...

Anyone up for a road trip?

Old Timer said...

I remember the Schenley teacher center well, Mark, and I also remember the PRISM an EPAS forms of evaluations. I get your comparison, of course, but to disavow the mood in administration and the era in which teachers are working would be to completely miss the point.
Most people who went through Schenley looked upon the time as a vacation. Most of the kids whose teachers were replaced felt much the same way. The idea of teacher refinement was the driving force behind the teacher center, of course, but it was window dressing.
You have a new effort being launched now, and you have an evaluation system that is so rife with gray areas that truly, what you and I perceive may simply come down to personalities. And given what happened in DC over the weekend, that's dangerous.

Anonymous said...

From that link to the Roosevelt lecture:

"In 2009, PPS became the largest district in Pennsylvania to achieve “Adequate Yearly Progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, meaning the district met all of its targets on high school graduation and academic performance.

Roosevelt is also the founder of The Pittsburgh Promise, a remarkable initiative that has already raised $150 million to guarantee as much as $10,000 per year in college scholarships for all PPS graduates who meet certain academic standards."

Are either of those claims strictly true?

We didn't meet ALL of the academic performance targets, we met enough to make AYP. Or at least that's what I remember from the articles in the paper.

Have they really raised 150 million so far? Again, from the most recent article I remember, we aren't even getting the full 10 million for the year from UPMC because it's a matching grant and not enough was raised. Does anyone know how you'd get that 150M figure?

Anonymous said...

A "road trip" to Chautauqua is clearly in order, a great idea_____a bus full of PPS parents and educators ___with facts, figures, charts and testimony in hand___ and metaphors about "emperors" . . .

Anonymous said...

Do you think Education Week would be interested in doing a followup report___more investigative in nature?

Anonymous said...

Try to have an intelligent conversation with any pro-public school parents. It is very difficult, I was ultra public school, and I figured anyone that was dissing it was either misinformed or paranoid. I know what is going on now, and I did a 180 in a matter of a few days. You could have not changed my mind, I had to be willing to read and look. I was not before.

I honestly think I have lost a friend once I started putting the pieces of this mess in place. I have very little faith in the long term future with PPS.

This administration is all about self promotion without any personal integrity involved. I

If their aim is to tear apart communities, fire/dismiss people to make room for their own, they have won. The only choice I have is to call them out, but then people will lose their jobs. They are really good at faking and covering up their tracks.

It is lose lose, shut up and play our game.

Old Timer said...

Anon at 12:53, there is an old adage that there is safety in numbers. From a teacher standpoint, this used to be the rationale behind having a union. Truly, what Tarka has done to the adage is to strip it completely and negate the thought within any teacher. In thinking that you understand what is happening within PPS quite well, walk a mile in our shoes; who among teachers dares to stand up to protest in a singular sense? Who dares to "call out" an assistant superintendent who has lost credibility and academic integrity in her development of a 50% grading scale, in her oversight of a mind numbing curriculum that fails to address the needs of students? Who dares call out a superintendent who continues to run a school district as a corporation:
-continue to hire administrators not involved with actual "product"
-continue to crack down on "worker drones"
-destroy workers' ability to organize
-ramp up public relations efforts
-ensure fame, notoriety and money to administrators not involved in the "product"
-disconnect administration from trenches where "product" is manufactured
-drum up monetary support of local business leaders who do not have to enter worker environment
Oh...the product? Students? Yes, they are simply a commodity that can be bartered with as we open and close schools without regard to common sense.

The list is endless.

I feel for what you are saying, anon, but this is not education.

Anonymous said...

Come One . . . . Come All. . . .

The start of New Teachers Academy!

The first segment of the New Teachers Academy-I would call it Orientation-read the last sentence-was this teacher of just hire out of college for History?
Let’s not state a misquote-.

Teachers get a lesson on life in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Students and parents on Tuesday helped about 80 Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers better understand what students need, as part of the district's inaugural ...

Anonymous said...

Another article on New Teacher Trainigng -did they hire the teachers recently or under 3 yesrd of teavhing experience-clarify-Hello board of ED??


Mr. Martin, who after five years as a counselor for adjudicated youth decided to try a career in teaching, is one of the 80 new and novice teachers undergoing a three-week orientation to prepare them for life in the city schools.

Read more:

Read more:

Old Timer said...

If anyone had ANY doubt that PPS had a proactive PR department, he only need to ponder that BOTH the PG and Trib are running articles about this matter.


Don't journalists ever ask questions anymore????