Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teachers/ ills of society

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

"I am not sure if this has been posted here before. It is an insightful, witty, sad & honest piece Brock Jones wrote. He is a LA public school teacher.

"Teachers Cannot Cure the Ills Of Society"


Monday, August 30, 2010

Pittsburgh as a model

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

"I had a hard time reading this article from the Kansas City Star.

"Pittsburgh's school system may be the model for the future"


- But, this is actually the correct link:


Results of application for federal money

From the Tribune:


At educational committee meetings earlier this summer administrators stated that applications meeting specific requirements (turnaround, transform or close schools or replace them w/ charters) were now needed to obtain money that could previously be obtained without these requirements. However, the article indicates that about 85% of the money awarded to the state as a whole is stimulus money.

The article notes that about half the requested amount was received. It is not clear which plans will be scaled back.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Roosevelt lays out long range school plan"

This was in May 2006 and described an agenda for where the district should be 4 years from that point:


"We are not giving you an agenda today that is compliance driven or that is limited to the standards set forth by 'No Child Left Behind'," said Roosevelt."

How well have we met these goals? Have we nevertheless ended up focused on compliance and achieving adequacy under NCLB?

"Focusing" teachers

From another post:

Anonymous said...
An administrator friend of mine told me this past week that if a principal fails to focus 25% of his teaching staff, then he will be focused.
Being focused means the teacher is suspected of being incompetent, to be blunt.
I'm wondering that if anyone sees that as teachers do--as a witch hunt?
What are the ramifications of such a crusade, and what does it say about PPS administration?

August 29, 2010 10:47 AM
Questioner said...
While there are certainly some teachers who could use extra training, a lot of the problems seem to be beyond teachers' control. Paradoxically, we may lose the teachers who are the best and have other options but don't want to deal with the hassles. Maybe what we really need is a parents' academy. ALL parents can use some help and tips at one time or another. And since the Broad approach is fond of incentives, give parents incentives to attend.

August 29, 2010 11:03 AM
Anonymous said...
Logically then. based on the FORMULA cited (25%) a minimal 25% percent of principals and central office administrators should be focused, if not dismissed given the 50 to 75% lack of student achievement, Five years is more than sufficient time to see improved student results. The focus must be on the Superintendent.

Responsibility rests, ultimately, at the top of the personnel pyramid.

August 29, 2010 11:33 AM
Shocked said...
I too have heard that principals were told to focus more teachers or be focused themselves.

I urge that a new thread be started for this topic specifically.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Delusions of Gender"

Reviews of a new book relevant to the single gender education debate:



Grassroots effort

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

"Besides this blog site, does PureReform use other media to disseminate their message; like local radio/tv, as well as, national radio/tv. More frequent editorials in local newspapers would capture public attention. Flyers posted in and around neighborhoods would spark interest.

Any plans to hold strategic meetings with members? Strong grassroot organizations need foot soldiers on the ground. A good recruitment tool is to have each member bring a different friend/neighbor with them to every meeting.

There is strength in numbers. I dare any local media to ignore a huge PureReform rally outside while Roosevelt meets with a select group of parents, teachers, a/o community members to discuss PPS concerns. Rally during a board meeting. PureReform has legitimate concerns that demands local and national attention.

Eli Broad, Roosevelt, and the rest of the Broadies will back down and eventually leave if this grassroot effort truly organizes and pushes back. They do not want opposition. They do not want exposure."


From the New Pgh Courier, here's how one charter school is tackling the dropout problem:


Hard decision

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

"Has anyone else pulled their kid/kids from PPS and feels guilty about it? I believe high achieving kids can get a good education in PPS, and most public schools.

My kid does not deal with the disruption, yelling and stress well. We decided to put him in a private school, for middle school. We hope to get him enrolled again in high school in PPS.

I have not given up on the schools, but I had to make the choice based on my kid. I feel guilty because I am very pro public schools.

I do know a lot of high performing kids fleeing the district, I never thought we would be one of them.

This was a hard decision for moral and financial reasons.

Can PPS woo us back in a few years?

I am uncertain, only one board member, Mr. Brentely speaks up, and attempts to hold the "employee" Mr. Roosevelt accountable. I commend his efforts even though we do not live in his district.

Btw, we live in one of the most "desirable" feeder patterns in the city, and we are still uncomfortable. This is not based on test scores, it is more of a safety, teacher/principal switching (RISE), lack of stability that pushed us over.

Is anyone else in this situation?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Broad accountability

On the August "Start a new post" Anonymous said:

"I never thought I would say this, but how about a "Thank you Mark " thread, or at the very least a thread about holding the school "Broad" accountable.

I watched 30 minutes of the meeting tonight, it was a joke. The board is a joke, and our kids our being shuffled around by an administration with ADHD.

I do not get the Roosevelt love."

And then added:

"Oops! "Thank you Mark Brentley thread"

Lack of counselors/ who is minding the store?

We are hearing reports that there is NO guidance counselor at Peabody and Oliver and no social worker at Langley because positions were cut or someone is on leave and has not been replaced. Students at these schools are at risk and need assistance accessing social services. Also, because they have been to many different schools, placements, institutions, it is time consuming to straighten out their schedules, records and transcripts to make them "Promise Ready." A social worker and AT LEAST one counselor are needed. Who on the School Board is watching out for adequate staffing?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

School safety report

WPXI obtained safety reports for Pennsylvania school districts; here is the link to PPS:


Unfortunately it does not seem to report results by school, which we have been meaning to obtain.

Public hearing August 23, 2010 school reconfiguration

On the August "Start a new post" Annette Werner wrote:

Here is my testimony from today's public hearing.

A school bus was provided to transport folks from Homewood to support the plan (note that buses have never been provided for opponents of administration proposals). Even so only a small handful attended. Two school board members were absent as was the deputy superintendent.

My testimony, which I will look forward to revisiting in several years as we see how things pan out:

PPS Public Hearing
August 23, 2010
Annette Werner PURE Reform

Good evening.

I'm going to talk about the school reconfiguration plan. My overall impression of this plan is that it would not last in the long run because it forces arrangements that are not a good fit.

- 6-12 format- The community dialogues proved 6-12 to be an extremely unpopular grouping. It may be accepted at a school like CAPA with few sports and a select group of students who want to be there no matter what (although CAPA high school students have told me they would much prefer a performing arts high school). Elsewhere the 6-12 format imposes a burden on participation in sports and activities that would never be imposed on Allderdice or schools in the North and South regions and which will have to be fixed by a reconfiguration at a future date.

- Peabody area students to the Hill and Homewood- At risk students need a convenient, easily accessible school. Ongoing incidents in Homewood make the plan to send Peabody students to Westinghouse even more challenging and stressful for these students and their families. Eventually the Peabody community will take back the Peabody building.

- Mandatory CTE- Requiring students to participate in a career program, and a very limited one at that, solely because they live in a particular part of the city will not lead to a strong CTE program, particularly as students move in and out of the feeder pattern.

- Peabody building for IB- The combination of a non-central location, windowless spaces and limited outdoor athletic facilities will not help to attract students who have other options.

- Lack of regard for diversity- When this whole process began the high schools with limited diversity- Peabody, Oliver and Westinghouse- were the most problematic. The district then went ahead and added another school with limited diversity which has not been able to attract and retain students. Feeder patterns may be ever expanded but the more committed and involved parents will continue to seek diverse options for their children, leaving less diverse schools underenrolled and underperforming.

- Failure to align schedules of proposed year round schools with the schedules of younger family members.

Over the past two years I have spoken with all of you on the Board and observed most of your meetings, and I have found that each of you has common sense. Today I urge you to please, use that common sense to vote down this very untenable, ill-advised proposal. I know there are a better alternatives.

Promise ready corps

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

anon212 has left a new comment on your post "Starting new topic":

HS schedules and the welcome letters are out. The packet includes info on PRC with a FAQ sheet.

"Teaming-Teams of six-eight teachers and a counselor/social worker will provide support for 100-120 9th grade students for whom they are collectively responsible."

My first thought is that the numbers should be lower, 2 teachers/25 students plus 1 counselor/50 students. If I am a student needing an ear in a hurry to help me how do I contact a member of my PRC?

"Advisory-In addition, each student will be assigned an advisor who they will meet with regularly to discuss what it means to be Promise-Ready."

Just ignore the agreement issue (each student/they) and concentrate on helping to define "regularly." Once a year? Once a week? AS NEEDED based on standards? The lack of specificity offers a future excuse if PRC is not a stellar success and losses are cut by attempting another effort.

Starting new topic

To make discussions easier to follow, if you are starting a new topic (for example noting and commenting on a new article) please go to the "Start a new post" section rather than piggybacking on an existing topic.

Posts that have been moved from the wrong topic leave behind "removed by administrator" notes.

Also the media prefers links to their articles rather than cut and pastes of the entire article (a small quote from the article is OK).

Students paid to attend summer program

From another post:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Very limited PSSA information released":

Do you feel this worked for the Summer?
Lopes involved and Heinz Endowment paid for it.

Is this real or PR?

This writer from the Trib –the only writer from the Pittsburgh media covering PPS.


Anonymous said...

From the above article -if this is voted on August 25th for September this year will the students BE PAID $100 a week?

What about the West End, South Hills and the North Side?

THey vote at their whums-yet they can not wait to February tochange the East End and the feeder patterns.

August 23, 2010 1:07 AM

K-8 wins credit

From another post:

Anonymous said...
Explain this to me.

Roosevelt fickle?

Now he wants all 6-12 if his K-8 is working?

K-8 model wins credit for helping Pittsburgh students improve
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
City schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt wouldn't go so far as to say the PSSA results validated the district's decision in 2006 to establish K-8 schools, ...


August 23, 2010 12:55 AM

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Plus Schools "Schoolworks" report

From another post:

Anonymous said...
Enclosed is A+ schools findings released today about the PPS.

Maybe this should be a separate blog listing for commentary.


August 17, 2010 2:44 PM

Anonymous said...
Group Releases Findings About City Schools

Enclosed is A+ schools findings released today about the PPS.

Maybe this should be a separate blog listing for commentary.


An independent watchdog group that keeps an eye on Pittsburgh Public Schools released its findings today.

According to A+ Schools, improvements are being seen, but there are still some areas that need to be addressed in the schools.

The watchdog group released is schoolwork findings, which involved collecting data on the workings of the schools in Pittsburgh.

"That the access to our most rigorous courses is uneven and limited across schools and within schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Second, is that there is a lack of behavior management systems in many of our schools. And third, we found that schools were not positioned to address students at risk of disengaging and dropping out in time to get them reengaged," A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris said.

Harris said that with these issues being highlighted, immediate action needs to be taken.

After the review of Pittsburgh high schools and middle schools, they learned that 50 percent of black males are not graduating.

"So we're going to be going into schools again this fall, to interview principals and guidance counselors. This time about the extent to which kids have access to rigorous courses and they're equitably accessible. The extent to which we have safe learning environments in every building and the extent to which there's a system to engage," Harris said.

Keenan Johnson is hooping to graduate next year and move on to college. Johnson said that the positive change should begin with students when they begin their schooling.

"Keep them constantly involved in school and make it fun for them so that as they grow up [they will] stick to the habits you develop. So, if you develop the habit of wanting to be in school and wanting to do this, then everyone is going to want to do better," Johnson said.

There were some grades where African-Americans did achieve 100 percent success levels, but the district was unavailable for comment.

August 17, 2010 2:47 PM

Anonymous said...
Another Story for Blog Posting-Recent article just up:



Survey finds inconsistency in city school procedures
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
By Eleanor Chute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A survey of middle and high school principals in Pittsburgh Public Schools shows inconsistency in how students are selected for tougher courses, disciplined, monitored for dropout prevention and prepared for college and careers.

Those are among the findings of the survey released today by A+ Schools, a local public education advocacy organization, as part of its School Works initiative.
"We want to make sure that school works for all Pittsburgh students, who bring different strengths and needs to the classroom. Equity means all students are given the support and resources needed to succeed -- regardless of their differences," said Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools.

Ms. Harris said some actions by the school district provide reassurance -- including new teacher training and evaluation systems -- and urged the district focus on three priorities: providing every student access to rigorous courses, a safe learning environment with behavioral expectations, and a system to keep tabs on students at risk of dropping out.

In Pittsburgh, some high school students who have tested into the gifted program take courses in the Centers for Advanced Studies. The next level of courses is the Pittsburgh Scholars Program, and the level below that is mainstream. The study found there were no consistent standards for determining which students take scholars courses.
It also found some schools had no systems in place to monitor students who were most likely to disengage, a key step toward reducing the number of dropouts.
Some schools did not teach skills needed for success, such as note taking and time management, while some did not have systems for positive discipline.
The surveys of 23 principals were done by a cadre of volunteers last year.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette or 412-263-1955

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10229/1080662-100.stm#ixzz0wtlHg3eV

August 17, 2010 4:52 PM

justsayin' said...

The link will take you to the info on the A+ site.

August 17, 2010 7:46 PM

Very limited PSSA information released

Last year by August 11 complete PSSA results by grade (although not by school) had been released by August 11 (see http://www.pps.k12.pa.us/14311059122535553/lib/14311059122535553/Education%20Committee/2009/ed%20comm%20ayp%20pres%20-%208-11-09.pdf)

This year information was essentially just a report on AYP status (despite statistical adjustment and whatever credit is now being given for students "on track" to proficiency the district reports that it "just missed" making AYP) with a few selected "highlights" about specific schools. From the PG:


Apparently the media but not the public received some additional information later in the week; from the PG:


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obama Middle School X country info

From Mark Rauterkus:


"Making the grade"

On another post Anonymous wrote:


Hopefully, PPS administration and Board are watching!"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting involved with PSCC (school parent organizations)

On the August "Start a new post" bystander wrote:

"PTOs and PTAs and PTSOs contribute a great deal to their buildings in the form of activities, fundraising for field trips and outside programs and performances, a ready group of volunteers, etc

Each school has a PSCC (Parent/School/Community Council) with scheduled meetings monthly. You may not find its purpose easily, and I may be simplifying the whole process, but this is the grassroots level of parent engagement. You will find buildings in PPS where fewer than three parents attend a monthly PSCC meeting. You will find buildings where a meeting is held just to SAY a meeting was held. And, you will find buildings where even if the staff attending a meeting outnumber the parents in the room, the purpose of the PSCC is respected. In these cases, in my observation, it happens when the parents make it happen.

Parents need to start thinking differently about parent meetings. Parents need to redirect the agenda to focus on the issues of the day, the ones THEY feel are critical at that moment. For instance, every PSCC meetings should begin with a report from the building Discipline Committee. Nothing sinks a building's reputation more than the perception of disorder. The rumors on the streets should be addressed at a PSCC and not be left to grow OR be swept away and dismissed. If our kids and our staff are not safe, this is where the campaign to fix the situation should begin and where accountability is paramount. A PSCC can be useful to the school community. It is up to parents to restore it to its original purpose and have it move away from being just a way to meet a federal requirement for parent involvement."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Inexperienced schools chase US school funds"

From the NYT:


Q&A session on reconfiguration

From the PG:


A+ questions/ responses


There are responses (not necessarily answers) to each A+ Schools question. It will be especially interesting to see how the plan for how schools will look in 2015 compares to how they actually shape up over the next few years.

Dep Super Linda Lane a finalist for position in Iowa

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


Linda Lane too?

Four current or former administrators from the Des Moines public school district and one rural Iowa superintendent are finalists for the job of director of the Iowa Department of Education, Gov. Chet Culver's office said.

Monday, in response to a public-records request, Culver's office released the names of the finalists to replace Judy Jeffrey, who retired in May. They are:

- Todd Abrahamson, superintendent of the Sigourney school district.

- Linda Lane, former deputy superintendent of the Des Moines school district and now deputy superintendent of accountability for the Pittsburgh, school district.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chautauqua speeches

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

ROOSEVELT’S Wants to Implement Marshall Plan? And/Or feels like Elizabeth Taylor’s Seventh Hubbie

Please read about Mr. Roosevelt as a CONSULTANT/Speaker

Gloomy Side Of Reform

By Andrew Carr acarr@post-journal.com
POSTED: August 7, 2010

CHAUTAUQUA - Speaking about education reform is a hard thing to do without being gloomy, said Mark Roosevelt to a Chautauqua Institution audience.

Roosevelt, in his lecture Friday, managed however, to weave humor and truth together to make a compelling argument in the education reform issue. After hearing many of the speakers this week, he said he would try to not reiterate many of the points they had made.

"I feel like Elizabeth Taylor's seventh husband," he said. "I know exactly what to do, just not how to make it interesting."
The truth of the matter is not pretty, he said.

"My generation is the first generation to be worse off than our parents," he said.
He described the "it takes a village" argument, saying he believes this is true; therefore all the blame cannot be put on teachers, administrators or unions alone.

"We are all responsible for what is happening," he said. "We are not raising our children the way they need to be raised."
Roosevelt shared his experience in the Pittsburgh school system, and how as superintendent he was trying to change that system. Being in Pittsburgh, the school system must tackle many hardships such as economic disparity, he said.

"The things in our culture that can drive children down away from where they need to be are so powerful," he said.

In order to inspire the reform that is needed, the American public must know what is going on and become involved, he said.
"Most of America does not know how big this problem is," he said. "You can't solve a problem if you don't know it exists."
Roosevelt spoke about the achievement gap, and how we focus on this as the main issue. Roosevelt reiterated that this is a very important issue, but is part of a larger problem.

"If we remove the African-American and Latino children from the equation, our highest achieving children are still in the middle of the pack," he said. "And our African-American and Latino children are second to last in the world. It is very important to recognize we have achievement gaps in this country, but we can't let that obscure the fact that most children are not getting the education they need."

In order to change the educational system, we need to recognize academic achievement, and inspire national standards, he said.
"If you want to make change in the educational system, you have to think about 15,274 school board agendas," he said. "We need to work together if we are ever going to make this change. There is truth in a lot of people's views, but there is no simple truth, no simple answer."

Roosevelt said that there are many reasons to be optimistic, however. Some schools have started to become nuclei of innovation, there are signs on non-partisanship on the issue, and the history of our country shows that when we recognize a big problem we can do something about it.

"We need a Marshall Plan for public education in America," he said.

August 8, 2010 11:33 AM
Anonymous said...
PureReformthe enclosed articles need to be posted for comments they are very insightful and very revealing regarding Roosevelt-he gave more out about himself and his agenda in NY-never in PPS

Please post each as a seperate blog entry.

We need to have this as comsuption and the blog can have open discussion.

It would be nice to take key points from each article to-Roosevelt is silent in PPS and PGH-place him in NY and pay him as a xonsultant and or public speaker he even answers questions-both give excellent insight for our future children under his tutelage the next couple years for PPS.

The Chautauquan Daily - Roosevelt to share Pittsburgh successes
Roosevelt to share Pittsburgh successes Mark Roosevelt by Sara Toth Staff writer The Chautauqua audience has heard numerous perspectives on the public ...


Gloomy Side Of Reform

Jamestown Post Journal
By Andrew Carr acarr@post-journal.com

CHAUTAUQUA - Speaking about education reform is a hard thing to do without being gloomy, said Mark Roosevelt to a ...

Questioner said...

Here is the correct link

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Questions for Tuesday's forum on reconfiguration

As previously noted, PPS will hold a forum East End School Reconfiguration:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
6:00PM - 7:30PM
Westinghouse High School Library

Because the district will present the plan and take only written questions, some have expressed concerns that many questions will be left unanswered.

To help us get a better sense of whether the meeting has in fact addressed community concerns. please email your questions to the district at



After the meeting we will post a list of which submitted questions have been answered and which still require responses. Accountability is critical.

Note: It would be helpful but it is not required to have your name. If you would like PURE Reform to submit a question for you to maintain anonymity, please email the question to us.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CP article on concerns about neighborhood rivalries

"An informal City Paper survey of parents at Chadwick Park in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar area found most had strong feelings against the [high school reconfiguration] plan, primarily as a result of the mixing of neighborhoods."


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oliver renovation to cost 25M

School reconfiguration materials prepared by the district show that the projected capital cost for Oliver HS is $25M. The district expects an enrollment of 300 - 500 students.

Schenley enrolled about 3 times more students, but renovation costs of 3 x $25M ($75M) were descrbed as too expensive- even though by all the measures the district has at various times used to justify school closings Schenley far outperformed Oliver:

Enrollment (Schenley 100%, Oliver seriously underenrolled)

Achievement (achievement in all subcategories greater at Schenley)

School Performance Index (Schenley a 3, Oliver only a 2 http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/2005/RAND_WR315-1.pdf)

Location (Schenley central while administration acknowledges that it will be difficult to attract students to Oliver)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Reconfiguration meeting/ taking questions from audience

From A+ Schools:

PPS East End School Reconfiguration Meeting

Pittsburgh Public Schools will host a forum on the East End School Reconfiguration plan.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010
6:00PM - 7:30PM
Westinghouse High School Library
(doors open at 5:30 for submission of questions)

The district will present the plan and written questions will be taken from the audience. Questions can be submitted in advance using the PPS website. Go to Plans & Initiatives and then Facilities Reconfiguration. The link to input questions can be found in the middle of the page.

Direct link for question submission: http://www.pps.k12.pa.us/14311062191241110/site/default.asp

PG article on summer literacy camp


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gallup online test for teaching applicants

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

Teacher hiring criteria intended to get best candidates


Interesting article for parents and educators. A neighbor on our street applying for a teaching job in the PPS District. After completing the whole application process on line. She had to take the Gallup

TeachertInsight Assessment an online multiple-choice test designed to help select candidates for screening. She has impeccable references, student taught in the PPS and q QPA of 3.9. She completed the Gallup TeachertInsight Assessment and she did not pass the online test and has to wait for a period of a year.

Can a person explain this to a parent-why another test for selection process?

Yet, they are furloughing teachers.

Consultant arrangement

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

ExpEducator requests that we explore:
FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT as defined by Dylan William,
James Popham and Mgt Heritage.

On July 30th, according to Board Minutes, PPS contracted with Dylan William at a cost of $10,000
(Yes, ten thousand ) for one day to provide professional development for "select" PPS educators.
Who and how many attended? What did they learn? And what are the implementation plans for Administrators, Teachers, Students and Communities?

Merit pay for teachers op ed

On another post Anonymous wrote:

New Post- Op-ed
Merit pay for teachers is an idea without merit
Excellent teachers excel anyway and the duds will stay duds, argues English teacher DAVID MORRIS

Read more: http://www.postgazette.com/pg/10213/1076465-109.stm#ixzz0vNTaac16

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.

"Growing up poor can affect brain development"

From the PG: