Friday, August 27, 2010

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."


Questioner said...

The hope early on was that many people would join in as voices for reason, transparency, public participation and parent engagement.

The reality though is that you must immediately count out anyone with a group dependent on funding from the foundation community. And then count out anyone hoping to contract w/ PPS, which of course has a bigger budget than the city of Pittsburgh. Count out those associated with certain employers who are told or who expect to be told to simmer down. Count out those who struggle just to keep up with the demands of their jobs and their families and have little time or energy left over, and then count out those who simply do not understand what is going on. Count out those who spoke up and were ignored and have given up, disgusted. We could go on but you get the picture.

Old Timer said...

I look at PURE Reform as the only hope left. While I do not agree with everything that the most high profile members espouse, I consider the commentary in each case to be well thought out and more than anything else, an effort to place the needs of Pittsburgh Public School students--and potential students--above everything else.
And yet, the apathy which IS American society precludes bringing the kind of heat that local media will cover as being meaningful or worth exploration. The apathy precludes the Roosevelt administration paying any notice whatsoever and again using the tried and true tactic to withstand a few days or months of rancor, and watching it fade from the spotlight.
The school board members who have issued this administration and more specifically this superintendent a blank check will certainly not listen. How is it that long time members continue to fail our students and win re-election, time after time. Name recognition. Apathy.
The teacher's union can now only be called a facade, a sham, a straw man. Far from thinking that John Tarka has sold his soul or is in bed with administration, it has occurred to me just recently that it is more likely that he has made some deal, some agreement that in his mind warrants capitulation. Could it be mass layoffs/firings and closures?
And teachers? I cannot fathom even the most dedicated teacher will come out of the shadows to lend his name to even this, an outstanding effort. Upon return this week, high school teachers were treated to the news that there will be more learning walks than ever and of longer duration. The intimidation has begun, and the kids haven't even returned yet.
It's telling to me that administration will again fail to state the obvious: subpar curriculum--forced and canned for teacher and student consumption--fails to meet the needs of those students in PSSA testing. It's easier to target teachers than to look in the mirror and say, "We've failed".
I've said before that what took place in DC this past July is coming to a school near you. I salute the efforts of PURE Reform and thank them for lending their collective ear to what at times must sound like Fantasy Island. But where positive change is concerned, I'm afraid you're on your own.

Questioner said...

It would be impossible to have full agreement on every issue. But as to the basic principles- logical, evidence-based decisions; prompt and full release of information (why NOT release full PSSA information without further delay); and real public participation (where outcomes really are not known in advance) broad consensus is possible. But as explained, the barriers to participation in pursuing these goals can be prohibitive.

Anonymous said...

It is so political people can't discuss this without an anon. I am not implying "The Soprano's", but disagreeing or publicly questioning HRH Roosevelt could very cost you your job.

People are caught between a hard place and a perceived "diamond".

I am really confused why the local media ignores the obvious. They know the realities; We can't match Gates money, we fell short on matching Promise funds and PA did not get Race To The Top money.

This is bad.

Old Timer said...

And anon, it will get worse. I am sure there are great concerns about the lynch pin of all positive news, the Pittsburgh Promise, and its future with PPS.
As for the media, what local journalistic outlets entertain as a methodology is no different than what we see on a national level. Let me look at this as an independent: how did the Bush administration continually sidestep questions about the lies that went into America's war with Iraq? How is Obama able to not feel incredible pressure about the BP oil spill and our federal government taking a back seat to BP's cover up of what has happened and what continues to happen?
The point is....journalists simply don't ask questions anymore. They take what they are given and present it as fact.
In Pittsburgh, this is especially true. Sad, but it allows a superintendent to act without worry of public outcry. It allows a school board to shove aside the idea that it is charged with representing the best interests of its district's families.
This year, that board continued its love affair with the superintendent, granting him a $15K raise which now has him "earning" three times more than the average teacher. May I remind you that this is taxpayer money.

Can anyone tell me what this individual has done to "earn" a raise in each of the last three years, now at a total of $240K???

Questioner said...

On the Promise website the graph showing contributions only goes through June 30, 2009 and the rest of the website doesn't seem to say whether enough funds were received to obtain full matching funds for the June 30, 2010 year either:

The research and statistics tab doesn't have information on the percentage of students eligible, how many have stayed in college and how the Promise is affecting enrollment- it just discusses scholarship programs elsewhere in the country.

Anonymous said...

Well THe Sopranls! Whoa! I woukd not venture there. We are too educated, logically to know the PPS bizareness without going to Tony.

But, Roosevelt has recevied already for 5 YEARS- over 1 MILLION DOLLARS$$$$$$$$$
from Pgh Taxpayers,

1 Million$$$$$$=Roosevelt 5 year PPS work

Enclosed an interesting article with the start of the school year and the start of the Gates Foundation with PPS Adm and staff and PFT.

Parents part of this committee? As well as University professors as panel members?

Vicki Phillips: 2010 Pittsburgh STEM Summit | Bill & Melinda Gates ...
That's because in my current capacity I'm still working with Pennsylvania — the Gates Foundation is investing $40 million in Pittsburgh Public Schools ...

Anonymous said...

"The $11.3 million fell short of the goal of raising $15 million, which would have leveraged $10 million rather than $7.6 million from UPMC."

Read more:

Hard to find it using the PG search, but I did remember reading it. They phrase it in a fairly obscure way, but yes, we did not raise enough to get all the money for the year from UPMC.

Questioner said...

The article contains an example of non-objective reporting:

"One way that is already happening is the slight uptick the city schools are seeing in their high school graduation rates, Mr. Ghubril said. Last year, the graduation rate of the city schools was 64 percent, well below the national average of competitive suburban school districts at 71 percent or the Pennsylvania average 78 percent."

- How do we know the slight uptick is due to the Pittsburgh Promise? Other changes have been made since the June 2008 "special workshop" where board members said that getting the graduation rate up was the highest priority. Was the long distance/ online system of credit recovery added within those 2 years? Many insiders have complained that the credit recovery route has gotten easier relative to taking regular classes. Will the diploma mean anything?

And is it true that "competitive suburban districts" only graduate 71% of their students?

Anonymous said...

One only needs to look at the monthly Board minutes to see all the personnel changes that occur on a monthly basis. There are retirements, resignations, terminations, settlements of litigation, movements of personnel from one building and/or position or another, some with and some without changes in salary, positions closed, positions opened (some just retitled for the positions closed), new administration positions/titles, and on and on. Unbelievable! The best one is that they paid the moving expenses for a new PELA. When will the merry-go-round stop?

Questioner said...

The upside of the total approval of all that is asked is that there will be no excuses for whatever results are ultimately obtained (although it will probably take some lookiing to find the results).

Old Timer said...

Questioner, is the bottom line that HS teachers heard this past week:
Your learning walks will now be of longer duration and of greater frequency throughout the year.
Now, immediately reference a number of thoughts thoughts:
one, what has taken place in Washington DC.
next, the superintendent's comments about HS achievement being "unacceptable"
-the press release that came from PPS after Roosevelt's PSSA meeting that made a threat to teachers regarding progress falling under the district's new "teacher effectiveness program"

Yes, board minutes make it clear that teachers are already being forced to resign. Many more will come this year. Again, at its core, the effectiveness equation comes down to this: Did PSSA scores go up on your watch? Are you following the curriculum verbatim?

But every parent should know the truth, and please forgive my caps:


My best wishes to all PPS teachers who come aboard here. My best regards for contending with learning walk teams full of people who were never in a classroom or simply could not cut it in the classroom and now have us in the cross hairs. God bless you, as you have dedicated yourself to work with children with myriad needs and for comparatively low pay....and toil for employers who would be happy to place you and your family in difficult straits during hard economic times.
Rise above.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon for this PR site-and such.

This site-gives a sad look at the PR propoganda-discussing the Promise Ready Corps, Promise Money-PPS Teacher Academy and Promise Money-etc.

Can PPS keep a promise they have made?

Questioner said...

This article from the Wall Street Journal describes studies suggesting that power "can dramatically change the way people respond to information. Instead of analyzing the strength of the argument, those with authority focus on whether or not the argument confirms what they already believe. If it doesn't, then the facts are conveniently ignored."

It goes on to note that the best antidote for this phenomenon is transparency, but that those in power "stifle oversight. They lobby agains regulators, and fill corporate boards with their friends."

Anonymous said...

Flexible schedules and online work at Fox Chapel Area High School. Thinking outside the box...

anon803 said...

Recently PPS has begun to post video of The Excellence for All Parent Steering Committee to the website.

There may be some benefit to regular viewing.

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?

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.

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.

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt is NOW on KDKA-TV. 11:30AM.

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.

Anonymous said...

When he was asked about "Empowering Effective Teachers," what did he say? He put his spin on it, but I didn't catch it all.

Anonymous said...

One thing M.R. said was that teachers would have more "responsibility" for teaching kids in their classrooms. If I were a teacher I would take that quote and run with it.

Anonymous said...

Enclosed today's TV btoadcast of Roosevelt

Anonymous said...

Anon at 12:12, if you were a teacher, you'd understand the public spin versus the pressure from above. If I run outside of what curriculum is telling me, I will be running to the unemployment line.