Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Making the grade"

On another post Anonymous wrote:


Hopefully, PPS administration and Board are watching!"


Questioner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Questioner said...

Thanks for the info- the show touched on many of the issues discussed on our blog but unfortunately not the newly expanded role of corporations and foundations in education. For those that missed it- MSNBC will be hosting "Education Week" starting September 26.

A guest on today's show stated that the biggest factor in student achievement is peer excellence- which raises the question of whether grouping most of the strongest students in a few magnet schools is the best way to go. Some hope to "return Westinghouse to its glory days" but in those days a far higher percentage of strong students from the neighborhood went to Westinghouse. Will a girls' / boys' school attract students away from CAPA, Allderdice, IB, sci tech?

Anonymous said...

Arne Duncan stated early in the program that it was critical to find Principals that had been SUCCESSFUL in transforming and turning around schools and who could to lead the way and be models for the process.

Unfortunately, the reverse is true in PPS. The PELA program is training young people who have NOT yet gained the experience or expertise to be successful and putting them in PRINCIPAL positions that require the ability to respond to challenges based on previously acquired expertise and experiences.

The results speak for themselves in PPS____clearly, the PELA model is not working in any of the schools.

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer people in PPS Leadership roles who have the experience or expertise necessary as educators who can create SUCCESSFUL schools.

Questioner said...

The MSNBC report also noted that last year there were 1.5 million reported nonfatal criminal incidents within schools and 1.1 million reported incidents outside schools (presumably affecting students). Which raises the question of why at last week's session on reconfiguration the statement was made that students knew they would be fine once they reached Westinghouse, the issue is just getting to and from school. Why is Westinghouse expected to do so much better than schools nationally in terms of safety in school?

Questioner said...

But we frequently hear that the schools w/ PELA principals are doing better than other schools. Is there conclusive data one way or the other?

Anonymous said...

NOT true so far unless you are referencing CAPA which will always do better than other schools because of its select student population. CAPA, however, is not doing better than when it had an experienced principal.

Let's see what the PSSA scores for 2010 look like.

Which PELA principal school has been said to have done better than other schools?

Old Timer said...

I always envisioned the PELA program as the forerunner as what will happen now with teachers via the RISE program: older, experienced principals were gradually weeded out in favor of individuals who are young, make a great paycheck and have learned to not question upper corporate management. C'mon, it's a corporate model. I can name countless principals who did what was best for their respective buildings. I can name countless principals who even went so far as to argue with superiors--superintendents themselves--about decisions that adversely affected their schools.
Any old timer can ramble off such names, as can people who have been pillars of their communities. Sadly, this is not the type of individual that PELA is looking to attract.
Now we have RISE and again, it sounds suspiciously like what is going on in DC schools. Could this be another weeding out process? Apparently, a number of teachers have already been shown the door.
What's the endgame here? Is it simple obedience to a mindset that comes down from corporate HQ? Is it the idea that adopted procedures are part and parcel to one's ability to maintain his or her livelihood--following the curriculum verbatim, following grading protocol, etc?
An old professor of mine long ago put forth the premise that the government was getting out of the education business. His feeling was that education would go corporate.
Three decades later, he was right.

Questioner said...

Speaking of DC- there was a clip of Michelle Rhee- once again talking about accountability for the adults in the school buildings.

It will be interesting to see if she holds herself accountable if her reforms do not work- will she step down and return to the classroom?

Anonymous said...

Rhee's degrees are in Government and Public Policy. She taught three years for "Teach for America" and is reported to have successfully raised scores in two years.

Questioner said...

So she raised scores in 2 of the 3 years she taught? With particular schools or teachers you really need to compare performace to other schools or teachers in the district, b/c in many instances state test scores have gone up while scores of those same students on national tests stayed flat- suggesting that state tests were made easier.

Anonymous said...

The preliminary PSSA results will be released tomorrow at CAPA's Black Box Theater at 11:00 a.m.

Anonymous said...

Questioner: You are a absolutely correct. There are multiple factors about which there is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions that merit the kind of prominence Rhee has attained. No PhD, a Bachelor's in Government and Masters in Public Policy indicate a lack of a few credentials that could might serve her well as an effective educational leader.

Non-educators seem to have a free pass today and only time will tell the effects on students.

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh Public Schools did NOT make AYP___thus not "making the grade" according to the minimum requirements set by the PDE and USDOE.

This morning (at CAPA) the PPS superintendent "highlighted PSSA data___ focusing on three school that showed progress____Greenfield, Manchester and Allegheny Middle School.

There was NO PSSA DATA at all presented on Pittsburgh HIgh Schools or the ALAs (Accelerated Learning Academies).

Anonymous said...

I guess that means that Mr. Roosevelt does not get a raise :)

Anonymous said...

ALA's were said to have increased scores at a rate between 1.3 and 1.5 times more than comprehensive counterparts, whatever that means. I tend to take that with a grain of salt as one could say that students within those programs were starting so much lower than the rest of the district.
The district's press release hailed the scores that come from schools led by PELA grads, which is somewhat humorous in that no info is presented. Predictable, to say the least.
I'm somewhat amused by the presentation and the press release. Is the idea that if we simply ignore sub-par scores--like what must have transpired at the high school level and say nothing--that it will simply all go away?

Anonymous said...

"As one year of data is insufficient to evaluate a teacher’s performance, the District’s student achievement results will also be evaluated annually on three years of data consistent with the three-year lens that will be used to evaluate teacher performance as outlined in the District’s Empowering Effective Teachers plan"

This gem comes from the district's press release on this year's PSSA results.
Anyone else construe this as a threat to Pittsburgh's teachers?
Yeah, why do I believe next June, we will be the new DC?

Anonymous said...

Just a word of CAUTION as you listen to reports:
BE AWARE that schools can make AYP even though 70 to 80% of the students are NOT proficient on the PSSA.(Ex: A school moved from 17% proficient last year to 23% proficient this year; thus more than 75% of the students are NOT proficient but they "made AYP."

"Making AYP" is a misleading term when you consider that the MAJORITY of students in PPS are NOT meeting the state MINIMUM target of 63% "PROFICIENCY" in READING and 54% "PROFICIENCY" in MATH.

Over the past seven years, most PPS scores have declined by more than 10% instead of improving by more than 20-30% which is the PA expectation.

Again, the MINIMUM standard in PA is Reading 63% and Math 54%.

The Question is: How do your student's/school's scores compare to the PA state minimum standard?

Anonymous said...

There were only two slides with high school results. Reading went up from 50% to 52.4% proficient and advanced and math went down from 43% to 42.7%. Roosevelt making his case for his plans... as usual...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, that is the best spin on a very general piece of data that could be based on data from one school, or one population____we don't know what is included. CAPA's data pulls the district up. What are the results for Allderdice, Westinghouse, U-Prep, Peabody, Perry, etc. We are five years into this administration and we are 20-30, even 40% pts below the state MINIMUM standard__for African American students the gap is even wider.

Is that acceptable?

Across the state districts are demonstrating much greater progress!

justsayin' said...

I have grown weary of the k-8 vs. 6-12 vs. 6-8 discussions, but here is what I do not get: If the middle graders in a K-8 attended a traditional 6-8 school isn't it conceivable that they would do just as well?

Anonymous said...

In fact, it was a Allegheny Middle School (6-8) that was "highlighted" today,by the Superintendent, for its SUCCESS in advancing achievement. The Principal, a veteran in PPS, gave the most educationally cogent and comprehensive description of her process and strategies. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my mistake. The PA minimum target PSSA score in Math is 56% NOT 54%.

Also, it is important to note that___"The 2011 state target for students at or above proficient will be 11 percentage points higher for Mathematics (56% in 2009 to 67% in 2011), and will be 9 percentage points higher in Reading (from 63% in 2009 to 72% in 2011)."

Given the District's inability to meet the lower minimum targets over the past five years, what is the plan for advancing academic achievement for PPS students to meet next years MINIMAL targets of 72% for Reading and 67% for Math?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 4:51 made very salient and sobering points that I truly believe. This administration continues the shell game for public consumption and for funds, of course.
On one hand, let's threaten teachers with a memo. On the other, let's tell the press that 43 out of 60 schools made AYP.
That's a lot of hooey.
Kudos to Principal Kendrick--one of the last of PPS's old school administrators (not PELA) for making a speech that properly thanks those who deserve the credit: teachers, students and families. What a nice change from the baloney that comes out of this district.

Anonymous said...

Please note the details about the NUMBERS of STUDENTS NOT MEETING PROFICIENCY at .Mt Lebanon. They have acknowledged their problem publicly and are addressing it.

Mt. Lebanon adds test to graduation requirements
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
By Kaitlynn Riely, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The junior class of 2009-10 had 17 students receive scores of basic or below basic in reading, 42 in math and 10 in writing, according to high school principal Ron Davis.

That means the 2009-10 junior class had 69 scores of less than proficient, but the number of non-proficient students is lower than that because some students did poorly on multiple parts of the test, Dr. Davis said.”

Anonymous said...

Mt. Lebanon High School knows who, how many and the academic areas where their new 12th graders need work in order to be eligible to graduate.

Mt. Lebanon has a PLAN! Does PPS have a plan?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if other school districts spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Consultants to tell them what to do or to create a PLAN?

Anonymous said...

Today's paper says that (only) three high schools showed "modest improvements:" Allderdice, CAPA, and Obama 6-12.

Since students are tested in 11th grade, it's pretty amazing for Obama, since they only went through 10th grade this year.

The correct name for the 11th grade class showing that modest improvement is SCHENLEY.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that SCHENLEY will be one of the schools that showed modest improvement when the reports finally show schools individually. Obama is simply listed as a 6-12 and gets lumped into this category.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have guessed that it would have this year, either -- in that it's the last class of the school in a building devoted to another school.

However, that sentence was specifically about high schools, so it was as incorrect to include Obama's name there, since it was not tested as a high school. Obama 6-10 was one of the schools helping along their middle grade scores, surely. They don't get to count it twice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:21, it was disrespectful to not use the Schenley name.

Anonymous said...

The district, which educates more than 24,000 students, missed by just a "few students," Superintendent Mark Roosevelt said.

QUESTION for mathematicians:

Given the data (in today's P.G.) how many are a "few students" at each grade level who did not meet the minimum PA standards?

A rough estimate puts the "few" in excess of 12,000 students______is that right?

Does that number qualify under the definition for "few"?

Anonymous said...

Incorrect or not, anon, mark my words---they are counting Obama's middle school scores in that scenario.
And "disrespectful"? Please. Look, no one here is responsible for closing Schenley. That's baloney.

Anonymous said...

It was disrespectful of the district to use the Obama name and unfortunate that the media did not correct or clarify by mentioning the final class of Schenley.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

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

Maybe this should be a separate blog listing for commentary.

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.

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:

justsayin' said...

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

Anonymous said...

justsayin' @.. August 17, 2010 7:46 PM

Thanks-I really want to read and listen to the media representation and presentation of the snippets of facts.

I already went to the A+ site-prior to the media.

The media amazes me with their portrayal.

Yesterday, the worst was Roosevelt at CAPA with the 2009 PSSA Score PowerPoint presentation that is listed at the PPS web site with his interpretative jargon.

The end slides had the Summer Dreamers Academy Chant as the last several slides of his presentation of the 2009 PSSA PPS District test scores with his analysis.

Many people were dumbfounded by his move to place the Chant in the presentation-not at this juncture.
Actually, hr can save the $5 mil next year and add a high school program instead of Middle according to his statistical analysis of interpretative data of the PSSA Scores.

This is not what this is about-we have problems from elementary up to high school that need to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Including the chant in the videotaped presentation assured a wider audience than otherwise would have been available.

Anonymous said...

While she is busy making a name for herself, perhaps Ms.Harris will want to explore "inconsistencies" in curriculum matching the needs of students, especially where PSSA's are concerned.
No matter. I am sure Harris and her friends will drop the Superintendent to a B- grade this year. They don't want to be too heavy-handed or anything.
I'll just file this under "yawn".

Anonymous said...

When you have so many people who are in leadership positions within schools and in offices at Bellefield Avenue, without having even the foggiest notion of how to teach kids, the situation can only be called "dangerous". Actions which are borne from somewhere between supreme arrogance and self-preservation merely to justify holding a position are obfuscated via a public relations department that seemingly holds local media in the palm of its hand.
Amazing times. For teachers, it would be hilarious if it weren't so shockingly real.

Anonymous said...

It is shocking and true.

We have a huge top heavy administration that keeps growing. As sad as it is to admit, many do not care about the kids.

Politics 101

It is all about self promotion. Examples: Mark roosevelt, who really never had a job other than a failed attempt for running for governor of MA. He was recently outed for applying for another job outside the district, as was Linda

We are in this for the long haul, they are not.

Anonymous said...

And even more shocking, many of us will no doubt be looking for jobs after the next year or so....while administrators will continue to live it up.

Amazing. This city sucks.

Anonymous said...

In today's PG, Roosevelt makes it clear that drastic action is in the offing for PPS high schools.

He also provides numbers for a few schools in terms of PSSA scores.

Has a document been published that shows gains, losses, last year's scores compared to this years for every school? If so, where can I find it?

Anonymous said...

The PG information was not available at the District presentations on Monday morning at CAPA and Tuesday evening at the Board Education Meeting. However, the scaled scores from DRC were sent to the District in early June. E-metric disaggregation of all PSSA DATA was available to the District in July with a password. It is my understanding that yesterday (August 19 a large binder with all PSSA data was made available to Board Members and Media at the Board. This information is not yet online at PDE where it is typically accessible to everyone in September.
I do not know if this can currently be accessed by the public at PPS.

anontoo said...

If parents are trying to make decisions for their child based on the performance of his school on the PSSAs the data by building will be helpful. There is about a week left to attempt a change for this year and I can see how a change in location is tempting with the hope of improving ATTITUDE about school for some kids.

Anonymous said...

anontoo, you have a better chance of seeing Santa Claus than getting the individualized school report by deadline. PPS's crack PR team has to package it, put in a great many pretty colors and get school-by-school spin from the grand poobah and his cronies before you can see it. Sorry, you just aren't worthy.
And teachers, you aren't worthy either. You can travel all over the pghboe site but you won't find the listing. You'll only find the info about what step you are on, and if you're in a HS almost everyone is on corrective action II.

Clydesdale said...

A city slicker buys a farm. He has no experience running a farm, but he once read a story about a farm.

No matter. There is a field to be cleared! He hooks his sturdy horse to a 20 ton boulder.

No need to break the boulder into smaller parts. No need to consult people who have actually cleared fields for decades.

The horse pulls, but the boulder barely budges. The city slicker is enraged at the horse and beats him.

The city slicker tells all who will listen how bad the horse is. He brings in self-described experts to lecture the horse.

The horse sweats and keeps on trying. The 20 ton boulder still won't budge...


Now replace:
"farm" with "school district"

"horse" with "PPS teacher"

"20 ton boulder" with "scores"

Oh, and replace "city slicker" with you-know-who.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant ____no need for the "replace"___ could be aptly used to teach 'METAPHORS', one of the PSSA skills assessed at grades 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11 ____ particularly at the three PPS high school that the PG reports to have 80% of the students NOT proficient!

anontoo said...

Clydesdale, I hope you are teaching HS English and I hope everyone will print and paste the little story. Now excuse me, while I go ponder the #8&%$ gist!!

Anonymous said...

Why is it ok for the numbers to go down? Has anyone thought jerri lipert or the curriculum has played a part in this decline?

I guess it is easier to blame the teachers.

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat amazed that school by school numbers and contrasts to last year in each case have not been released yet.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed the community and media are not questioning the lack of information.

I want to know the trend/scores before I enroll my kids in a school based on current data.

It seems like this administration is either very arrogant or is hoping that nobody cares enough to ask questions anymore.

I don't understand why Roosevelt would look for a job elsewhere. Pittsburgh is his harem, and the school board and media are hand feeding him grapes.