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:


Questioner said...

So he actually agrees with us about facilities! From the article, commenting during a visit to King:

"“That’s the grossest bathroom I’ve been in,” he fumed. “That was disgusting!”

The car pulled up to the river, and Roosevelt, still venting that you can’t educate kids if you give them facilities that say they don’t matter, climbed out."

Questioner said...

Also from the article:

"The district also has reduced its projected budget deficit from $72 million in 2005 to $9.3 million this year.."

- Is this true?

Anonymous said...

I think that I am going to vomit!

Questioner said...

Re: this quote:

“Our academic success story, which is a good one — not as good as I’d like it to be by any means — the big success story is with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders,” Roosevelt said. “Test scores over the last four years (have improved). Our eighth-grade results are our best results."

It would help to note that as shown by the link below for 2005 - 2009 (we don't have 2010 results for the state yet), Pittsburgh's 8th grade scores rose almost exactly in line with 8th grade scores across the state, maybe closing the gap by a percentage point or so. This despite a huge effort in Pittsburgh to make kids take the test seriously. So, whatever is being done w/ the 8th grade exam is not really unique to Pittsburgh.

Questioner said...

A very insightful part of this article was the attention given to this philosophical difference:

"Richard Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute [said] “We can make more progress in raising the achievement of disadvantaged children by making serious dents in their socioeconomic disadvantage and segregation.”

Countered Jeff Howard, founder of the Efficacy Institute, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit agency for education reform: “That’s a formula for paralysis. Because you won’t fix poverty until you fix education. Racism is obviously an important problem in this society. But this is my perspective: Poor black and poor brown people, where nobody else cares about their kids, can organize their own schools and communities as engines of producing proficiency in their children. They can do that in the midst of poverty, in the midst of racism.”

- However, the second perspective assumes a situation where "nobody else cares about poor black and brown kids" which really does not seem to be the case.

Read more:

Watching the Ship Sink said...

Any day now, I expect Mr. Roosevelt to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Education.

I know there is currently no such award. But at this point nothing would surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Please cite the evidence that leads you to believe that it is NOT the case that "nobody else cares about poor black and brown kids."

After listening to and reading Rothstein and Howard you quickly realize that they live and think in very different worlds.

It is true that you won't fix poverty until you fix education ____ the sooner we 'get' that the better.

Questioner said...

The major focus of all the efforts nationwide, statewide and district wide is on minority and low income children. The major donors to the effort are all white males. While there are many Teach for America applicants of color, the majority are white. In New York City, most money by far for programs like Harlem Children's Zone is from predominantely white firms and individuals. In Pittsburgh volunteers of all races work with children of all races and from all neighborhoods. People do care.

Questioner said...

Oh and of course teachers of all races choose to take on the challenge of working in urban districts, even though many have at one time or another been told that they cannot or do not understand children of races different from their own.

Anonymous said...

Given what has just been stated, the disparity remains____is that so? Might it be because the groups you speak of live and think in two different worlds?

Questioner said...

Or it might be due to socioeconomic differences, such as the percentage of two parent homes (two parents can in most cases enforce homework and discipline better than one), the amount and quality of reading material in the home, the extent to which education is emphasized, etc. Returning to the original quotes- if we can agree that it is not the case that "no one cares" we might try the desegregation option which has a good amount of actual data in its favor.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:18, you need to add this caveat:

"...and you won't fix education until you fix the home's appreciation of what an education can provide."

Education begins in the home.

Anonymous said...

As long as we cite "reasons " and/or "excuses" outside of the practice and philosophy of education the disparity in achievement or "miseducation" of blacand brown children will continue. What happens oe doesn't happen in schools should not be about poverty or parents but about teaching and learning. The thinking of many, too many, educators must change!

Anonymous said...

Sorry anon, I know that you are largely pointing to the racial achievement gap and that you have good reason for concern, but my concern is more for all of our students with regards to PSSA's.
In stating the thinking of educator's must change, you fail to walk a mile in her shoes to comprehend the apathy that is daily coming through her door.
Behind most low performing students--black, white, red---are apathetic parents. In fact, I simply don't know many low performing kids whose parents were proactive and prioritized education.
The thinking must change?
No, the myopic view must change.
These problems transcend skin color.

Questioner said...

So let's say we know that parents make a difference and the effects of poverty make a difference. Do we ignore these factors, or do we try to work with parents and try to address the effects of poverty (for example by making sure that children receive the vision and dental care they need)? And returning to the original quotes we might also try desegregation. And we can also look at improving teaching techniques- the choices are not either/or.

Anonymous said...

The challenge for educator's is to change that "apathy." All children (human beings) are seeking success and opportunity in the work that they do and the world they inhabit. We can provide that in classrooms____ we can be the impetus that changes lives and futures. We can make a difference, but only if we believe that we can!

Questioner said...

And let's make it easier to do that by avoiding wherever possible efforts to concentrate impoverished children in separate schools.

Old Timer said...

There are two very different views of urban schooling today and whether the anonymous writers know it or not, they are both right.On one hand, we have a parent who makes the comment that teachers must play with the hand that is dealt to them and inspire children. On the other, we have a teacher who looks at the root of the problem in American education today. I see merit in both commentaries.
With regards to the former, I believe most if not all teachers understand that they are empowered to work with the students that come to them, period. I don't see a great many teachers whining that they have this kid or that kid, and I truly believe that the teachers who are left today work hard to move students to achieve more and use what is often untapped potential. They understand where the kid is coming from and understand that in many cases, there is no support from the home. They persevere and build a rapport with the child and show the child that he can succeed.
In the case of the latter, no conversation about the ills of education can begin to be accurate unless it deals with what is going on at home. It's true that if a parent or parents do not exhibit an appreciation for school and an understanding of what school can provide in terms of future opportunities, then a child is coming to school with baggage and basically disconnects from the process as soon as the dismissal bell rings. Simply put, we can't afford that.
Mainstream media hasn't made it any easier as it pounds kids with messages that lead them into so many other "exciting" areas of interest. If an adult is not there to pound the idea of academics, education is kicked to the curb.
I've decided to retire in the next year or two, but I have great fear of the future given the course we are on. I have great trepidation for our kids, for my own kids and their children. Unless some great societal change takes place--one that Bill Cosby spoke of a few years ago that entails adults taking long, hard looks in the mirror to find the root of our societal problems--then the Baskin Robbins approach to enhancing achievement--every couple of years means trying some new flavor--won't fool anyone anymore.
Me? I'll be toiling in my comprehensive high school for the final year or two, trying to get each student to see the possibilities he has at his fingertips and contending with the notion that no matter how far I get with him, I will only be deemed effective if he scores well on a PSSA test.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wisdom, Old Timer. Hopefully, the fruits of your work will become evident in the future in unexpected ways. Clearly, you will continue to think, believe, and act, using your best judgment to to improve the lives of your students regardless of PSSA scores, which will not be the ultimate measure of your effectiveness. Rather, it will lie in the what your have taught students by your very presence in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Effectiveness lies in what a teacher has taught students by their very presence in students' lives.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Old Timer:

"I will only be deemed effective if he (the student taught) scores well on a PSSA test."

That's not real, in my book.

In social studies classrooms, there is no PSSA. Same too for the teachers of foreign languages. No PSSA to be the yardstick to measure for PE, Art, Music either.

Of course, the value of the PSSA results has increased in terms of a measure of the teacher's effectiveness. But in the eyes of the greater community (includes student, the parents, the school setting, the peers) -- PSSA benchmarks of one specific teacher are mostly invisible.

A math teacher that doesn't get PSSA results from students in math will get axed in the future. But that is more about retention with a specific job and pay-check tweaks -- not total self worth.

No doubt, test scores and getting results that rise above the bottom tiers are urgent, pressing matters for schools and both the kids and the teachers.

If an individual teacher checks out poorly as being a teacher of record, there are many other measures to consider in the greater scope of life. Food for thought, perhaps, in the unemployment line.

Have a good day, heat and all.

tootsie said...

Can anyone report on the condition of the King restroom today?

At many schools the topic of BRs can bring lots of discussion during PSCC meetings. There are more stories, no paper towels/dispensers (kids just rip them from the walls anyway) and the lack of soap in dispensers. The point Roosevelt made is accurate, kids need to be convinced that they do matter and the condition of a facility is one way to prove it.

There are just so many issues to address. Years ago it might have been possible to improve a kid's performance by helping his responsible adult get a job or training to improve skills. The expert opinion that "kids want boundaries and discipline" might not have been delivered forcefully enough a dozen years ago. We are in a deep hole and so fragmented in our approaches and cures, we may be digging the hole deeper.

Questioner said...

Also mentioned has been broken locks on bathroom doors. Has anyone spoken with building custodians? Maybe there needs to be a hotline that can be called to report poor conditions.

Another perspective is that in Japan, students (with adult supervision) actually care for their own buildings- including the restrooms.

Old Timer said...

Mark and various anon, I thank you for your comments. You're right, of course, and I am heartened to note that there still is a "real world".
For years I had a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson pasted to my wall that made note of what it means to have succeeded in life. In particular were two lines that I thought were right on target:
" to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children..." and
" know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Sadly, I'm not so sure this way of thinking still has a place today.

Anonymous said...

Old Timer: The Emerson quote reveals the values and beliefs that underlie the manner in which you choose to perceive the world. When, as a teacher, you convey that to students you do indeed “leave the world a better place. . . . this is to have succeeded.”

Continue to think, believe, act___ using your best judgment___ it does have a place and students will benefit.

Old Timer said...

Anon at 1:28, thank you. Your words of encouragement mean a great deal.
To Mark, let be a bit more clear: my problem with the teacher effectiveness isn't in the idea of getting rid of ineffective teachers. Truly, that simply can't be allowed to continue. No, my problem is in how such a determination can be made given the criteria now being implemented. One step down from there, I still have a problem in the idea that PSSA's really measure a child's acumen in math and reading. Having pored through the test a number of times, there simply has to be a better way.

Anonymous said...

Questioner said... August 30, 2010 6:48 PM

So he actually agrees with us about facilities! From the article, commenting during a visit to King:

"“That’s the grossest bathroom I’ve been in,” he fumed. “ That was disgusting!”

This is the famed Summer Dreamers Academy at Camp King.

Roosevelt finally visited the school-cannot blame the janitor this was the unsupervised kids. This was after it Camp started. This was after the Program was in full swing.

The conditions of the schools were horrible from what my children said. The kids were bad from the get go because the Camp Director could not instill behavior. Very disorganized and poorly directed site. they could care less.

The Camp Site Director and teachers had no control over the kids. It was a chaotic site with little learning going on- my children quit.

Teachers or Camp Coordinators did not escort students to bathrooms.
I blame the Camp Site Directors and Dreamers staff from the Board and PPS Security for this unclean and unsafe environment.

Majority of them just wanted the extra paycheck and had no conern about the control and learning.

The kids needed to be watched. They were the ones that messed the bathrooms up. Supervision was not in this Camp Site’s agenda.

My kods kept saying -All the staff got summer jobs and could not keep a lid on the kids’ behaviors. Nothing like a real camp atmosphere.

They got the money from state and PPS Camp Adm and Camp Directors and it was a waste of $5-very little learning went on.

I will agree with part of facilities report-my kids stated their classrooms were filthy, dirty at the start of this Camp Site without proper ventilation, hot, and disorganized. Not the Bathrooms.
Teachers had to clean as my son stated his teacher had to move all kind of stuff around and clean desks. Nevertheless, at the start my son said the bathrooms were clean.

I will give Roosevelt credit to visit this site. I will give respect when he rids the Dreamers staff at this site and he Board in hiting better supervision and teachers for Camp King site.

This was a very sad experience for my children-they attend a magnet school.

no human should ecounter tazpayer dollars wasted in unclean and unsafe envitonmrnt.

Camp King Site was a F-for failure.

Anonymous said...

"The thinking of many, too many, educators must change!"


I think the thinking of some educators must change. I also think the thinking of some doctors, lawyers, waitresses, superintendents, etc. must change.

However, overall, I truly believe that most educators strongly desire to move their students forward. I believe that most educators work really hard to do everything in their power to achieve that goal of advancing their students.

I mean let's be realistic. Do you think teachers enjoy being beat up daily in the media? No. Do you think teachers enjoy being threatened by their superiors during the first 4 days of the school year? No. Do teachers want the general public to think that they are perhaps just lazy and if you pay them more (i.e. merit pay) they will step their game up? No. Just like in every other profession, there is a percentage of teachers that need to move on. But that is number is not the majority - not even close. Teaching is one of the most thankless jobs out there. Why would a teacher choose to not do everything in their power to be successful?

Anonymous said...

Anon, I always wonder if people like Questioner think that we teachers are embellishing the situation when we relate stories like the one you have above. What must truly be shocking is the difference between the everything-is-proceeding-well public face that Roosevelt puts forward via the media versus the bring-scores-up-or-it's-your-arse ear beating we continually get via building principals and "administrators".

Amazing how these folks have the general public fooled.

Anonymous said...

I believe what is happening with our PPS teachers, educators and students is very ambiguous.

Roosevelt in the KC newspaper articles cites reactions that are human as factors or variables that incrediably influence as negative variables for teachers for PSSA test scores. They are social, behavioral and literally environmental.

Yet, he feels Navy SEALS are needed for teaching jobs. Let us say as a characteristic of a good teacher.

Roosevelt illustrates in the article a lot of empathy, passion, and sincere concern. One bad trait a Control Freak.

On the conratary, many educators and parents illustrate as facts on this web blog-the opposite.

The teachers are being evaluated with a VAM Model that does not utilize human variables in its measurement of effective teaching evaluation of student learning and achievement.

Social services are being cut.

In addition, the teacher is to be blamed for all.

Four days of intense teacher training of what-----the factors that are the missing human variables????

The measurable equation of VAM is missing the boat and the PPS teachers and students are being placed on lifeboats for 2010-11.

Our children our future have teachers that are given very mixed messages. They can not do it all without the correct support services that deal with the human variables.

Our teachers are told to be bullies-this is not copperativ learning. This is not teaming.

This is survival tactics. They have the weakest as a means to rid.

No offense if you are not a bully-and self-centered you are left out.
Yes, a control freak and a numbers game.

This is not a reality TV SHow.

We need to be human and if one does not fit in is lost from teachers with age or unjust cause to children that have special needs.

Teacher need to be Supermen and Women from looks, age and mental phusocal physoguw ;ike a Nay SEAL?

The PELA candidates and graduates look all alike. My son's former male teacjer was in his thirites with his famed capped teeh and phoniess. He reminded me of a salesman, also a control freak.

When a teacher wakes up he or she must have a trainer, stylist and robotic uniform ready for work.

Another had his stomach stappled to loose 150 pounds during the school year.

I guess it was for health reasons.
Define a NAVY SEAL and training.
Define a control freak.

This cookie cutter image of educatio, teachers and test scores is very unrealistic.

chuldren lack real people as human beings that are influencing their education.

Anonymous said...

Formula to Grade Teachers' Skill Gains in Use, and Critics
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
By SAM DILLON, The New York Times

How good is one teacher compared with another?

Read more:

or link

Questioner said...

From a Letter to the Editor:

"What is actually happening is so unlike the rhetoric being put forth... While some of their reform goals are admirable, the combative arrogance of city officials with little educational background has eroded the support of parents, teachers and principals. These top-echelon folks seem to think that they always know what is right and that those closest to the ground are merely obstructionists to be silenced."

The letter is from the NYT and refers to schools in NYC.

Old Timer said...

Yeah, and it echoes what I have said on this site for months, although I would delete the idea of losing the confidence to principals. Some? Surely. Many to most? Certainly not, as to be a PELA you had to learn how to nod and genuflect.

We are at a dismal point in America as a whole, and certainly the education train wreck is at the forefront of our problems. Where the Roosevelts of the world are concerned, their time has come. This corporate way of doing things surely entails a high level of PR propaganda to placate the masses. It's worked in DC and is working in Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

Old Timer said... September 1, 20104:35 PM

I hate to place you in a tight spot.

As a parent, I feel to find the realism from a teacher’s perspective.

Please explain to me the use of the VAM as a method of teacher measurement.

Are they only using PSSA tests as the prime variable for VAM in teacher evaluation?

Why are the PELA candidates look and act as if they are so perfected in looks, manners and actually remind me of Ken and Barbie-what ever happened to real people as Principals?

Why Roosevelt’s ambiguous, statements regarding the human aspects of teaching from KC article vs Board meetings?

He is calling upon PPS ADM headhunting teachers via test scores alone?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the PELAS resemble artificially produced plastic figures. While in another life, they may have appeared handsome, bright, articulate and promising young people with good future prospects ahead, they have become hollow vessels in the role of principals in urban schools____ empty of the background, expertise, experience, knowledge, judgement, and intuitive responses needed to lead city schools. PELA training has not given them the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to lead, to educate, to solve problems, rather, PELA training has produced loyal, faithful, young followers of Roosevelt's BROAD model__ ill-equipped and unprepared to think independently .
It is unfortunate for them as it is unlikely they will find long term success in Education and a travesty for the students in their domain..

Anonymous said...

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt Visits Several Pittsburgh Public ...

Thousands of students who attend Pittsburgh Public Schools are headed back to class today following the summer break.

Again,this fact is it accurate-I need to know if we can secure the correct data.

On the news broadcasr---
THE district has seen improvement as 72 percent of its schools achieved adequate yearly progress.

The schools he is visiting this morning include Pittsburgh Carmalt PreK-8, Pittsburgh Carrick High School and Pittsburgh Grandview K-5

Any parents have children in the above school?

This should be a new blog entry?

Anonymous said...

Again, please have CAUTION when considering if AYP means achievement is acceptable in PPS.

Example: A school might have only 23% of the students "proficient" in Reading, but because last year they had 17% if the students "proficient" there was improvement____however, 77% of the students in the school are NOT PROFICIENT in Reading. This has been a documented scenario over the past few years.

The state minimum target in reading is 63%, therefore even though the above school (at 23%) made AYP, it is STILL 40 percentage points BELOW the PA MINIMUM target.

The same school was achieving at 47 % in Reading prior to the Mark Roosevelt regime. These are FACTS_____We have yet to see the published scores for the 2010 school year so we must wait to document this years progress____yet the same scenario is indicated for this year based on the limited data that has been released_____all TRUE even if 72% of the schools "made AYP."

We shall see data this month or next published online by the PA Department of Education.

Questioner said...

Also 72% of schools did NOT "make AYP". The carefully worded announcements are that they are "making adequate progress". They are not awarded "making AYP" status by the state until they meet certain standards for 2 years in a row. Maybe to prevent a school from making AYP by dipping down one year and then returning the next year to exactly where it started.