Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Public Hearing October 25, 2010

Speaking were a former PPS coach, about a publication he wrote;

Dr. Johnson Martin, noting that the district does not need new ideas and urging the Board to select a superintendent that will continue existing initiatives (but also suggesting that the Board select an individual who has successfully designed and implemented a significant program);

Kathy Fine (discussing the widening of the gap between PPS and PA test scores over the past 5 years);

Annette Werner (dscussing the enrollment decline over the past 5 years);

Gayle Moss and Dr. Marilyn Barnett (NAACP), who were accompanied by a number of parents concerned about reports that East Hill students would be assigned to Westinghouse rather than Allderdice. Concern was also expressed about the planned merger of high school students from different schools, and about the new 6:00 public hearing time which is difficult for many working parents.


Questioner said...

Testimony of Kathy Fine:

PPS Public Hearing Testimony
October 25, 2010

Hello. I’d like to start my testimony this evening by wishing Mr. Roosevelt best of luck in his new endeavors at Antioch College. I know that his fundraising skills will be quite an asset for the institution.

Now, I’d like to turn attention to the handouts in front of you. As you can see, there are charts outlining the PSSA scores of the State of Pennsylvania compared to the PPS over 5 years. Please note that for every grade level, with the exception of 6th grade math, there has been either no change or an increase in the gap between the scores at the state level versus the scores of PPS students. In other words, every time scores went up or down in the PPS, the increase or decrease was reflected almost identically in an increase or decrease in the state scores. Please also note, that with the exception of 8th grade reading, no EFA PSSA score goal has been met.

What do these charts tell us? They tell us that despite the fanfare associated with making AYP, despite all of the media attention being bestowed upon our district, despite the heavy concentration on reading, math and test preparation at the expense of the arts, music and social studies, despite the loss of district treasures in the name of “small schools” and despite the resegregation of many of our schools in some sort of radical experiment, our students are doing no better, and are often faring worse, than many Pennsylvania students that were not the beneficiary of the above mentioned reforms.

Scholarships for college are a wonderful thing and better teacher evaluations and training were sorely needed, but student achievement is paramount to the success and survival of our district. Despite the public relations spin, after 5 years of massive changes in curriculum, school reconfigurations and closures, we just are not seeing any increase in student achievement. Families are still leaving the district year after year. The decades long tradition of sports and extracurricular activities in our district has been decimated. Millions have been wasted on programs predicted to fail like CEP. Reforms not proven by empirical data like 6-12 configurations and single gender academies are continually approved without adequate scrutiny.

At this time of change in administration leadership, it is our job as parents, community leaders and elected officials to reevaluate the path on which our district is traveling. It is statements like, “I’ve sown the seeds, now it is up to someone else to cultivate them”, “we don’t need any new ideas in our district” and “Mr. Roosevelt has left a legacy” that make me frightened that we will continue to ignore the facts. Without tremendous attention to family engagement, social services and cultural relevancy in curriculum, I am afraid that we will continue down the path of top-heavy changes that ignores reforms that might actually take root as opposed to ones that are poorly sown and are destined to fail to germinate.

Questioner said...
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Questioner said...

Outline of testimony of Annette Werner:

Annette Werner/ Pure Reform
PPS Public Hearing
October 25, 2010
Topic: Enrollment

I. Steep decline in PPS enrollment:
PPS K-12 enrollment dropped 3.1% over the past year
Between October 2005 and October 2010 PPS K-12 enrollment dropped 19.7%.

II. Small decline in Pittsburgh population:
The US Census indicates that population in the city of Pittsburgh had not dropped by anywhere near 20% over the past 5 years; appears the 5 yr decline is about 2%.

In testimony last yr I showed that even Pittsburgh's school age population (which itself is lowered by families moving out of the city because they prefer other school districts) had not declined by anywhere near 20% in 5 years.

III. Trends:
Last year's decline was 2%, so this year's decline is 55% more than last year's decline.
Kindergarten enrollment, which was up 2% last year, is down 2% this year.
- Birth rates do not explain this change: # births in 2005 was higher than in 2004, and # births in 2004 was higher than in 2003

IV. Need for the Board to focus on major issues:
My question: what will you as our elected school board be doing about this decline?
- At agenda and legislative meetings a large number of random issues are discussed; where is the focus? When will the Board, together and as a whole, meet and discuss major issues such as the decline in enrollment; low graduation rates; or the continuing gap between PPS and state of PA academic performance?
- Re: "don't know where the kids who left went"; where are records going? Why not ask?
- Are certain charter schools doing a better job than PPS? What is best for the kids?
- Have been told we are no track and to stay the course; does it really look like we are on course, as to enrollment, achievement or graduation?
- Teachers Academy is untested and parents are concerned about teachers being out for weeks or months.
- Is it time to stop and really listen to what the public wants from its schools, rather than telling the public what it should want?

Anonymous said...

Annette's post reminded me of the suggestion made a few years ago at a district level parent meeting, why no exit interviews with a parent and student?

The topic has come up at board meetings and Ms. Fink as historian comments that something similiar to an exit interview has been done in the past, but the look she has when saying it is of confusion over why we don't do them now. Almost as though it is against some rule or something. Perhaps the data collected by the resident (mentioned on earlier post) can be reviewed to provide some ideas. That project was probably abandoned to move to something more critical.

Anonymous said...

Kathy Fine really needs to run for the board to replace her board representative who doesn't appear to look into the state of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Questioner said...

How much does enrollment need to drop- before it is considered critical? We need a better idea of what is happening. Is the decline a sign that PPS should be doing some things differently or better? At what point does a decline in families willing to attend PPS begin to affect the health of the city as a whole? Or is the enrollment decline OK b/c it is due to students moving to charters (which of course are public schools) which are doing a better job, and should they be encouraged? Is there a way to keep charters from pushing the most challenging students to already struggling district schools?

Anonymous said...

Great testimony, too bad there is never a discussion. It seems futile at times.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Tell me more about that "coach" statement? Who, what, URLs?

Is this a sports coach or a term used for an academic coach?

Questioner said...

Which coach statement?

Anonymous said...

Pittsburgh School Enrollment Slide Continues
Education - Pittsburgh Public Schools
Written by Allegheny Institute
Wednesday, 27 October 2010 13:51

Pittsburgh Public Schools have seen yet another enrollment decline continuing a trend dating back over a decade. The student count for the 2010-11 school year fell 3.1 percent (797) below the year earlier reading. Compared to 1997 when the District enrolled more than 40,000 students, the current figure of 25,326 represents a decrease of nearly 37 percent. And the bad news is projected to continue. According to a school district consultant enrollment will fall through 2018.


Allegheny Institute web site a great updated article.

Anonymous said...

It occurred to me today that amazingly enough, Mark Roosevelt patterned his corportaion after the Pittsbugh Pirates.
Here I was in yet another one of what have become never-ending meetings of nonsense when it dawned on me. Another fresh face trotted out and made a presentation and I understood completely. Like the Pirates, that have many to most uniforms being manned by minor leaguers, so it goes in PPS. True major leaguers have either retired or have been told to sit the bench where decision making is concerned. These veterans, the in-the-trenches teaching staff that for years have moved kids forward as they are in touch with the reality of the city, are no longer in the major leagues.
These fresh faces will never ever be able to compete with the big leaguers. And they don't have to. Fireworks Nights, Bobblehead doll nights, a great field....well, it's all comparable to the many programs that the PR drones at PPS trumpet. The public has become comfortably numb about the realities of it all. No, their kids--like their team--will never compete, but who cares? We have the facade of a promise, moving kids on to college, even if they really aren't college material. We have a grading policy that hides such minor details.
We've fooled the public. Heck, there are even some writers who think the Pirates are moving in the right direction, just as complete idiots like Brian O'Neill think Roosevelt got it right in town.
More fresh faces. They didn't spend much time down on the farm but now they've bypassed paying such dues to rely more upon research info.
They wouldn't know real teaching any more than Pirates scouts would know big league talent.

Anonymous said...

Good analogy. I really don't understand the Pirates either.

PPS is afraid or leery of people/employees that think for themselves, or have an opinion. You better agree, nod and have a "broad" smile on 24/7.

Problem is the teachers and kids can't be traded to the Cubs.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with all of these nodding heads? No questions are asked. Spout the company line. This is "true believer" thinking these days, from everyone immediately underneath the assistant superintendent on down the administrative line. Either this is because they are brainwashed or simply scared to death.

Why so many young women in administrative positions? Why so many women with anger issues is charge? There would clamoring if this was a race issue, so why isn't it strange that it's a gender issue?

Questioner said...

Maybe any anger issues are due to the higher level of stress across the board, and education is a field that has traditionally attracted more women? As for the "young" part- older and more experienced individuals may be associated with the old order.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the latter comment, Questioner, but respectfully disagree with the former. Stress?
Maybe these people should walk a mile in the shoes of teachers on a day to day basis. That's stress.
This mean-spirited, vindictive approach to teaching staff is noteworthy. It all reminds me of something out of old Nazi Germany days.