Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Former school employees tackle Westinghouse reform issues"

There is an article on this topic in the current issue of the New Pittsburgh Courier. However, the link to the paper and the article is not working at this time.


Annette Werner said...

There was an explosive meeting at Westinghouse this evening over plans for the school.

It started with a presentation by some of the ambassadors for the boys and girls academies. The students stated that their views of the academies had improved and that they believed the academies would help them, but the brief presentation didn't really explain how they believed a boys or girls academy would make a difference.

Next an announcement was made that no comments on the plans would be allowed, just questions, but questions quickly expanded into commentary. A message that came through loud and clear is that community members are far more interested in CTE offerings than in the boys/girls concept, and that there is a serious concern about a lack of opportunities under the current district plan for Homewood area boys in areas such as auto repair, electical work, and other skilled trades. (Not to say that girls could not enter these fields but boys were mentioned in connection with those areas.) It was revealed that cosmetology, which was originally slated to end at Westinghouse, will be continued.

Annette Werner said...

Another point that came through loud and clear is that community members feel that there has been a lack of community knowledge and input in the plans. When the district noted that planning has been underway for two and a half years, a show of hands was requested and only 4 of the many community members in attendance indicated that they had been aware that plans were underway at that time.

Safety was another issue that came up frequently, with some thought provoking comments by a judge about the large number of area students he has seen in his courtroom this school year alone, and how serious, serious efforts must be made to head off potential problems of mixing students from so many areas.

Annette Werner said...

Another ambassador, who spoke at the public hearing yesterday, reported hearing from students at the Chicago girls' charter not to go this route- that they don't like it and that cliques and gangs are worse in the all-girls setting. A parent at tonight's meeting felt that students were being pushed into saying they would attend the single gender schools as a condition of going on the trips to other cities. The parent felt that she had been insufficiently included in the process and was therefore unable to advise her daughter.

Annette Werner said...

And finally, proud Westinghouse alumns were concerned that their history, contributions and example was being erased and replaced.

Anonymous said...

Proud alumns don't seem to have much weight with this administration.

Questioner said...

Too bad because they have a lot to offer. Colleges and universities figured that out long ago.

Anonymous said...

The reporting here made my jaw drop. Just recently Mr. Lopez spoke so glowingly at a board meeting (november legislative maybe?) about the trips and work the ambassadors were doing for the plan.

Annette Werner said...

Yes, he said the students had literally done an ethnographic study of the single gender schools and implied that the results were very positive. The main reason I went to the meeting was to hear the students talk about this study.

Anonymous said...

The Charter School that presented by Homewood/East End advocates on Monday evening dealt exclusively with African American males and sounded very comprehensive promising. Given the comments here, it would have strong appeal to that community. I wonder how the Board interprets the four very strong Charter proposals presented last Monday and this Monday. The message is loud and clear, given the testimony, that there is widespread discontent and deep concern about PPS schools.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know about policy or law that prevents or disallows more that four Board Members to meet and respond aloud to community and/or parents?

This was stated by two Board members last night regarding community requests to meet with the Board.

Is it routine for Board members to outright REFUSE to meet and respond verbally to community? How often does this occur?

Questioner said...

Apparently if there are 4 or more board members any meeting would have to be open to the public. But what's so bad about that?

Another issue seems to be that board members already have a number of meetings a month and may not want to add an additional meeting, particularly because they have already decided that Westinghouse should be transformed to single gender academies.

Anonymous said...

I am an extremely proud Westinghouse High School Alumni and a member of the Westinghouse Alumni Association. We are sick and tired of the deceit and distrust being presented by Derek Lopez and his leadership team about the Eastend High School Reform Plan of the PPS administrators. Let me tell you something, the students, parents, and community have no real input. All the key decisions and launching plans are completely controlled by them. The so called "working groups" were bogus. Our input, comments, and recommendations were limited. The individual working groups only met 2-3 times over a two month period with no real research or work actually completed. The working groups were designed purely for documentation purposes to meet one of the funding criteria. At the meeting last night at Westinghouse the WAA gave a list of 5 areas of concerns and more concerns were expressed from other presents. The student ambassadors message was scripted. There was no true individual thought, idea, suggestion, comment, or concern given by the students. It is a shame to tell a child you selected as a student ambassador if you don't make a decision within the next two weeks to attend the Single Gender Academy next year, you can't go on the New York trip and furthermore you can't be an ambassador anymore. A student told me she was told that by the current Peabody principal, Kellie Abbott and the Single Gender Academies Project Manager, Lisa Foose. And I believe her. Derek on the other hand said he had to hear from his staff about the incident. Why bribe a child? That would have to be a parental decision with the student's input. So many issues are arising with another one being the newly introduced Magnet component. All of a sudden the Board decides Nov. 15, 2010 to close Westinghouse as a comprehensive high school and make it Magnet School with a feeder pattern. How can that be when the true meaning of magnet school has special interests, talents, and skills connected to it and there is no feeder pattern. The reform plan continues to change and is tailored for Derek Lopez and his leadership team not and for the best interest of the students. The WAA will not back down. Our voices will be heard because we are fed up with being victimized by a system who feels black people are uneducated, won't read what you send them, not concerned about the education our children are receiving, will turn a blind eye, and lack a sense belonging. We are educated, totally concerned about how our children are educated, are paying attention and have been for the past 5 years, and do want to apart of society as contributors, explorers, givers, and more.

Questioner said...

Any school district should welcome this type of concern and commitment- even if it means that there will be dissenting voices, and that some plans may need to be modified in light of community input.

Annette Werner said...

A few other things from the meeting. The student presentation was co-ed, which is a little ironic when the program being introduced separates boys and girls. And it was announced that the academies are intended for African American students, which is not exactly welcoming to students of other races who might prefer a single gender option. It was also noted that the expected student population at U Prep is African American, which raises the question of why most non-African American students in the East End are assigned to the U Prep feeder. And finally, a Westinghouse teacher and an area youth minister noted that they had never been consulted about plans for the school.

Anonymous said...

I am very prpoud to hear that my community showed up and stood up. IAs I have said this plan is typical of a Mark Roosevelt reform. I am very concerned about what maybe developing at Westinghouse and Milliones. If people only knew how easily it can be factually proven how many of Mark Roosevelt's"reforms have failed, those communities would never have allowed his team any where near their schools. We must hope these affected communities will recieve a new hearing from Dr. Linda Lane.

Until then I would urge the Peabody school community to not sign up for U-Prep, but to demand that they be allowed to develop a program in the Peabody Bldg. There is space for them to remain. But, they must act quickly. I would encourage the Westinghouse school community to boycott the Magnet sign-up. DO NOT return the sign-up forms. This will force the District to either place them in other schools, or, my preference, to halt the current plan and work with the community, in good faith, on a plan we can all embrace. We can develop a plan that gives Westinghouse an opportunity to succeed. Yet, no plan can succeed when thrown together in the haphazard, ill-planned and non-researched manner that has defined Mark Roosevelt's"reforms(see Accelerated Learning Academies).

If the District refuses to hear the community, then I believe we must explore the option of converting Westinghouse into a community-run Charter School. A right that we have under the Pennsylvania Charter School Law.

Questioner said...

It would be ideal to put a range of options before the community to discuss, revise, and/or use as a springboard for other ideas.

Options could include the recommendation of the Open East End Panel for a top notch CTE academy;

A "Westinghouse HS Propel";

The boys and girls academies; and

A traditional comprehensive HS with extra academic support and social service to ensure attendance and achievement.

While we are told there is no money for the best CTE options, the many school closings must have produced SOME savings that could be applied to a new program.

A factor in favor of the charter school option is that it could draw students from beyond the boundary of the PPS district, boosting enrollment so addition of grades 6-8 might not be necessary to fully utilize the building.

Anonymous said...

Go Westinghouse Alumni, It time to fight for our schools.

Unfortunately Linda Lane is part of the machine. She was hired to continue MR's Legacy. I see her staying the course. We need Helen Faison back, she was a true educator. These out of towners do not understand or care, they are here to build there resumes as reformers. It time to clean house folks, start at the school board and the 341 Bellfield. People like Westingshouse Alum should run for the schoolboard. We do not need charter schools, we have the schools, teachers and parents and communities. Why should we let people from Boston (Broad
Foundation) Think tank ideas ruin our schools. Lets get rid of these out siders and put the schools back into hands of people truely vested here.


Anonymous said...

If people only knew how easily it can be factually proven how many of Mark Roosevelt's"reforms have failed, those communities would never have allowed his team any where near their schools.

I agree, it's very hard getting past the image they've set up in the media. Parents, teachers and students know what's up, but city residents who don't or no longer have kids in the schools really don't have any clue.

Please post here if there's any way we can help.

Anonymous said...

The past five years have shown the true power of propaganda. Whether coming from PPS or the Promise people, trust none of what you hear...and less of what you see.

Anonymous said...

Did Board Members respond to questions or comments at any of the Community Meetings?

Did Community members leave knowing that they were heard and that there would be followup or further action or response?

When A+ Schools met to talk about a process for selection of a new Superintendent, there were steps outlined with suggestions and input from a large Community Group, but it was an exercise in futility.

Is there a process that respects, includes, or in any way honors Community ideas, preferences, suggestions, needs, priorities, etc.?

Questioner said...

During Board meetings, some Board members go out of the way to state for the record that there was a community process with many opportunities for input. The problem, though, is that the community doesn't see it that way. There was no advance notice that a panel on this topic was being set up last year at about this time, and by the time the existence of the panel was made public members had already been chosen. Meetings were closed to the public. It is not clear if any kind of report was put out or where to find it.

Prior to the panel there were some other meetings but they were of a general nature. Here is PURE Reform's report from one of those meetings: http://purereform.com/whouse120908.html As the report indicates, at that time Peabody and the Peabody community were not part of the process.

In general, administration seems perfectly happy to take comments such as "we need quality teachers" and "we need quality CTE" but what does not happen is presentation to the community of an array of alternatives for discussion, revision, or suggestions on other options.

After the administration made a recommendation last May there was a question and answer session. However, answers were not always responsive and answers to follow up questions which were to be posted on the PPS website were never posted.

Anonymous said...

The Wall of Fame at Westinghouse gives some strong indication of the professional success of its graduates _____ this considerable power can be coalesced _____ to stand against the designated demise of this historic and beloved institution. It can be restored to its former glory and Community Coalitions are forming to overcome the 'foreign' forces that invade and impose their will without wisdom.

Questioner said...

Yes, people recognize what happened to another historic and beloved institution and don't want to see it repeated.

Questioner said...

One of the issues with having closed meetings until a decision is made is that potential issues connected to a proposal may not be addressed before the recommendation is made.

For example, with the boys and girls academy proposal, panelists indicate that the legal questions that would be raised by designating a single gender school as a feeder school, were never mentioned. It later became necessary to change to a magnet concept, which has confused people and which raises new issues- such as whether U Prep can fit all of the students who may prefer a non-single gender school? And what the costs of transportation will be? And whether it makes sense for East Hills students to have U Prep as a feeder, and what the class sizes at U Prep will be.

Randall Taylor said...

I do not like to post anonymous. My post was stating how proud I am of the community. And calling for Westinghouse as Charter School if the District continues on the dangerous path it on. Not only at Westinghouse, but also at U-Prep Milliones.

Randall Taylor

Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks RT for avoiding the use of anonymous. :)

Questioner said...

Some community members have been asking if there is anything available that shows the steps so far in the Westinghouse reform process (ie, what meetings were held when and what the outcomes were). The response has been that it is all available on the PPS website. But where? Would anyone who can find a timeline or other chronologic description please post the link? Is there anything on the website listing for example the December 9, 2008 meeting, or is that information available only on PURE's website? It is disingenuous to refer people to the PPS website without far more specific instructions on how to find what they are looking for.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to post anonymously, Randall. Nor do volunteers in a school.
Teachers do. Tell it like it is. Guess you have to be a Pure favorite for that to happen, or you get censored.This site is no friend to teachers.

PPSParent said...

Anon 1:08

If you really are a teacher in the PPS it's pretty bold commenting here during the day. Hope you're using a smartphone! There's not a computer in the district that I'd use to do that. Even if you're logged in as a student, they know which rooms computers are in and could easily figure out who you are.

Like those surveys that were "anonymous" last year, but you had to answer questions about years teaching and subjects taught. That's not anonymous, that's just a process of elimination game.

Anonymous said...

Where did anon at 1:08 say he or she was a teacher, anyway?

Questioner said...

From another thread- a comment about the Tribune's article on this topic:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Booing incident said to have taken place at U Prep...":

’s Tribune Review:

????Westinghouse's single-gender academies to bolster opportunity????


The article quotes:
“The district has had success with single-gender classes in subjects such as math and science at Milliones, Peabody and Westinghouse. Administrators reported in May that students in those classes were more focused, their standardized testing scores had increased, and there were fewer out-of-school suspensions.”

Anonymous said...

What makes anyone think you will see anything change in the Linda Lane era? You just witnessed the Board approve a $400,000 communications contract with the firm formerly owned by the district's chief of staff? More propaganda coming your way...

Questioner said...

Who is the district's chief of staff?

Questioner said...

The Tribune article begins,

"Boys in one class, girls in another. Long a cornerstone of Catholic schools, single-gender education gains a toehold in Pittsburgh Public Schools next fall."

- The tradition in Catholic education wasn't really boys in one class, girls in another; it was separate schools which made sense because the students were being prepared for different roles in life. And of course there was traditionally in the Catholic community an extremely high level of concern about boy/girl interaction and this concern was not centered on academics. Virtually all Catholic schools that have opened in the past 30 plus years have been mixed gender. Many of the single gender schools have closed, and those that remain do so largely out of a sense of history and tradition and to maintain a connection with alumni. The old time Catholic system does not seem to be an appropriate model for today's schools.

It is particularly surprising from a superintendent who emphasized over and over again how much the world has changed in the last decades but how little high schools have changed. The response- to go back to a model from 100 years ago that even the originators of that model have abandoned for new schools- is puzzling.

PPSParent said...

Finally read the Trib article and I'm confused. Does anyone have any answers?


1) four, 10-week grading periods with three weeks in between to catch up if need be.

What does that mean? Do teachers and kids have to stay during those weeks if the students don't get good enough grades?!

2) The academies are part of the district's makeover in the East End, where test scores are slumping.

Uhh, more than any other region of the district? Is there any support in the facts or is this just the redo of the Schenley tactic of saying that kids there weren't performing as well or better than kids in other district schools, when they were in Schenley's case. Westinghouse and Peabody have been performing at low levels since MR has been here.

3) "We'll have the ability to remediate any deficiencies they have in that current year."

Does he mention how they'll achieve this and why it hasn't happened at UPrep (or any other school in the district)? If they know how to do this, why isn't it done already?

4) The district plans to have curriculum in place by spring

Haven't we been told that the curriculum we have is the be all and end all? Or is this an additional curriculum?

5) The district expects about 150 students in each academy initially.

in the entire school? 300 kids total in 6-12 -- 21 girls and 21 boys per grade? 300 students and 60 teachers? Although, this part would make sense in terms of remediation, a ratio of 5 kids to 1 teacher might actually be able to accomplish a one year turn around wonder?!

How big will the classes be at UPrep if this all they expect at Westinghouse? Or are they hoping they've driven a few more families out of PPS?

6)Have they ever published the reporting about the single gender classes in the district doing better? Are those class sizes smaller? That would be a bit of a confound in their data.

7) increasing their social awareness.

Any idea what they mean by that?

8) School board member Sharene Shealey, whose district encompasses the East End, said she wouldn't support the change if she thought it was going to be a disaster.

Well, that's reassuring. Good to know that you wouldn't walk around saying "I support disaster in our schools."

Questioner said...

Starting with the 10 week on, 3 week "catch up if necessary" schedule- this seems like a recipe for burnout. No one can be working and catching up all year.

In addition, when the schedule was presented earlier this year it involved kids going to school at the hottest time of the year- including August- and then being off in September, when the rest of the world is gearing up for "back to school." In the real world this is highly impractical. Most teachers have children at home on a traditional schedule for a good part of their careers, and this schedule will not attract those teachers. Over and over we see plans come out with a total disregard for practical considerations.

Anonymous said...

Where is the evidence____at the secondary level______that the PPS curriculum or the teaching, learning and interim assessments are aligned with the skills needed to do well on PSSA, Keystone, or Common Core Standards (which are very similar for Reading and Math). Allderdice, Brashear, Carrick, Langley, Peabody, Perry, Oliver, and Westinghouse average of loss of more than 15% points over the past five years and are substantially below the State Standards as is Milliones U-Prep.

What specifically will change about the curriculum, instruction and interim assessments?

The new Superintendent stated at the December Agenda Review that they were finally finishing curricula and assessments for their Core Curriculum?!? Will a new curricula be developed for the gender academies? Will it require new texts and new assessments? How will it align with the newly adopted Keystone Exams? Will ALL curricula need another overhaul to correspond to the new Keystone Exams?

Should parents and Community expect another decline in achievement as schools struggle to meet the requirements of the new exams?

Do these questions have merit?

Questioner said...

150 kids in each 6-12 academy initially?!

Signups must be really low. And, that is something like 170 kids in the entire 9-12 portion of the school male and female total. What happened to the idea that when HS enrollment drops below 600, the number is too small to offer an acceptable range of sports, activities and extracurricular activities? Can a HS w/ a total of 170 students really field teams, put on musicals, and offer a variety of activities when the school could not do so when enrollment was 400?

Anonymous said...

This Westinghouse plan is starting to stink. Factor in now the athletic reform plan. Obviously the single gender plan is also a backdoor to year-round school.

Single gender might have been a good idea 30 year ago when enrollment was greater, soon we will be saying we offer more choices than is needed for the number of kids we have.

Questioner said...

Year round school isn't something to be slipped in. A great deal of community and teacher buy-in would be required to make it work.

Questioner said...

Re: the following:

"The district has had success with single-gender classes in subjects such as math and science at Milliones, Peabody and Westinghouse. Administrators reported in May that students in those classes were more focused, their standardized testing scores had increased, ...."

- It is typical of the administration to pick out a result for a particular subject, grade or configuration and discuss only that result rather than providing a more complete report. By how much did standardized test scores increase, and how did that compare to increases in the district (and state) as a whole? What about reading? How did GPA's change, and why is this one of the few contexts where Promise readiness is not mentioned? How did the percentage of Promise ready students change compared to the change in Promise readiness in the district as a whole? The statement in the news article may create an impression of the single gender arrangement that upon closer examination could very well be entirely unjustified.

Anonymous said...

" Questioner said...
Who is the district's chief of staff?

December 19, 2010 10:58 AM"

Is that Christopher Bernik?

Questioner said...

No, his responsibilities have been very different.

Anonymous said...

If the High Schools with gender-specific classes dropped in standardized testing ordemonstrate very low rates of academic achievement, how can it be claimed that these gender-specific classes improved achievement??????

Did someone find one or two students who improved by a fraction of a percent? (It would not be the first time that the basis for a claim is so isolated an occurrence.)

Questioner said...

For some reason reporters are happy to pass on these vague statements implyng progress without asking for real information.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if an organizational chart exists but Ms. Fischetti might be chief of staff.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Fischetti is chief of staff.