Saturday, February 12, 2011

Additional Promise dollars

On a "Start a new post" hmmmm wrote:

"A post card came in the mail. The first paragraph reads:

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Class of 2012 will be the first to be eligible for up to $20,000 in additional scholarship dollars from The Pittsburgh Promise, by scoring "Advanced" on this year's PSSAs and meeting the other eligibility requirements for The Promise.

Several things are stunning about this, but I will allow others to comment with their thoughts."


Questioner said...

At first it seemed like the 20k additional is the same as the increase from 20k to 40k that is beginning with the class of 2012, but the "Advanced" on the PSSA's is something new. It could either be an opportunity for students to receive a total of $60k (really raising the stakes here, people will have to take a second look at PPS) or Advanced could be a new requirement to receive the 40k rather than 20k.

The website doesn't seem to have any information about additional dollars- either in the "For students and parents" section or the news release section.

Anonymous said...

AS of now i have no problem with students getting 20k you need to understand going to college will drive up cost tuition room and board,text books among other things
like food,clothing spending money as point is going to college is not cheap you try to take out a loan to what PPS is offering what's the point of this conversation right now at this point of time we really can't evaluate PPS program until we start to see the first college graduates then we can take a look at some things when it comes down to money this program is still in it's infancy i know what you saying is it that you want to find there is information about additional dollars,how did you find out about additional dollars you got it from somewhere share with others,thank you

Anonymous said...

We got the card too. My child says this is all part of the increase in money and that getting Advanced is one of a couple of ways to do it -- scoring over ?600? on the math and reading parts of the SAT is another way, child thinks, and believes there is at least one more way.

It's not more money, it's the additional strings to get the larger amount of money.

not a 2012 said...

Additional strings, yes. Doesn't seem right that parents (and kids?) are finding out about the added requirement via a post card. Nor does it seem right that the announcement is made about a month before the 11th graders take the PSSA. Might there be a new industry/service called "PSSA Prep" similiar to SAT PREP with this goal? Won't the new requirement cause a decrease in the number of students who qualify? Chances are kids can appeal, but a need for any kind of evaluation is a concern. Chances are kids were fully aware through efforts in their buildings of the added requirement but did not share with parents.

Anonymous said...

The rest of the card reads:

"That adds up to a maximum of $40,000* for four years of college.

Visit for tips on doing well on the PSSAs and for more details about the Promise scholarship eligibility.

*Scholarship amounts are the total dollar amounts possible."

I don't know of a parent with a child currently receiving Promise who is not extremely grateful for the help. The higher expectation (scoring Advanced) is not the biggest concern. Hard to put a finger on it, but springing the new requirement is problematic, especially if the PSSA results are an additional measuring stick for teacher effectiveness. How about those "so close to advanced"? You only get one crack at PSSA in high school.

Questioner said...

Donors may well want to direct more of their money to students who show more academic prograss. But still, the program was not set up that way. It was widely advertised that beginning with the class of 2012, students who met the attendance and GPA requirements would receive $10k a year. For families that put a child into the PPS system in the last 4 years with the $10k figure in mind, a new requirement is really not fair. Last year only 13.8 % of low income 11th grade students were advanced at reading, and only 10.6% of those students advanced at math. And the district average SAT was 451 for math and 462 for reading. Any new requirements should apply starting with the class of K students entering in 2011, after sufficient publicity about the change.

Anonymous said...

To 9:48 - Currently, High School students get two "cracks" at the PSSA. The first is in Spring of the 11th grade and the second "crack" is late in October of the 12th grade_____if they were no "proficient" on the Spring PSSA. Technically, they are not eligible to graduate unless they are "proficient." This will change with the Keystone Exams. What impact will the 10 new Keystone Exams have on the Pittsburgh Promise?

P.S. PPS voted to use the PA Keystone Exams instead of taking advantage of the available option to create their own (PPS) Exit Exams, based on their own curricula or a district-designed alternative. This wold have provided more likelihood of being Promise Ready than externally designed exams will do.

Mark Rauterkus said...

As to the promise changes, ... I ask: Are changes to promises really still promises?

Different topic: Did you hear the "dual enrollment" has not been funded for the past two years? The "dual enrollment" is what they call it when a kid in high school, generally seniors or juniors, get to take one CCAC or college course per semester while in high school.

Anonymous said...

Mark, your opening paragraph reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw, are you watching a lot of sex and the city? lol.

Wasn't dual enrollment discussed at a recent Board meeting? Could it be under consideration again?

As to the changes to eligibility, it is possible people will see the postcard and never read it? Are PSCC meetings still the place to discuss topics like this?

I would have expected more traffic on this issue here.

Questioner said...

Students might have two shots at proficiency- but do they have a second chance to increase to advance? And how will parents be made aware of how important it is for proficient students to try the test again?

As always, we are left guessing about the thinking behind a change. Promise officials have said that even if no additional money is raised, the promise is funded through something like the early 2020's- but for a student starting in kindergarten next fall, graduation will be in 2024. Are changes being made to be sure there will be money left for them? Or are donors not very enthusiastic about sending students to college if they are not able to keep up a 2.5 GPA in high school (maybe because students with low GPA's tend to drop out at a high rate)?

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is actually a change. It seems that when they announced it would go up, they said the standards would change and gave both PSSA, SAT, Exit Exam, AP and IB examples.

Mainly the problem is that they seem to say things, never write them down anywhere and just keep and discard as they please.

Anonymous said...

Questioner: In fact, the students who are not proficient or advanced on the Spring test MUST retake the test in October. Whether they improve to proficient or advanced status or fall to below basic will depend on whether or not they have acquired the skills necessary to improve. It is up to schools and teachers to be teaching the skills daily as a part of every text and classroom situation.

Questioner said...

They said the GPA would go from 2.0 to 2.5, and there were many presentations that did not mention SAT's or Advanced scores PSSA's. If at some point they started talking about other requirements to be announced in the future, people who went to sessions and read materials early on most likely never heard about those requirements.

Questioner said...

But students who are proficient in the spring are not required to take the PSSA's again, right?

Anonymous said...

The key word in your sentence is "required." No they are not required, but given the 'stakes' in PPS, they may choose to take it again.

Questioner said...

If they have any interest at all in possibly attending college in PA, they absolutely SHOULD take it again! Assuming students already proficient are allowed to re-take the test- how will parents be made aware of how important it is for proficient students to try the test again?

Anonymous said...

Found this from 2007 -- the 2.0 to 2.5 gpa was still for the initial 5K a year.

In this 2007 document they were talking about the exit exams being required for 10K in 2012 -- and noting that the earlier requirements would still get you 5K.

Questioner said...

Exit exams are one thing- 600 SAT's and/or Advanced PSSA's are very different.

Anonymous said...

Well, at this point the exit exams aren't anything at all! (Other than a hugely costly undertaking with no research evidence of any benefit.)

Anonymous said...

On the PPS website for "Pathways to the Promise" there's not anything listed about additional requirements, nor is it on the pdf of the 2010-2011 brochure sent out, which judging by the age of the kids they picture was sent to all students, not just current seniors.

Didn't look too hard on the Promise website but didn't see anything.

I wonder if they'd give out an estimate of how many kids they expect to qualify for the 10K based on say, 8th grade PSSA scores, PSAT scores, and any SAT scores that they already have.

Questioner said...

Here's a possible explanation for all of this.

To qualify for the PPromise you need to be a PPS graduate. To be a PPS graduate you need to pass an exit exam or exam alternative. Exit exam alternatives may include Advanced PPSA scores and 600+ SAT scores. Passing AP and IB tests have been specifically noted as alternatives to taking the exit exam. So, maybe the change is not so much w/ the PPromise as it is with the new graduation requirement.

Anonymous said...


How, specifically, are 600 SAT's, PSSA "Advanced" and Exit Exams "different" as you state?

Additionally, if you can, throw in the Keystone Exams and National Common Core Standards, what is "different" about ANY of the five assessments listed here?????

What are you using to make your judgements?

Questioner said...

The idea is that for purposes of the PPromise a student may not need to worry about their SAT or PSSA scores, as long as they are able to in some way meet the Exit Exam requirement. As an alternative to passing the exam itself, it has been reported that students may be able to just do a graduation project (filling out college applications was mentioned as a possible project; most students can do that).

Anonymous said...

Not Questioner, but the College Board (the SAT people) say over and over again that SATs are NOT about your classwork.

They would, no, they DO say they are not meant to be treated as course exams in the way that exit exams, AP and IB are meant to test your knowledge of specific subjects.

bystander said...

All too fuzzy suddenly. Sounds like the Promise staff should be busy making school visits and attending PTO and PSCC meetings. If the requirements become too complicated to understand people will lose interest.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I can't resist.

There is no testing currently of the National Common Core Standards.

IF and only if PA decided to design their Keystone Exams (here identical to exit exams since that's what we've agreed to) to those standards would there be any alignment. I have not heard of any plans to do that, have you? Those Keystone exams will be based on PA standards.

The PA standards *are* the basis for the PSSAs.

So, I'd say that only the PSSAs and the still unknown entity exit exams are the only ones that are likely to be/should be based on the same things.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, 7;51, 8;03, 8:47, 8:45:
First, the PSSA at 11th grade will no longer exist in two years. The Pa Keystone Exams and the National Common Core Standards have been developed (in Reading/Literature and Math) and are being used in some Districts. SAT, PSATs, ACTs, IBs and APs, have long been used in schools that offer those COURSES. As stated previously, District Exit Exams are an option and have been developed and used by some PA Districts. Common to ALL of the previously mentioned is a "validation" process conducted by Psychometricians and required in order to meet the NCLB mandates.

And Questioner, any district, as you state, that:

"As an alternative to passing the exam itself, it has been reported that students may be able to just do a graduation project (filling out college applications was mentioned as a possible project; most students can do that).

is in direct violation to the LAW and are graduating students illegally.

Lack of information, "ideas", "possible explanations" are not helpful to post readers who are looking for facts. Also, PPS is PPS and the Promise is the Promise and they change at will, often in defiance to all existing structures designed to facilitate education for our young people.

Anonymous said...

Can you give a link for the 2 year phase out of the 11th grade PSSA?
I find this reference:

Starting with the class of 2015, the 11th-grade PSSA tests will be phased out and replaced with the Keystone Exams -- standardized tests on each subject that will be required for graduation, Weitzman said.

Read more: Mt. Lebanon makes passage of state test graduation requirement - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

So those kids would take the PSSAs in 2014, right?

Again, I'd love to see the reliability and validity studies on the Keystone exams -- it costs a LOT of money to do this well, and I'm betting the state hasn't bothered to do what should be done.

Can you give a link to the Keystone exams aligning with the National Common Core Standards? That seems unlikely, since if they're already in the testing phase, as you imply, they were written before the NCCS were released.

I'm not doubting you -- (and I'm not Questioner) -- but you seem really angry at people here on this blog! Feel free to put some links in a comment and enlighten us all.

Anonymous said...

Oops, rereading my comment. What I meant to say was that there will be three more years of 11th grade PSSA testing -- 2011, 2012, 2013 -- the class of 2015 is the one expected to do the switchover, right?

Or are they just going to make the Keystone Math and Reading be virtually the same as the PSSA?

Questioner said...

Of course, whenever the PSSA's are no longer given the "Advanced PSSA" alternative to the Exit Exam would no longer exist.

As for the graduation projects- the idea seemed to be that the relevant statue or a regulation accompanying the statute would provide that a graduation project was an acceptable (legal) alternative to the graduation exam.

Anonymous said...

The Common Core, the Keystone and the PSSA are all available online. If you download the Common Core Standards, the Keystone Exams and the PSSA, you will see for yourself that the skills being assessed are identical with a few tweaks here and there.

There is too much misinformation on the blog, too much guessing, surmising, opinions, etc. It seems disingenuous to confuse folks who are to make sense of this. Guessing when the facts are available is not helpful to anyone.

A little research is a good thing when you want to be accurate. No need to take anyone at their word when the facts are important and accessible.

It may surprise folks but the State does extensive validation studies every year. Many, many pages of the results of those studies are also published online. Those interested should check the fact for themselves.

No "anger" here just some frustration with the continued confusion perpetrated some who should know better, (certainly not all as most are sincere in the quest for information.)

Questioner said...

Remember that the question that began this thread is what the requirements are for a full PPromise scholarship at the $10k/year level and whether there has been a recent change in those requirements. The answer to that question does not seem to be readily available from sources such as the PPS or PPromise websites.

Anonymous said...


When you say "Exit Exam' to what are you referring?

Common Core? Keystone? Other Districts? Other states?

There is no such thing as a generic "Exit Exam."

Questioner said...

Shorthand for the Keystone or approved local assessment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Questioner. I don't understand the change. I thought once the Keystone test was adopted a kid could be eligible up to 10K per year. If it is maxed out at 40K it makes no sense. Is this a shell game?

I am also confused/ frustrated by the "advanced" issue. My youngest was always in the mid- advanced range, ( not off the charts scores) until last year. He is in the gifted program. He scored mid- high proficient last year in 2 catagories that he normally scored quite well in. He is not perfect, I don't want him to feel pressured that he has to be. He had good teachers. I think the cirriculum is sub-par especially if they are teaching To improve test scores.

Can you imagine the pressure on some kids now? If they fail to be near perfect they just cost their parents another $20,000.

I hate those tests.

Anonymous said...

"Lack of information, "ideas", "possible explanations" are not helpful to post readers who are looking for facts. Also, PPS is PPS and the Promise is the Promise and they change at will, often in defiance to all existing structures designed to facilitate education for our young people."


What does that mean? PPS promises to...? You lost me at defiance.

Anonymous said...

A little research is a good thing when you want to be accurate. No need to take anyone at their word when the facts are important and accessible.

Anon. 2/13/2011 11:10 PM. Hyperlink me to the facts. I want to stop guessing, surmising, and god forbid having an opinion.

Thank you in advance for showing us the accessible facts we can't seem to find.

1 parent said...

The added requirement applies to class of 2012. The Promise website still lists what the requirements are for class of 2011 and informing students and families must be underway. Right? How many parents might be participating in the discussion here?

Anonymous said...

It strikes me as remarkable that Anon 11:10 thinks that it's a volunteer run blog that should be providing the research about these topics -- yet still doesn't provide a single link.

Perhaps the state and district should have some responsibility for this, since they are the ones in charge, spending the (our) money, and making the decisions -- more or usually less transparently.

GIVE THE LINKS!-- particularly the yearly reliability and validity of PSSAs, the Common Core standards "testing," and any and all links to actual information about the content and format of the Keystone exams.

Mark Rauterkus said...

In other news.... I don't really know Carrie Bradshaw??? I don't watch much (if any) of that TV show. Just did a marathon (via On Demand) of THE EVENT, however. It is sorta like the defunct show, "LOST." -- Both have lots of holes in story lines and lack of reasoning -- like real life I guess, even on blogs.

We fill in the gaps, where we can.

Questioner said...

Anon 11:10, whether you call it anger or frustration there is a continued tone of hostility and insinuation in your posts that adds nothing to our discussions. If you have an issue with some commentators, please request a new thread and be specific about your allegations and the basis for your allegations. A friendly and straightforward approach may be the best way to advance your views.

Anonymous said...

Or demand that someone else do it for you.

Anonymous said...

Straightforwardly: IF you do the math, there ARE only TWO more years for PSSA. The 9th grade class of 2012-2013 will NOT have the PSSA when they graduate in 2015-2016.

The class of 2012-13 will be taking the Keystone Exams, as they are ready, throughout their four years of high school from 2012-13( 9th), 2013-14 (10th), 2014-15 (11th), 2015-16 912TH).

Anonymous said...

2015-16 (12th)

Questioner said...

So the PSSA will be given to 11th graders this year (spring 2011) and next year (spring 2012); but will it also be taken by this year's 9th graders in the spring of 2013, this year's 8th graders in the spring of 2014, and this year's 7th graders in the spring of 2015? And we still need to find out what if any significance PSSA's have for Promise eligibility.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like there will be three more administrations of 11th grade PSSAs -- but that's only two years from now, right? Now, '12, '13.

I'm assuming students would take Keystones all over the place -- that is if you take Biology in 9th grade, you should take the exam then not years later. Especially if it's 1/3 of your grade.

There's an "overview" pdf link on this page:

As my mother would say..."It's clear as mud."

Questioner said...

Here's a link to the PA Code- seeming to indicate that Keystone Exams do not kick in at all until the 2014-15 school year (which would be after all current high school students have graduated):

Anonymous said...

This is the information on the Pgh Promise website, it says the scholarship amount will increase to 10,000 a year for students who pass the graduation exam:

How much scholarship money is available from The Pittsburgh Promise for graduating seniors of the Pittsburgh Public Schools?

Currently, students who are eligible (see questions 4 and 5) have the opportunity to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise that would pay up to $5,000 each year for up to four years to help with expenses related to tuition, mandatory fees, books, dorm, and meal plan. Funds from The Promise will be used as “last dollar” scholarships. This means that Federal and State grants will be used first. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship will be applied after the Federal and State awards. Students who already have scholarships to cover the total cost of attendance may be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 through The Promise.

To maintain eligibility while they pursue their higher education, students must earn a minimum 2.0 GPA to continue to receive yearly Promise funds.

Following the lead of many high-achieving states, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is considering requiring a high school graduation exam. Once Pittsburgh Public Schools implements such an exam, the maximum scholarship award from The Pittsburgh Promise will increase to $10,000 each year for students who pass the graduation exam. Given the opportunity to double the annual scholarship award from $5,000 to $10,000 each year, the Pittsburgh Public Schools will work collaboratively with the State to implement a graduation exam for the Class of 2012. Students who do not pass the graduation exam but fulfill all other eligibility requirements will continue to be eligible to earn a scholarship award of up to $5,000 annually.

What are the eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise?

The Pittsburgh Promise is available to all graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and charters, regardless of financial need or income. To be eligible to receive a scholarship from The Promise, students must meet the following criteria:

Graduate from Pittsburgh Public Schools or one of its charter high schools

Be a student in the district and a resident of Pittsburgh continuously since at least the 9th grade

Earn a minimum of 2.5 GPA

Maintain a minimum of 90% attendance record

Earn admission to any public or private post-secondary school that is covered by The Pittsburgh Promise

What are the Grade Point Average (GPA) and attendance requirements for The Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship?
There is a 2.5 GPA requirement and students must have 90% attendance in high school, based upon both the number of unexcused absences and number of days suspended.

Anonymous said...

Given the opportunity to double the annual scholarship award from $5,000 to $10,000 each year, the Pittsburgh Schools will work collaboratively with the State to implement a graduation exam for the Class of 2012. Students who do not pass the graduation exam but fulfill all other eligibility requirements will continue to be eligible to earn a scholarship award of up to $5,000 annually.

So since there won't be a graduation exam likely to be ready for this year's juniors for next year -- or not the right exams ready at least, that must be the reason for the "advanced" on the PSSA postcards that were sent out.

Interesting that they didn't mention any of the other things they've talked about like AP/SAT/IB (though don't IB scores come in too late to really use as graduation scores?) nor do they have any of this spelled out on the website. Or if they do they've hidden it well.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the PSSA is going and the Keystone is coming. However, just to clarify, jumiors who score proficient on the PSSA are not eligible to take the PSSA retest in the fall. Only seniors who never took it or scored below basic or basic are eligible to take it. Therefore, to answer one of the questions asked earlier, proficient students cannot take it to try and improve to advanced. As it stands now, it is not allowed by the state.

Also, no student MUST take the PSSA retests as stated earlier. They are given the option and can choose not to.

Finally, as far as an earlier comment that the kids may have known this and just not communicated it at home - I doubt it. This is new information to staff as well.

Anonymous said...

Who, at the state, said that students who were NOT proficient on the PSSA, were eligible to graduate if they did not re-take the PSSA?

How does that make sense? Are you saying that it is the student's option to "drop out" if he/she does not retake the PSSA?

If it must be taken at 11th grade in order to be eligible to graduate, why could they choose to NOT take it at 12th grade and still be eligible to graduate?

Please ask for the name of the person at PDE who made such a statement.

aparent said...

Anonymous 7:16, thanks. With the info you provided the parents who are reading this blog can voice their support for making the qualification to receive the additional $20,000 be to score PROFICIENT.

I guess the letters should go to Mr. Ghubril? He is a sensutive and caring person and will surely agree with the change.

Anonymous said...

I didn't receive a postcard. I'm a parent of a high school student.

Anonymous said...

I did get a postcard, but I have a junior -- the first year of kids to be eligible for more money.

Maybe they just targeted juniors because they are going to be tweaking the qualifications over the next couple of years, as the exit exams are rolled out?

I asked my child and the answer was that the SAT score cut-off was just mentioned within the last few days.

Anonymous said...

I asked the Pittsburgh Promise and was told that current grade 11students just need to score proficient to receive the 10,000 a year.

But for students now in grade 10 and below they need to score Advanced to receive the 10,000 a year. If they do not score Advanced they need to have a 600 on the math, reading and writing SAT.