Saturday, March 26, 2011

PA Secretary of Education nominee

From the Tribune:

The expected new Secretary of Education intends to focus on choice, including charter schools and vouchers.


Questioner said...

It's hard to believe a vigorous voucher system will materalize- unless the voucher amount is something close to the current per/pupil cost per student, which includes many fixed costs that vary little with the number of students.

Still, it would not be a bad idea for PPS to think about how it can make its offerings truly attractive to families, in terms of programs offered, location, facilities, schedules and activities.

Anonymous said...

There do not appear to be PPS people, in administrative positions, that have the necessary capacity, autonomy, or will (for whatever reasons) to even 'consider' "attractive" or potentially successful (for students) offerings.

The task at hand is for community to advocate "en masse" for programs and facilities that will substantially advance academic achievement for ALL students.

Anonymous said...

ALL students including higher achieving students, who are too often considered able to fend for themselves.

Anonymous said...

11:10 - Sorry! The evidence indicates that "higher achieving students" are well taken care of in PPS. Students considered to be high-achieving are tracked into the magnets, CAPA, Sci-Tech, and Obama IB to the exclusion of many, many other students with tremendous potential who have no such opportunity because at the K-8 level they are poorly served by PPS with limited or non-existent foreign language, arts, music, and high quality instructional approaches!

Anonymous said...

What's the evidence that high achieving students are living up to their potential? pssas don't set a very high standard.

Anonymous said...

That's true, the PSSA is a minimum standard. It is the responsibility of a School District, particularly PPS, to be providing high quality education for ALL of its students so that their post secondary success is the evidence that they received a high-quality education.

PPS does this for few of its 24,000+ students. It is further evidence that those making the educational decisions at the district level are not well-equipped for the responsibility.

Anonymous said...


I'd have to ask for our evidence for that too. I rarely see high ability kids being challenged in any way academically.

Yes, some schools have used their resources differently -- though that seems to be more an effect of two things -- principals and parents.

Old school principals understood that field trips, music, art, chess, etc. were as or more necessary the lower the initial abilities of their incoming students. Now principals are told that data is the be all and end all. Virtually the whole day is spent on reading and math and the rest of the is spent trying to control the behavior of kids made to study one subject for hours.

That's just as harmful for high achievers (who are bored and act out) as it is for struggling students who are lost and act out as well.

Anonymous said...

Oops I left out the parent part.

Parents that demand teams, music, and activities either get them from the school they are using or they look around for a school that meets those needs and go there instead.

That's why the magnet schools have many programs often unrelated to the "theme" of the school -- parents want them. Even parents who don't have the time to keep after these sorts of things can look around for a school that does have those sorts of parents.

Anonymous said...

It used to not just be the responsibility of the school district when it came to high achieving students. Remember the Governor's Program? Without opportunities like this, it is hard for PPS students to be at the same level as students from many suburbs.

Anonymous said...


PPS is doing much for high achieving kids. Their parents are. And the efforts that parents are making to get a quality education for their kids are often thwarted by administrative measures that force all students to do little more than prepare for the PSSA. This does little to challenge high achieving kids (so they go elsewhere) and does little other than bore and frustrate lower achieving kids (who can't go elsewhere). Music and art have been cut. Foreign language is unevenly distributed in this district, virtually eliminating a school option like Obama, in which you really need a strong FL background to do well on IB exams.

Any decent experience that a high achieving kid has in this district is due in large part to persistent parents and a few principals out there who don't take these adults for granted.

Anonymous said...

12:24 -11:21 thanks you for helping to confirm the comments made, which are in agreement with you.

It should be the responsibility of school administrators (Aside: as opposed to leaders) to fight for and implement (whatever it takes) EQUITY in opportunities (foreign language, arts, music, clubs, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) for ALL students. It should not depend on who the parents are or what they do).

The research supports the importance of such school activities to enhance the cognitive abilities of students. And, contrary to popular practice, PSSA prep will NEVER get us to high achievement!

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that somehow Obama is going to have to come to some middle ground where the foreign language requirement is concerned, because of the uneven methods present in this district. How will it possibly be able to attract students when 3 out of 4 did not get the necessary foreign language education?

What an incredibly short-sighted district. Cut FL classes but keep administrators who do absolutely nothing.

As for the new political hack who will be secretary of ed--you voted for Corbett, the clown. What did you expect. Watch gas companies reap profits while public education suffers.

Just what we needed....another republican in charge. Didn't 8 years of Bush teach us anything?

a-parent said...

"Tomalis said the administration would not support state oversight of these schools, despite their use of public money.

"The standard, actually, is higher in the private and parochial schools," he said, "because the parent can walk away."

Though local school officials have expressed concern that tuition vouchers and expanded charter schools would drain them of funding and of pupils, Tomalis said that Harrisburg will help school districts become more competitive as well, by repealing the state mandates that many school officials have called burdensome."

Paragraph #1 above from the article, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Paragraph #2 from the article, many parents would dispute the claim. Such a broad brush!! We have got to stop talking in absolutes! Our measuring tools are very different.

Paragraph #3 from the article, currently charter schools take the PSSA just like public schools. Are there any private or parochial schools administering the test? Catholic schools do not take the PSSA. Schools should be required to administer the PSSA to students if they want to become eligible to be a "voucher" school.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully someone will send the new PA Secretary of Education a copy of the District's "Believe" video and a copy of the glossy introduction to our new Superintendent post card so he understands why funding must be restored to PPS in the Governor's budget.

Anonymous said...

High achieving kids do not get what they need. One day a week or 4 hours a week is what is invested during k-8.

Many of them leave and that certainly does not help "test scores". PPS has done virtually nothing to entice smart kids nor their parents to hang in there.

Anonymous said...

March 26 12:24

Please tell me which principals don't take the high achieving kids and active parents for granted. I need to transfer my kids!

Anonymous said...

Dilworth, Allderdice, Colfax

Others? Used to be IB at Schenley, but not anymore. Now parents are told, don't worry, your kids don't need anything.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:11, you sound like an elitist. Used to be IB at Schenley but not anymore? Why not? Because you say so? You can have Allderdice, friend.

Anonymous said...

What was elitist about Anon 7:11's comment? And what's wrong with Allderdice?

Anonymous said...

It's funny to me--hilarious---that one area of the city seems to have a lock on student achievement and good schools. If you don't believe it, just ask people who live there. Sorry, I don't like inequity. I don't like the idea that you can get away with school-within-a-school in one building but would get crucified elsewhere.
And the tunnel vision is nauseating. There are other schools and programs. Ask around.

Anonymous said...

Check with any real estate agent about where sales to families with kids are hot, and where they are not.

PPSParent said...

If it's elitist to think that ALL kids have needs, not just the kids who have test scores that make the district look bad, then sign me up. We don't not have a varsity team because there are kids who can't play at that level.

But we do allow kids sitting in classes learning NOTHING new, because there is no administrator advocating for them to be challenged.

Anonymous said...

I don't think 7:11 said those were the only schools -- what can you add to the list?

What school within a school? Do you mean CTE programs in schools? Do you mean providing a broad range of programs at most schools?

Anonymous said...

At Obama the principal has told parents of middle school kids that "your kid will be fine, I'm only worried about the kids that won't."

Imagine if a principal told various other parents that s/he wasn't going to worry about their kid or wouldn't provide them with what they needed according to their IEP?

There's a reason there is a big drop-off in kids from this 8th grade class at Obama -- they're going to other schools in hopes that someone might worry about them a little bit.

Now, in favor of the school, I will say that they are doing their best to maintain a lot of the extracurricular/arts programming. That's a good way to keep kids (and parents of kids) involved in school and academics.

Anonymous said...

ALL kids should mean ALL kids!

Anonymous said...

I was cleaning out old papers and came across a Center for Advanced Study report from 2002. It listed all the different colleges students had been accepted to, this many to Harvard, this many to MIT, this many to Dartmouth. That kind of list hasn't beem put out by Pittsburgh public for a long time. But you can bet WT and Shadyside are working on their lists and they will be the ones getting the top students.

Anonymous said...

I am highly doubtful of the Obama principal's comment and look at such renderings as being akin to the old 'telephone game'. In fact, in this era of minding one's p's and q's, I would be shocked to hear anyone said such a thing. I don't know the man in charge but I know the territory. That comment reads like propaganda.
This is an interesting era. You have anti-public school efforts in Maine, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and more. You have an anti-teacher federal government. You have just witnessed an anti-teacher superintendent who was empowered by millions from anti-teacher "philanthropists".

Please know that the district "cares" about your kids only in that they provide them with yet another number--a figure--a percentage--of kids who can be on the pathway to promise bliss.

Anonymous said...

Appreciably more than half of the incoming 9th grade class at Obama is going to be new to the school and program. There will be almost twice as many new kids as there are continuing kids there.

If that's not a problem for that school, I don't know what is. Those are kids coming there because they don't want to go to UPrep, their new feeder school. I'm glad that they have another choice -- but I can guarantee that most of them have no interest in or even any real knowledge about the IB program. Their language skills are likely nearly non-existent, as well.

It also begs the question -- if the program is being run well, why would so many kids leave?

Obama Teacher said...

Your comments are salient, but you are ignoring the history of Frick and now Obama. 8th graders have always left the school--indeed, it's always been a problem. Most of the kids who leave--certainly in the mid 90% range--opt to go to their 'neighborhood school', Allderdice. This is no recent phenomenon but rather, reflective of respect for the CAS program at that school.
I would wonder how many--if more than a handful--would go there if the CAS program was either constructed differently or was not in existence.
In assailing Obama, you miss the biggest points: convenience, reputation, other family members.
As a teacher at Obama, I can tell you that seeking some red herring where satisfaction is concerned is disappointing. I can also tell you that the school has numerous good programs that Allderdice does not have and that even so, it will not dissuade parents from opting for 'Dice. So be it.
No matter how hard we try, we'll never attract and hold those who believe the grass is greener is Squirrel Hill, and that's fine.
The bottom line is, you have the effect correct, the cause wrong.
Additionally, it would seem to me that the foreign language requirement will need to be modified at some point in the future. I cannot believe that thanks to this district's scattershod approach to having foreign languages available at some schools and not at others will be something that Obama administration needs to adhere to.
Lastly, your comment about joining the IB program being a non factor in the decision process made me laugh aloud. Wouldn't that be the case where most schools are concerned?
Instead of trying to vilify a school and staff, wouldn't it be more fair to look at the true reasons?

Anonymous said...

But now something a little different seems to be happening. People who never seriously considered Catholic school before and are not in Allderdice neighborhoods are leaving to go to Oakland Catholic or Central Catholic.