Saturday, April 16, 2011

IB discussion

The thread about U Prep has morphed into a thread about IB. Too bad more people with knowledge about U Prep do not post. Please leave IB related comments here. In any discussion of a school there is a danger of demoralizing those connected to it (although really, only a tiny fraction of those connected are likely to ever see the posts). But, there does not seem to be any real forum for collecting or sharing thoughts about PPS schools, with the result that parents and the community must take them or leave them (and with PPS enrollment going down much faster that Pittsburgh's population, that should be a concern).

From another post, Obama Teacher wrote:

"So many questions....
Most IB courses have PPS curricula, as well. Most have PPS books, as well. Since they are IB, they augment PPS with various IB areas of interaction on a daily basis. They tie the instruction into areas like health, environment, social, human ingenuity, etc. Materials, instruction and books augment PPS. Ancillary books are often read. In the IBDP, IB IS the curriculum used. In the lower grades, PPS sets the framework but IB ties that curriculum into a global way of thinking each day.
It is a very enriching and rewarding process and one that makes lemonade out of PPS's lemons.
I would want my kids to go this route if I had children of this age, to be frank.
Methods of teaching are much different than PPS---expectations are higher, teachers again are looking at a bigger picture, the element of rich conversation is much better utilized....

As far as the original question as to 'why would a parent cast disparaging comments at a school, etc...', please know that I liked the Schenley principal and her way of conducting IB. I also like the Obama principal and his different take of conducting IB in grades 11-12.
Some simply do not like him or his methods.
It seems to me that this is the reason why a few teachers and a few parents try to torpedo a good school.
A very good school.
Lastly, your comments about the middle school are rather humorous. I don't have a lot of dealings there but I'm obviously in the vicinity quite often.
The kids are not evil, they are not mean, they are not in halls after bells. The VP in charge of that area has to be...has to be...the most proactive administrator I have ever seen. She is literally everywhere, at all hours of the day. I've seen this now for two years.
After reading your comments about 6-8th, I have to wonder just which school you are referring to. It's not Obama. Is it Fantasy Island, are you simply hallucinating or is there something else behind your posts?"

44 comments:

Questioner said...

6-12 public schools are a very untested concept. What about the concern that they can become extended middle schools?

PPS already has schools that are housed in 2 buildings (for ex, K-5 in one building and 6-8 in another). Maybe placing 6-8 and 9-12 in different buildings with their own facilities would be a better approach.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Questioner, 100% agreed.

What we had in corporate leadership under Roosevelt has been continued under Lane. Most teachers don't like 6-12. Most don't even like 8-12.
Many students tend to feel that they are somewhat lost where the "high school experience" is concerned. They feel that much more is provided to the middle school and that their treatment doesn't entail the idea that they are now young adults. I think this is a very true feeling and I believe that principals need to remember they are dealing with a number of types of personalities in one school---children, pre-teens, adolescents/teens and young adults--with a whole host of separate issues.
I think most principals of these types of school spending inordinate amounts of time worrying about separating the grade levels when the issue really is providing leadership and experiences that are geared to the various age levels.
It's not easy to do.

Questioner said...

And by the way, the yearly surveys are not an adequate way to collect and share thoughts. They can for example assure the district that front office staff are friendly and helpful (they are!). But there is a rigid framework of questions and acceptable answers, and of course no discussion.

Questioner said...

Further discussing the facility issue:

The MR approach was that facilities don't matter- the focus should be on programs.

But in the real world it just doesn't work that way. Like it or not, huge potholes in pavement; windows that are scratched and blurry; dirty bathrooms; the lack of amenities like clocks; and thin walls/poor construction send a message about whether students and a program are valued and respected.
Does the community care enough to provide a learning environment that, while not lavish, at least is not a distraction?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the thin walls issue is really an issue at Reizenstein. we've all made the adjustment and it's minor.
I do think the roof leaks are a problem. Water in the ceiling breeds mold, which breeds upper respiratory issues and to me at least, there is a reason why students and teachers on the upper floors have colds, bronchitis and more.

The auditorium issue can be addressed but 6-12 brings all kinds of assorted issues where usage of gym and facilities are concerned. As a coach, that's a problem where getting kids there, getting them to perform at peak and still addressing their academics are concerned.

Questioner said...

How do you address the auditorium? Add one somewhere on the property?

Jennifer said...

"PPS already has schools that are housed in 2 buildings (for ex, K-5 in one building and 6-8 in another). "

Are there more than two? The 6-8th grades and corresponding buildings of both Faison and Lincoln will be closed in June.

Questioner said...

Arlington Primary and Arlington Intermediate.

And it seems like 6-8 Lincoln is closing not because it didn't work (Dr. Holley made it work) but because the district desperately needs to fill the Westinghouse building.

Anonymous said...

"The kids are not evil, they are not mean, they are not in halls after bells."

LOL! That's quite a combination of traits you've put together.

Who said the kids were evil? ANY kid can be mean, in the right circumstances. It's the school's job to maintain discipline and a sense of community that pushes against meanness.

Questioner said...

Anyway no one said the kids were evil or mean- it's a question of how orderly they are. Maybe someone can visit and report back.

OT2 said...

"The kids are .... not in halls after bells. The VP in charge of that area has to be...has to be...the most proactive administrator I have ever seen. She is literally everywhere, at all hours of the day. I've seen this now for two years."

Ummm. Are we in the same building? I find the middle school hallways to be pretty rowdy. I'm not going to use hyperbole -- the halls aren't worse than most PPS middle school kids -- but I think it's disingenuous to say kids aren't in the halls after the bells.

And frankly, the administrator you're referring to, sometimes she's louder than the students.

Teacher 3? said...

A little confused, OT2. Have you been in other middle schools? And more to the point, are you aware that administration is hamstrung by central administration to "keep the kids in school" because let's face it, the two headed monster of good PR and state oversight precludes suspending kids unless they commit the most major of offenses. Get real.
What you have are loud kids with 5 minutes of free time in the halls between classes. To misidentify the situation as the original parent did is downright funny.
My problem is more with the Schenley seniors who for two years have waled around the building while on their cell phones or ipods, with pants hanging down and using 4 letter words no matter who is in proximity. Funny that the original parent didn't mention that. Don't know why this has been allowed and it only proves to be a problem when Obama kids see it and wonder why they aren't allowed to do the same.
Hey parent, why not tell the entire story?

Questioner said...

Whatever the Schenley students were doing in terms of phones and ipods, they were the only high school to make AYP!

Questioner said...

(Except CAPA.)

Anonymous said...

However, while Schenley is said to have made AYP, they did not make it outright.
Schenley was categorized as “Making Progress: Corrective Action I.”

Schenley used “confidence intervals” and “safe harbor” formulas for AYP, since they did not improve by at least 10% from the previous year; thus, they were a yellow (not green) AYP.

Schenley did NOT meet the minimum PA State Target of 63% in Reading, NOR the minimum PA State Target of 56% in Math.

Questioner said...

As did the district when it made ayp.

Anonymous said...

And none of the other HSs got that close.

Anonymous said...

The PPS District did NOT make AYP at all this year and were in a worse position than Schenley. The District regressed overall and are in Corrective Action II, 3rd year. PPS ties for the 4th lowest District in the State of PA!

The Broad/Gates entourage, in its tenure, took PPS backwards!

OT2 said...

Many of PPS teachers, myself included, have been in more than one building in our career. That's one of the nice things about being in a big district. It gives you perspective, at least. Like I said in my earlier post, I think it's disingenuous to say that students aren't in the hallway after the bell. I also don't think it's the worst environment in the city, but I have seen some things (rowdiness, bullying) that have given me pause and prompted action on my part of on the part of other teachers. Again, it's not a horrible environment, but there is definitely room for growth.

And regarding Schenley students who act foolishly in the hallway -- again, that comment has some merit as well. There's room for improvement there, but my impression is that there's a pervasive sense of ending right now with this final class of Schenley. I'm not excusing the actions of students who act out, but I can't help but feel for them like they got the shaft in all the silly politics surrounding the closing of the Schenley building.

Anonymous said...

There is no shortage of "shafts" for kids across the district. Some have been getting the "shaft" for many years, in many ways, for many reasons!

Questioner said...

Feel free to give specifics for a separate thread since this thread is focusing on ib schenley obama reiz.

Anonymous said...

How's enrollment for Obama next year? Weren't there problems with numbers for 9th grade next year? If it's a 6-12, why are students there in middle school then leaving after eighth?

Questioner said...

The PPS website shows spaces open in 9 and 10 but does not show how many spaces:

http://www.pps.k12.pa.us/1431105115023673/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=62410&1431105115023673Nav=|&NodeID=5979

One reason may be that for 9 and 10 students need to not only have a 2.5 GPA but be proficient in reading AND math. Is that a new requirement?

Anonymous said...

My son did not get into Sci-Tech for 6th grade, we got a letter from the district encouraging us to apply to Obama.

Last time I checked IB focus vs. Science, technology do not concentrate on the same interests or strengths of a child.

It was a bit insulting for the district to assume we thought our kids interests were unimportant. They see it as slots not filled. My son is in gifted, however that is pure IQ decided by PPS. (which I hate) He would struggle with IB, yet exceed at Sci Tech.

They have zero interest in keeping gifted kids, disadvantaged kids, minority kids, or any demographic beyond Colfax, and a few other choice schoos & to a lesser extent Alderdice engaged or in school.

I have nothing against Colfax, more power to you! If a family asks me where they should live within the city of Pittsburgh, I usually suggest Colfax/Alderdice pattern.
They keep chipping away.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:14, that the letter encouraged you to consider Obama threw me for a loop. That suggests that you are only interested in getting your kid into a "better" school regardless of feeder pattern or area of interest. Which group is bigger, the one of folks interested in keeping the kids away from "bad" kids or the group interested in keeping kids dedicated to getting a good education?

Anonymous said...

Honestly would have to say that IB does not have a prayer of surviving at Peabody.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with the last two posters somewhat. First, unless your child has his heart set on pursuing science, I'd say the district did you a favor. Second, a great deal depends on the program, no? CAPA did well for years in Homewood. To make a blanket statement as you have is folly. Yes, I think reizenstein offers more of a campus setting for IB and I am not sure about dreary Peabody, which, from what I hear needs some remediation inside. But it's what goes on inside the school that counts.
Sorry, but I disagree.

Questioner said...

Hasn't the district said that as part of budget measures, there will not be improvements at Peabody?

Anonymous said...

And as such, Questioner, I cannot see how this move will be made unless....unless....that building has already been promised or sold.
Parents who have experience with the old Schenley building know all about how that works.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Letters from PPS bout APcourses also went to Juniors at the IB program this year. That made no sense. PPS sends out some goofy letters to different populations. To me, no big deal. I'd rather see more than less and ignore some that does not apply or appeal to my kids and family.

Mark Rauterkus said...

New auditorium and other facility needs could be put onto an addition at Reizenstein,

Questioner said...

And they should add a second gym while they're at it!

Anonymous said...

With what money?! There's not going to be any big improvements anywhere for at least 5 years. At least. If ever.

Questioner said...

So it's round and round- stay at Reiz, but it needs roof and interior repairs as well as an auditorium and more gym space; go to Peabody, but it does not have enough parking or outdoor facilities, and the building and/or incidents and immediate surroundings are likely to deter some; or return to Schenley, where some work should be done but at nowhere near the cost tossed around by MR.

A summary of what needs to be done to make each option acceptable for at least 20 - 30 years and at what cost should be drawn up. Costs should take into account reduced debt service andexpected school tax revenue if Reizenstein is freed up for sale.

Anonymous said...

If anyone has any doubt as to where the IB program should be, just take a drive past Schenley during the next few days. This is what a high school looks like- and enjoy the stunning display of blossoms that are in bloom.

Anonymous said...

OK, Questioner, you were around for the Schenley debacle. What's your gut feeling about this? I'll throw that out to any other parent or teacher who saw that building sold under strange circumstances. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

The building was not sold and is not for sale.

Questioner said...

We would really need to have the cost comparison described above, then throw in other factors like esthetics, proximity to universities and the main library, central location, etc. if the results are at all close. Since Reizenstein is the most marketable it is difficult to see how Reiz would be the most economical choice overall.

By carefully restricting membership on the facilities committee, the district ensured that the facilities consultant would not be asked to do this type of analysis. Instead, the consultants determined (based mainly on existing surveys) how much it would cost to make existing buildings "like new" without considering missing or inadequate features like auditoriums and gyms. Another totally illogical approach.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:14, that the letter encouraged you to consider Obama threw me for a loop. That suggests that you are only interested in getting your kid into a "better" school regardless of feeder pattern or area of interest. Which group is bigger, the one of folks interested in keeping the kids away from "bad" kids or the group interested in keeping kids dedicated to getting a good education

I am confused... The district sent a letter suggesting it with the rejection letter regarding Sci-Tech. I did not contact them.

Chill out.

Anonymous said...

"Which group is bigger, the one of folks interested in keeping the kids away from "bad" kids or the group interested in keeping kids dedicated to getting a good education"

Are these things mutually exclusive? I know plenty of parents who choose the "better" schools over their neighborhood schools because of disruptive kids/kids who seem uninterested in learning at those schools. The flavor/theme of the school is less important to them than the fact that there are going to be more kids there paying attention, doing homework, having parents who are upset with the child over a call home, etc.

I think the district realizes that someone who has applied for a specialty school is more likely to keep looking for an alternative, hence the letter. It also shows which schools are in more demand.

Anonymous said...

"I would disagree with the last two posters somewhat. First, unless your child has his heart set on pursuing science, I'd say the district did you a favor"

I thought I made it clear that he favors science and math.

Why did the district do us a favor?

Anonymous said...

Whoa! The thinking here is outrageous! On second thought, perhaps is precisely represents the MR regime. Public (free) schools for the elite among us. Schools that do not have to teach ALL kids, only those who feel they deserve a "private" school population.

What ever happened to the right to education for all, provided by educators who are prepared to be "excellent" for all children?

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the right to education for all, provided by educators who are prepared to be "excellent" for all children?

When did that ever happen? As sad as it is it never has nationally. Now it will be worse due to slashed funding.

Anonymous said...

Well, another way of looking at it is that currently we are not providing ways to excel for students who do like to learn, whose interests are academic, whose "special needs" are to be pushed and challenged.

It's always a push/pull, but the truth is that not everyone needs to be great at all academic pursuits. They need to be literate, they need to be able to analyze an argument and learn how to research things they hear on the news, they need enough math ability to meet their financial needs.

Everyone needs to know where to go to get more education when they need it.

But what good is it having kids spend 6, 8, 10 or 13 years being bored, thinking learning is boring, thinking they know a whole lot just because they learn a little quicker -- when in fact they could be learning so much more.

We're creating lack of motivation and apathy among the people who could be our intellectual engine of the future when we don't give them opportunities for small, focused groups, accelerated learning, etc. that we do for kids that learn more slowly. (Note -- no one is saying that learning slower means not learning, no one is saying that the kid who moons around the room in 3rd grade paying no attention and getting in trouble is never going to be able to be challenged, etc.)