Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How we got where we are Part VIII (August and partial September 2007)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, Part VIII (August and partial September 2007)

As Superintendent Roosevelt was ready to lead Pittsburgh into the third year of his ambitious reform agenda...

1. August 22, 2007: Yet another consultant is hired to train principals and coaches on the use of data and this time the winner was University of Pittsburgh's Partnership for School District Improvement to the tune of $149,000.

The Board authority around the $7.4 million Federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant is clarified. In addition to bonuses for principals and academic central administration, the grant supports contracts for RAND, Paula Bevan, Institute for Learning and Focus on Results ($127,403 in training for four Executive Directors – no, that is not a typo).

The District reaches a settlement regarding “the allowable technique” change orders related to the lack of proper planning and bidding time for Right-Sizing work in the amount of $475,000.

Three early childhood classrooms are opened at Bon Air, a school closed during Right-Sizing.

Over $2.1 million in delay claims on the Colfax addition project are approved. The PASBO Facilities Study would point out earlier in the year that much of the district's woes in change orders were directly related to unreasonable and unrealistic expectations for turnaround time on design, bid and construction cycles (the cost of “I want what I want when I want it.”)

A principal position is opened for the “Suspension Transition Center.” In fact, South Annex becomes the home for one of these centers. On a good day the centers would see about as many students as adults that worked there.

A lead principal job is created for the PELA program and a project manager is hired for the principal bonus program.

This pattern would be repeated over and over with “capacity” becoming a major buzzword at Bellefield.

With every new initiative came a new set of staff to hire a new team (or perhaps rather the same trusted bank) of consultants, rather than the new important work of the district displacing some other no longer necessary or less important work of the district.

The Board would have a hard time arguing with the strategy at the time, because they would typically start as funded by soft grant dollars. In private, the leadership would promise that the offices and functions would go away when the money did. Our current sustainability crisis paints an entirely different picture, however, of a district that created a structure befitting a much larger school district (which most Gates and Broad districts are much, much, much larger than Pittsburgh).

Some in central administration would justify this by explaining that it was like they were running two districts, one carrying on the routine business of the district and the other pushing forward with the reform agenda.

Lost in this worldview is a commonsense approach that lasting reforms generally require genuine buy in from all stakeholder groups and are implemented from the ground up. Those hired to run the reform agenda typically had little or no K-12 experience to ground their plans.

2. September 19, 2007: The Fund for Excellence provides $79,425 to fund a study by Mathematica of the district's math programs. Although at first glance it appears that this contract breaks a string of no-bid awards to RAND by offering a no-bid contract to Mathematica, the mystery is solved: the principal researcher at RAND with the Broad family connection took a job with Mathematica."


Anonymous said...

Again, the PSDI team is comprised of NON-educators who took on the task of providing districts with info on the use of 4Sight assessments as an interim PSSA skills update administered as often as five times per year in districts. The $149,000 covered five training sessions for PPS.

The 4Sight assessment was widely known to be flawed and incomplete as a predictive measure and although it has been used by PPS for the past five years will now be discontinued, as reported by Administration, and replaced by District measures.

A study was done by CMU (Dr. Strauss, et al) more than three years ago that showed the unreliability of 4Sight as a predictor of PSSA performance.

Anonymous said...

It becomes clearer with each Part revealed here why the PDE Team was not permitted to enter the District in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 to assist the PPS District in improving the Academic Achievement of one of the lowest achieving districts in the state of PA.

Why was there no official investigation of "how PPS got to where it is"?

This report needs to be published. Perhaps Education Week would be interested.

Old Timer said...

Why? Because news reporting on the local and national level is now simply reading what comes over in press releases. Don't ask questions. Don't give it any deeper thought.
This mentality propelled the Bush Administration for 8 years and it allowed Roosevelt to be looked upon as a great savior of PPS, when he did more to destroy it than any superintendent in PPS history.
Why? Because reporters are now drones.
The PG, Trib and broadcast media are simply public relations outlets.

Anonymous said...

Once again, we need to see a MASTER organizational chart to see who is where and doing what.

Anonymous said...

'Lost in this worldview is a commonsense approach that lasting reforms generally require genuine buy in from all stakeholder groups and are implemented from the ground up. Those hired to run the reform agenda typically had little or no K-12 experience to ground their plans.'

These are two of the most perceptive phrases in this whole expose....

Questioner said...

And it's not because no one ever mentioned this concept to them. PURE went before the Board on numerous occasions emphasizing the importance of community buy-in if reforms were to be successful.

Anonymous said...

And before Pure Reform, committees comprised of professionals, parents, and other concerned, knowledgable individuals tried to offer this "commonsense knowledge" but were continually placated and ignored.

Anonymous said...

Are there any "Lessons Learned" in all of this or will PPS Central Office continue down the path to its own demise?

Anonymous said...

Even if there were lessons learned, do you really believe that such admissions would be made? I mean come on, you're not naive, are you? PELA is a train wreck. The curriculum is a train wreck. Unless a brand new leader comes in with the idea of replacing literally everyone, it will be a cold day in hell before this crew admits that its philosophies have virtually destroyed PPS.

These people would rather justify themselves, even as Rome burns. I almost expect them to fudge numbers so that the district "makes AYP" this year.