Thursday, September 22, 2011

How we got where we are Part XXV December 2008

On another post Anonymous wrote:


How we got where we are, part 25, December 2008

For the silver edition of the series, we pause for a moment of deep reflection....

December 17, 2008: Central Office expansion continues with the promotion of a Principal on Special Assignment Nancy Kodman to Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives. Holland O'Donnell is hired as Manager of Afterschool Programs.

The financial statements again warn that “significant efforts must be made to reduce operating costs”, urge “an even greater premium on cutting expenses”, and call for sale of closed school buildings to be a “priority.”

The minutes reveal a pretty fascinating discussion around a fairly small dollar contract. An intern is hired to work with one of the Board residents on the issue of enrollment decline. “That the Board authorize, this year, the District to began efforts to research the reasons for declining enrollment in the district and to develop a 3 year plan to address declining enrollment....Marni Pastor, a Broad Resident working in the Office of the Superintendent, is leading plan development.”

Mark Brentley notes that “If you talk to some parents openly and honestly, some will share their concern that most of the initiatives in this city, over the last two and a half years, has either been Broad endorsed or initiated somehow, some way, by those individuals with Broad certification.”

We start to witness Superintendent Roosevelt backpedal from one of the initial goals of the Pittsburgh Promise. “But the point here is to identify that percentage of folks whose decision making we can effect....a majority of people, and our initial data leads us to conclude that, are leaving for reasons beyond our control.”

Let us not forget as we watch this unfold that in 2007 McKinsey projected that an “unmanaged outcome” would result in the school district having an enrollment of just 22,000 by 2014. It will be interesting to see just how much better the Broad/Gates driven outcome is three years from now.

Fast forward from 2008 for a moment to 2011. It has become clear that while Pittsburgh's schools under the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss regime have continued enrollment decline, while charter school enrollment has grown quite aggressively (Pittsburgh Tribune Review, “More parents picking charter schools for their kids” August 28, 2011).

Seeing our charter school enrollment increase while Pittsburgh's student count declines should be a wake up call to action for the community and for those of us who care so deeply that we will continue to relentlessly fight and advocate for quality schools in the city.

The market is speaking and quite frankly it should be telling us that the experimentation with school configurations (we have them all, including a fixation with 6-12), deep partnerships with national foundations, managed curriculum and oversold professional development that hamstrings the creativity of our staff, PELA principals, and relentless public relations machine are not meeting the demands of Pittsburgh families.

In this sense, the “How we got where we are” series is in part designed as a road map to re-engineer our school system or perhaps shed it of expensive and corrupting influences. We lost 1,616 students from the beginning of the 2007-08 school year to the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. This should have been a signal that something was wrong, very wrong.

We might do well to apply Occam's razor or at least the wisdom of French novelist Honore de Balzac: “During the great storms of our lives we imitate those captains who jettison their weightiest cargo.” "


Anonymous said...

The district's current and costly fascination with single gender education ought to be one of the first experiments thrown overboard when we take our schools back.

The Washington Post (9/23, Chandler, 572K) reports that according to a new study, single-gender education is "based on weak, 'misconstrued' scientific claims, not solid research." The study concludes that such "sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutionalized sexism," and its authors "call on President Obama to rescind regulatory changes spurred by the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law that made way for more single-sex classes in public schools."

The Post describes the civil rights-centered debate over same-gender education, and notes that the "study represents a new front in the battle by challenging varying interpretations of burgeoning brain research."

Noting that the study will be published in Science magazine, and that its authors have founded the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational Schooling, the New York Times (9/23, Lewin, Subscription Publication, 950K) reports that the study is "likely to wrangling about the effects of single-sex education. It asserts that 'sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.'" The study stresses that single-sex education "reduces boys' and girls' opportunities to work together, and reinforces sex stereotypes."

The Times notes parenthetically that Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised Chicago's Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, while former ED official Diane Ravitch criticized the school's low test scores.

Questioner said...

We knew that about single gender education. But it is relatively inexpensive and easy to put in place (compared, for example, to a quality CTE program).

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, KDKA TV's investigative reporter Andy Sheehan donned his sweatsuit and ran on the track with a woman who has lost a great deal of weight and dramatically improved her health.
No doubt, the woman deserved airtime.
No doubt that stink bugs do, too.
But it's funny to me that Sheehan, along with all of the other "investigative reporters" in this town would be assigned to these types of stories--or about the politics in Podunk, Pennsylvania--before investigating the outrageous and downright questionable expenditures highlighted here.
It's funny to me that "investigative reporter" Marty Griffin--who also has a show on KDKA Radio--would much rather decry teacher's unions and Pittsburgh teachers--rather than look at what is happening with taxpayer dollars.

What an amazing time with the media. Did you ever envision a time in which news outfits would simply present public relations-oriented press releases as fact and without question?