Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Plus Schools Report to the Community




Anonymous said...

Check out page 11, bottom chart on "Number of schools at each grade-level configuration with black/white achievement gaps less than 10 and greater than 50 percentage points.

Note 6 schools with a less than 10% gap, and 48 schools with a GAP between 10% and 50%.
THREE SCHOOLS have a GAP of MORE than 50%!

Note 12 schools with less than 10% gap, and
42 schools with a GAP between 10% and 50%.
TWO SCHOOLS with a GAP more than 50%.

Interesting way of reporting the breakdown of statistics!?!?

Anonymous said...

"Number of schools...achievement gaps..." When a school like Westinghouse has an enrollment of 314 kids should you really be reporting on closing gaps when there are less than 10 caucasian kids in the building? Perhaps as a parent I don't have a broad enough grasp of this reporting, but it sure sounds good when a school has a less than 10% gap.

Anonymous said...

There's something in there about how they figured the gap -- something about using the district numbers?

Can anyone explain their methodology?

Anonymous said...

Here is what it says:

"we defined the gap as the difference between black Proficient/Advanced students in individual schools and white Proficient/Advanced students for the relevant grades district wide. "

In other words, this is how they got past the fact that there are schools without any white kids in the district.

Questioner said...

Is the gap in percentages proficient always the most relevant? In some schools, esp those w/ entrance requirements, there is a high rate of proficiency black and white, but a large racial gap at the advanced level.

Anonymous said...

"Is the gap in percentages proficient always the most relevant?"

It is to the district -- because of AYP.

Anonymous said...

9:57 - That method of calculating (as defined) does not tell you what you need to know to correct or close the gap in any school. It allows schools to escape a diagnosis that might help remedy the problem. In fact, it is a dishonest reflection of the "gap" and/or its causes.

So, if you are not using a true way to assess a school's gap and remedy it, what is the purpose here?

Anonymous said...

10:11 - Since this is not the way the State calculates the data, how does this method help a school or district make AYP?

Anonymous said...

"Since this is not the way the State calculates the data, how does this method help a school or district make AYP? "

No one said the calculation helped them make AYP. The question was about proficient vs. advanced. And *that* doesn't matter in regards to AYP. You just have to get more kids from Basic (or Below Basic) to Proficient.

Anonymous said...

When looking for accurate measurements/calculations/ data on "proficiency" rates for districts, schools, grade levels, it is best to use the three sites accessible at the PA Department of Education.

It looks like A+ Schools mixes and matches or omits PDE/PPS/PSSA information in questionable ways.

Anonymous said...

10:54 - Where is the question about proficient vs. advanced?

The statement at 9:57 combines "proficient/advanced" which is the correct designation as concluded by you at 10:54.

(Additionally, there are several other ways to calculate AYP, using SH, CI, SHCI, GM which often confuse the interpretation of AYP results.)

Mark Rauterkus said...

Since the first year when this report came into being -- I objected.

I don't think it is with much insight to a family.

We need to know how PPS schools compare with other schools in the region.

What about the schools at (insert suburban districts here)?

Furthermore, if the top performers all depart the district, it is easy to close the gap too. That is the easy way to make the most progress and "close the gap."

Pulling everyone up should be the aim. That is the ideal. That should be the mission. EFA! Sigh.

Anonymous said...

We do know how PPS compares with all other schools in the region (Allegheny County, all adjacent County Schools--including suburban__ and Districts, PA State, and Charter Schools). There are three PDE sites that give abundant all inclusive details for comparative analyses.

"Pulling EVERYONE UP" is the goal; however, PPS thinks a one-size-fits-all approach will accomplish that and IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

Anonymous said...

In addition to PDE and A+ Schools, the Business Times and other statewide publications report these statistics annually.

Lots and lots of info available and accessible online for making comparisons between and among district.

Using PPS information is the least reliable due to the intentional "spin."

Questioner said...

However, the online information can be difficult to locate (for ex, even if you know the PA D of E publishes info, PSSA results are spread across different locations), and it can be time consuming to download information and chart it out and then repeat the process to compare different years. For people who already have other jobs and responsibilities and may be sharing a computer with others in the family, the A Plus format is quick, convenient and does not require computer time.

Anonymous said...

No doubt! You are absolutely correct; BUT, sometimes, if not always, accurate details make a difference--maybe even a huge and significant difference.

One example is the first entry here! What do we really know based on the page 11, A+ Chart?????

How can this information be used to examine or remedy the achievement gap????

This MUST be about solutions or there is no real purpose! Or am I missing something?

Curious George said...

Mark said -

Furthermore, if the top performers all depart the district, it is easy to close the gap too. That is the easy way to make the most progress and "close the gap."

There is a lot of truth in that! Personally, I'm not all that interested in any "gap". It's a distraction.

I want to know how EVERY Pittsburgh student is doing, as compared to the norm. And I'll take the norm to be how well the average Pennsylvania student is doing.

All this talk about "closing the gap", "safe harbor", etc. is just so much smoke.

Anonymous said...

No, "closing the gap" and "safe harbor" are not "so much smoke." The use of these terms is EVIDENCE that PPS is unable to educate "EVERY Pittsburgh student."

When we begin, as a community, to understand the meaning of the terms being used, perhaps we will begin to face the reality of the PPS's in ability to make decisions and provide the professional development that will change the status quo or more importantly the decline of education in PPS.

Anonymous said...

Curious George:

The norm for Reading is 72% "proficient" this year, and the norm for math is 64% "proficient." The students, schools, districts not meeting these criteria are not meeting the expected "norms."

Look at whatever data source that you prefer and compare the outcomes.

Anonymous said...

Courier Article on A+ Schools:


“According to the report, the achievement gap between White and Black students is 30.6 percent in reading and 27.2 percent in math. Last year the achievement gap was 33.1 percent in reading and 30.7 percent in math.

However, high school achievement continues to be the greatest problem, with 11th graders seeing a drastic drop in achievement on the PSSAs from 2008-2011. While achievement at all other grade levels in math and reading saw an increase, achievement for 11th graders in math saw a drop of 8 percentage points.
Harris said the good news in the report should not diminish the continuing struggles of the district’s 11th graders and the racial achievement gap that “is still far too large.”

The report also showed that 43.4 percent of African-American seniors are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, based on their grade-point average. This compares to 76.7 percent of White students and 39.9 percent of Black students in the previous year.

Graduation rates at some of the district’s poorest performing predominantly African-American high schools saw huge increases, while the district’s overall rate went from 82.4 percent in 2009 to 89.2 percent in 2010. Oliver High School’s graduation rate went from 44.7 percent in 2009 to 73.9 percent in 2010. Westinghouse High School’s rate went from 67.6 percent to 87.8 percent.”

How do we reconcile the DECLINE IN High School ACHIEVEMENT with the rise in graduation rates and eligibility for the Pittsburgh Promise?????

When PPS has 11th Grade Achievement Rates at 70 to 80 to 90 percent NOT PROFICIENT in a number of its high schools, how on earth are they better prepared to graduate or access the Pittsburgh Promise with success?????

Anonymous said...

To all of the high school teachers out there -- do the majority of 11th graders take the PSSA seriously? It will be interesting to see what happens when the Keystone Exams kick in for HS...because from what I understand, the student MUST pass them in order to graduate. So..... will the students pass them? Will they drop out of school? Or will the goal be so unattainable that the state will have to put in a safety net, such as completing a portfolio in lieu of passing the keystone exams?

Seen it All said...

To Anon 9:17

"To all of the high school teachers out there -- do the majority of 11th graders take the PSSA seriously?"

No, they do not. I've proctored the PSSA test many, many times. And I'll tell you that at most 30% of the students take the PSSA seriously.

What about the other 70%? Well, most will "complete" a one hour section in 10 minutes, then put their heads on their desks and go to sleep.

Some students make little patterns on their answer sheets, like X's.

Some will just put their names on their answer sheets, then go to sleep.

Some students will not even
put their names on their answer sheets. I've got to do that for them.

Of course, I try to talk the sleeping students into going back to work.

I am rarely successful. Either the student will just pretend to go back to work, or it will escalate into a confrontation.

Then I've got to make a choice. Do I just let them sleep, or do I disrupt the testing environment by calling security?

I cannot force a student to take a test. All I can do is try to persuade him or her to do so.

But be aware that I am speaking only of my own experience. By the luck of the draw, I've never proctored an honors class. I'm sure their seriousness-rate would be higher, maybe much higher.

And also know that I have great respect for those 30% who do take the test seriously. Those students work bell-to-bell despite the apathy around them.

Mark Rauterkus said...


Anonymous said...

WHOA! - 12:14 tells the (story without knowing it) about teaching, learning and assessment in PPS.

Proctors?? Security?? "the luck of the draw"?? "rarely successful"?? "force"?? "escalate into confrontation"?? "apathy"?? "

70% do not take the test seriously??????? Why???????

This account places the blame on the students, the children?? Why?? What must the conditions in schools and classrooms be like on a daily basis for this to occur?? Unbelievable??

"Seen it all" should visit other school districts. It is not like this in Duquesne, Wilkinsburg, McKeesport, etc; this is a fact not opinion.

The question becomes WHY? WHAT, in the teaching, learning and assessment protocols are "setting the stage" for this scenario?

Anonymous said...

"Seen it all" should visit other school districts. It is not like this in Duquesne, Wilkinsburg, McKeesport, etc; this is a fact not opinion. "

Well, if that's their scoring when they take it seriously, then they're really in big trouble!

I'm guessing though that if you're around visiting other schools during PSSAs, you're seeing the "good" classrooms. There shouldn't be anyone wandering around in classrooms during the tests anyway, besides the "monitor." It would be pretty distracting to have random people standing and staring in classrooms of test-taking students.

Seen it All said...

To Anon 9:12

You asked why the 70% do not take the PSSA seriously.

It's actually quite simple. They do not see the PSSA as immediately relevant to them.

I have taught those same students in regular academic classes. When I give a chapter test, most students will put in a good effort.

And when I give a final exam, you had better believe that every student will try their very best.

Students understand what an "A" means on the final exam, and what an "E" means.

But the PSSA's are different. I hope that when the Keystone Exams are implemented, things will change.

By the way, Anon 9:12, you said

"Seen it all should visit other school districts. It is not like this in Duquesne, Wilkinsburg, McKeesport, etc; this is a fact not opinion"


Unless you've proctored basic (not honors) PSSA tests in all those districts, how could you possibly know that?

Remember, just visiting a school doesn't count. Visitors are directed to only the very best classes.

Take a good look at the 11th grade PSSA scores of the districts you mentioned. I'm guessing they have the same testing problems that we have.

Parent in the know said...

First off, I think the Obama Eagle has better journalism than some of our local papers.
That said, the question about 11th graders taking the test seriously depends on the school, and you can almost see it in scores. Schools that have teachers who are able to inspire and communicate pound the idea that hey, you're in 11th grade...you've come this far...it's obvious that you want to graduate. As such, the PSSA's are something you can't run away from. You want to pass the first time because if you don't, it's likely you'll fail the re-take and be faced with the stress of doing a portfolio for English in your senior year.
Kids who know this work hard and when it is continually pounded, the kids work hard. Again, any teacher who allows kids to just take the test without such prior info doesn't grasp the importance him-or herself.

Seen it All said...

Parent in the know, I can understand why you wrote what you wrote. You are obviously a concerned person.

But please don't blame student apathy on teachers. Do you really think that there is some magic phrase that will get an otherwise apathetic student to take the PSSA seriously?

And do you think that some teachers are willing to use this magic phrase, while others are not?

Consider this. In the same school year I have taught both honors and mainstream classes.

In both class types I have emphasized the importance of final exams.

Now, in an honors class I'll get 100% attendance on final exam day. In some mainstream classes I'll get around 2/3 attendance.

You read that right. I've had classes with 30 students on the roster, but only 20 show up to take the final exam.

Many of those missing students only attend school two or three days a week. This is not at all unusual in the PPS, especially in remedial classes.

Those students who show up work hard, but those that don't care enough to show up for a final exam won't care enough to do well on the PSSA, no matter what I say.

There is no magic phrase for them.

Trust me, I give all of my classes my very best. That's one reason I'm so exhausted at the end of the day.

In fact, I'll go more than the extra mile for a mainstream class. Those students need extra help and encouragement to make it in this world. I'll do everything I can for them.

So am I great teacher period 1, with 100% honors attendence for a final exam, but then all of a sudden a terrible teacher period 2, when far fewer students show up?

Anonymous said...

No 12:38, there is no 'magic phrase." Rather it is proof of long term commitment and caring.

Those mainstream students haven't seen that very often, at least not often enough to believe it exists.

When they find someone who does not disappoint, who does not betray with hostility and/or disbelief toward them, they walk very slowly at first, testing, hoping and may even say to a teacher, in all sincerity, "Are you for real?" or in a more challenging manner, "You better be for real."

Respect, both ways, must be REAL, not tainted by less than ideal situations/conditions.

Students will do ANYTHING for people whom they respect; but, respect must be earned, particularly where children have learned to distrust.

Seen it All said...

Anon 1:37

"Students will do ANYTHING for people whom they respect; but, respect must be earned, particularly where children have learned to distrust."

Yes, I agree with that! Absolutely.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that it holds true with every student.

In my long career, I've seen many poor students respond favorably to teachers who show them respect. These are the teachers that make the extra effort, because they know it can pay off.

Sure, there are exceptions, but
that type of teacher is the norm in the PPS, believe it or not.

But know that for every student that responds to a good teacher, there is one that won't, no matter what.

Perhaps the student has insurmountable home problems, or a drug problem, or just doesn't see the relevance of school. I wish it weren't that way, but it is.

It's still worth making every effort, obviously, but not every student can be reached.

That's why I say there is no magic phrase for the PSSA.

By the way, there just might be a magic phrase coming down the line.

This doesn't carry much weight: "If you fail the PSSA, you'll have to do a portfolio."

But this packs a punch: "If you fail the Keystone exam, you won't graduate."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:37

You didn't spend much time in the classroom, did you? That's assuming you spent any.

This myth that any kid who isn't motivated to do well in all of his/her classes is the product of unengaged teachers is ridiculous.

As Seen it All has mentioned -- I've seen so many teachers bend over backwards for kids, spending their own lunchtimes, after school times, checking up on them for years later. And guess what? When that works for ONE kid a year, that's a huge accomplishment.

Also, how exactly do you propose that a teacher give this level of commitment to all of their students at the HS level? Even assuming the teacher doesn't spend much of any time with their honors students and "PSP" students, that still leaves them with say 60 mainstream kids, if they are lucky enough to be teaching only 4 classes.

Of those sixty, as SIA points out, 20 are likely rarely in school or in class. That ups the "making a connection" with them extremely difficult, if not impossible. But, there are still 40 kids with big needs right there in the room everyday. Kids who need individual attention and extra help and all the rest AND who are at least motivated and interested enough to show up in the classroom.

If a teacher were to ONLY concentrate on those 40 kids, say spending 30 minutes a week on each of them. Realistically that's a tiny amount of time to make any real difference or change, but it's also 20 extra hours a week. And that's not including ANY time spent grading, planning, etc. nor ANY time spent on the 40-60 students who are doing pretty well and aren't as needy.

What your viewpoint asks of teachers is insanity. They aren't trained to be social workers, psychologists, or doctors. Many do the very best they can, but to blame every problem a child has getting to or in a classroom on the teacher's style or "level of respect" is pretty crazy.

Anonymous said...

Threats, punishment, deletions rarely, more likely never, get optimal results and yet there are those who persist in these strategies.

It is "absolutely" false that for every student that responds to a good teacher there is one who does not! That is a perfect example of the lack of belief, trust, caring, commitment that exists, and is at the bottom of the lack of success that is under consideration here.

Also, it sounds as though the practice is teaching to the test, which will never get good results. The skills assessed on the PSSA must be an integral part of all teaching learning and assessment in the "formative" style across content areas, situationally and textually and a part of day-to-day interactions in classrooms.

Sounds as though a lot of Professional Development is in order in PPS. What is being put forth here does not meet any standard despite claims to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

"Threats, punishment, deletions rarely, more likely never, get optimal results and yet there are those who persist in these strategies."

Forgot to note this straw man too -- where exactly are you getting these things from, other than your own brain?

Anonymous said...

My point in asking whether or not the students take this test seriously was to address all that Bellefield is doing (wrong) to address this problem. Tweaking the curriculum and harassing teachers is not going to increase PSSA scores. Just for fun, I would like to see them offer the students $500 each if they could get a proficient score on the PSSA. Take the $$$ that they give to Bellefield in bonuses -- upwards of 15K each -- and give it to the kids instead. Just make that ONE change, just in the name of research and see if that doesn't boost PSSA score more over the next year than what they have been able to do in the past 5 years. Someone said it right -- the PSSA has no meaning for most kids...so how can we say that 30% proficient (or whatever) is in any way a measure of what our kids know? To me that would be a MUCH better use of our taxes than to see all those central office administrators get bonus after bonus after bonus for destroying our district. Just my opinion of course.

Questioner said...

Some things never change- 3 plus years ago, one of this blogs very first discussions was on the topic of students not taking PSSA's seriously:


Anonymous said...

on PSSAs-- Are you a person that ALWAYS tries your best? Or when you were a student, did you care about tests that "counted?" Unit tests, final exams, SATs, ACTs, AP tests, Graduation portfolios--what moved you to perform? I remember begging teachers to "count the standardized tests"-- cause they were way easier than our class work. PSSAs are long, grueling, the entire building stops- even schedule changes, and for what? they arent diagnostic- if you wanted that you would give a test in September, teach what the kids dont know, and test again in the spring. Instead we give MORE tests all year to check if classwork correllates for PSSA and abuse teachers if the scores arent good. By the time the test happens, serious burnout happens

Questioner said...

PPS even admits to this burnout. Students at Westinghouse are listed as having 0 proficiency in science- because the science PSSA was not administered at Westinghouse. The reason given was "test fatigue."

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

Sorry, PSSA is at 3 to 8 and 11. But, you can teach most of this stuff to pre-schoolers when you read TO them.

Get a grip!

And, parents if teachers aren't doing it YOU can!