Thursday, December 1, 2011

Consultants eat up Pittsburgh schools' gift

On another post Anonymous wrote:

Consultants eat up Pittsburgh schools' gift

“Two years after Pittsburgh Public Schools received $40 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to increase teachers' effectiveness, the district has spent or allocated nearly a third of it on consultants and contractors, mainly from outside the state.
Administrators told board members that they need consultants to perform specialized work outside the expertise of district personnel.”
Can anyone document improved achievement or benefits for students as a result of the more than 13 MILLION reportedly spent here?

How was the remaining 37 MILLION spent? With what results for students, specifically?

Read more: Consultants eat up Pittsburgh schools' gift - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Questioner said...

You would think the Gates Foundation would have established requirements on the use of the gift before handing over $40M and that this type of spending would be out of bounds. Or maybe there were limits and they are not being followed.

Anonymous said...

I recall very strict guidleines being established and oversight planned.

Anonymous said...

According to this article, others who received Gates grant also spent it mostly on outside consultants-- and Gates IS happy. So this was what was intended, give money in the name of school change to private sector consultants with apparently NO track record of improving schools. As Colaizzi says, we wouldnt want to give money to our own people! This is bad- but worst is that our union thinks that drivel that these consulants have put out is a good thing. This is the essence of everything wrong in PPS-- Westinghouse being a victim of half-baked consultant ideas- it is just the most obvious.

Randall Taylor said...

Does this sound similar to"Dashboard". The biggest problem was getting staff to input data.

Anonymous said...

Gates wanted control of IT from the time the ink was dry.

Anonymous said...

Montour audit: This is what we need in PPS.

The Montour school board Thursday night authorized sending the results of a special audit to the state attorney general and to federal authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Member William Ewonce proposed the action, and the board approved it, 8-0, with Jay Richards absent.

"[The audit] needs to be followed up on," Mr. Ewonce said after the meeting. "It's been too many years, and there's too many people who have gotten away with too many things."

An audit this year by Pittsburgh accounting firm Schneider Downs found a range of potentially criminal problems in the school district's finance department during the seven-year tenure of former business manager Samuel Reichl III.

The October report — which outlined improper actions related to local, state and federal money — also was being forwarded to the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

Read more:

Bulldog Forever said...

Common thread between Montour during the period in question and PPS' current state: Solicitor Ira Weiss.

Ashamed to Work Here said...

It's funny that after the Homewood Children's Village charter school concept paper was faxed to Weiss and Lane that they both turned around and lied about it at a public meeting.

Anonymous said...

It's not funny; but, it is very revealing! What's happening at the Board is purposefully disingenuous and that is very frightening.

Is anyone at the Administration and Board table honest, straightforward, and working of behalf of the PPS students?

Thanks much to "Ashamed to work here" for input. All of those in attendance at the Legislative Meeting HEARD the outright denial around the Homewood Children's Village.

Are we beginning to see why the TV broadcasts have been terminated? Too many would hear the truth as it slips out . . .

Questioner said...

The session when this question was asked was broadcast. As is so often the case, the answer was technically true- the solicitor and superintendent said something like, HCV had not expressed to them an intention to start a charter school. ie, they may well be aware of the intention expressed by HCV to many other individuals and community groups, but all they said was that the intention had not been expressed to the district. Answers need to be parsed carefully.

Anonymous said...

If and WHEN Homewood gets the charter, (we know they will) what happens to Westinghouse, Faison, Minadeo, & Lincoln?

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled to see some actual investigative reporting being done!

Could someone ask Collaizzi WTF she means by not having our own people do the job? Why give them bonuses or hire them?

Anonymous said...

Note "Global Scholar" mentioned with a new hefty long term contract with PPS.

Guess who also funds them?

Yes, it is Gates.

Anonymous said...

More technology? i thought these were in place. Can anyone compare/contrast 2008 budget to current? It seems impossible to find current reports or goals.

Here is something from 2008.

A Word from Bellefield said...

Memo to Mark Roosevelt:

Boy, this news seems so much different than your absurd insistence that Federal dollars will keep rolling in when they see how much fun kids had kayaking or how innovative your consultant-driven TIF 1 and TIF 2 programs were.

I don't know what's sadder: your inability to listen to solid advice 4 years running that this storm was coming, your general inability to manage but for fear and intimidation, or the blind faith of 7 and sometimes 8 Board members in the pre-fab Broad rhetoric you fed them.

"Draconian" Cuts To Hit Federal Education Programs.
Education Week (12/2, Klein) reports, "Education advocates and local school officials are nervously eyeing a series of draconian cuts set to hit just about every federal program in 2013-including Title I, special education, and other key K-12 priorities-in the wake of a special congressional committee's failure to come up with long-term recommendations for how to cut the federal deficit." The Department of Education "could see an across-the-board cut of 7.8 percent," meaning a $3.5 billion dip from the fiscal 2011 discretionary budget. The National Education Association estimates this "would result in the loss of more than 24,000 jobs in elementary and secondary education." Mary Kusler, the manager of federal advocacy for the union, said the "dramatic cuts...will be felt by every student and every school district." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that reducing the US debt needs to be done "in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time."

Anonymous said...

How exactly does the suspension with pay of the two Westinghouse principals align with Dr. Lane's goal to support principals better?

What's the game plan?

South Hills Stan said...

Wow, if you thought Roosevelt had some nerve having the local foundations pick up his tax bill, get a load of this (from the 1st Broad Superintendent in Residency and Council of Great City Schools Superintendent of the Year!!!!):

Fox 29 viewers were shocked when we first reported former Philadelphia schools chief Arlene Ackerman filed for unemployment despite a $1 million buyout from taxpayers.

Ackerman left the school district in August 2011 after a three-year stay that saw rising test scores accompanied by a $629 budget deficit, a cheating scandal and frayed relationships with city council and Mayor Michael Nutter.

Old Timer said...

Andy Sheehan needs to insist that he is allowed to dig into all of this, and quickly. He is someone who has a kid in PPS, as do other media types and as do some board members.It's imperative that he ask whether cuts have gone far enough in central administration, and I am not referring to janitors, workmen and IT people. He needs to be able to look at all of the bloat and ask whether the many, many people NOT involved in the classroom should be gainfully employed at this time, as teachers are being targeted.
Then he needs to look at this Gates "gift". He needs to be able to cut through the idea of "gift" and inquire how such a "gift" was actually sent to target teachers---that the gift was essentially blood money to push a personal agenda.

Sorry, but I don't call that a gift...I call that payola.

A gift would have meant earmarking money to give students state of the art laptops or classrooms interactive abilities that transcend anything we see in typical urban education settings.
A gift would have examined the root of the problem: students who come from backgrounds that have not allowed them to form a perception that an education can take them far in life and can improve their way of life forever.

This was no gift.

Bill Gates has said repeatedly that teachers are the problem. This gift was meant to do something about that "problem" and to use PPS as a model to push his ideology.
As a result, we have RISE targeting teachers and acting to get rid of teachers who somehow after 30 years of teaching have suddenly forgotten how to instruct kids, at least to PPS. We have consultants coming out of the woodwork to cash in on a district awash in money. And we have a public relations arm that keeps talking about how teachers are somehow being empowered by all of this.

$40 million dollars, friends, and not a penny of it...not a cent..has aided our students. Not one cent.

Anonymous said...

The original Gates "gift" required PPS matching about 60% of the 40 million. Don't fall for paid by consultants BS.

Anonymous said...

PPS has not been able to raise the matching fund... Now what?

Anonymous said...

Philadelphia has a question for us regarding Gates.

Anonymous said...

I have already ran out pencils and paper for the 2nd quarter, what a joke. This is such a waste of money. Give me the %^$$&# basic tools to get to job done.

Dues Paying Member said...

Wake up Nina, this is the Broad/Gates end game:

Charlotte Boosting Teacher Recruitment After Widespread Layoffs.
The Charlotte (NC) Observer (12/5, Helms) reports, "After three years of layoffs and cutbacks, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is actively recruiting teachers, including a quest to find people who don't have formal training and get them ready for classroom duty." The piece notes that the district's push to recruit non-traditional teachers "is raising eyebrows among some teachers who have seen hundreds of colleagues laid off because of recent budget cuts" and feel that laid off teachers should be first in line

Angry Taxpayer said...

Dear Dues:

You better believe this is the Broad/Gates' agenda. Check out this salvo from one of the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss administration's heroes:

Michael Bloomberg in MIT Speech: Cut Teachers by Half, Large Classes OK
In remarks Thursday that have since sparked some controversy, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tackled school improvement -- through a suggestion to halve the teaching force.

"If I had the ability to just design the system and say 'ex cathedra this is what we're going to do,' you would cut the number of teachers in half and weed out all the bad ones," Bloomberg said while speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to CBS New York. "And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students."

The mayor also told the audience that in districts across the country, teachers are no longer hired from the top of their classes and instead, are culled from "the bottom 20 percent and not of the best schools," reports.

Wake up Pittsburgh, before the damage is too far gone.

Anonymous said...

great idea Mr. Bloomberg- lets really torture city students--- while suburban parents fuss over class sizes of 24 in kdg- you want to put 48 students in a room with one adult. Please be a career-changer- you like those!-- and come and show us how-- to individually test each student, wrangle the other 47. Or an easier answer-- try out your idea at Chuckie Cheese- see what 48 students look like. Please bring on the master teacher-- please show me on Youtube- I want to see these skills!

Angry Taxpayer said...

I wonder if Nina et al at the PFT grasp the real Gates agenda yet (hint: it is not pro-union, it is not pro-public school, it is all about choice/vouchers/charters).

Nice to read about John getting a tan in Florida after realizing he was duped.

Enjoy the light reading:

CPS Signs Gates Foundation Charter Compact.
The Chicago Tribune (12/7, Hood) reports, "Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday became the latest large urban district to sign a compact agreement with the education-reform powerhouse Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pledging greater cooperation and collaboration between the city's charter and traditional neighborhood schools. The agreement allows Chicago to compete for a piece of a $40 million grant from the Gates Foundation, aimed at building relationships between charters and neighborhood schools and allow for the sharing of innovative ideas." The Tribune describes some of the collaboration efforts already taking place in Chicago, and notes that CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard is on record seeking better funding for the city's charters.

Questioner said...

No joke, could part of the whole Gates thing be "doing well by doing good"- ie, getting in good with school districts and positioning microsoft rather than apple to be the computers of choice.

Old Timer said...

I believe that teaching is a wonderful profession but will actively tell any student who is contemplating it as a career path that they should think very hard about the decision going forward.
I would not allow my kids to go this route, plain and simple. No way. No how.
When you have charlatans like Gates pushing a personal agenda disguised as gifts that demonize teachers, and no school board with courage enough to remember the needs of students, what more needs to be said? What does The Bible say about wolves dressed as sheep?
This is not an end around for charter schools or vouchers. We have a "governor" who is all over that idea. No, this is an effort to affect change by throwing an endless supply of money at districts. And it's working.
To a cretin like Bill Gates, teachers are the problem. Throw the money at reforming them rather than putting it towards basic necessities of each classroom.
What a worm.
That we live in an era of Gates, Broad, Roosevelt and now, Lane--and with clear indications that the Rhees of the world have a voice in our society---why would any caring adult allow a child to travel to a career that can only be termed "thankless" and "without proper compensation."
I will tell any child that this is the era of doing for yourself. That using one's talents can best be channeled into other directions that are monetarily rewarding. If you want to teach, then get to Sunday school or a ballteam or the library.
Let the Bill Gates's and Linda Lanes of the world teach in urban school districts. They have all of the answers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Old Timer--but the saddest part is that across the country, the suburbs are flourishing--and have been for the last 40 or so years. Prior to that people actually moved to the big city for-- the schools. The ones with full programs in the arts, librarians in elementary schools, interscholastic sports programs. School boards in the burbs have their squabbles-- but I cannot imagine telling them to go to Broad to learn how to sit on a school board! They are citizens of a community- making the best decisions based on their community standards and what can be afforded. The dont seem to need endless consultants to figure out how to run schools- listen to their board meetings. It is rather simple- buildings, teachers, teaching assistants, support staff,
after school programs, sports programs, buses etc. Alot less highjacking for ideology-- I am telling young people- come back to the city in 10 years-- these Gates et al. really dont care about students or education-- they will move on.

Questioner said...

The difference is- in the suburbs you are looking at a lot smaller of a pot of money. A marketing or technology contract doesn't lead to the same kind of profits, and it is a lot harder to put extra people in the organization chart at high salaries. So you just don't get the same kind of outside "interest." There are small districts made up of low income, minority, low achieving students- for ex Wilkinsburg- how much attention are those districts getting from Broad, Gates and the consultants? Couldn't Broad et al model their ideas in a small district?

Questioner said...

Anonymous wrote:

"I hope I last long enough to see these [ ] move on. I used to love to teach, write my own lessons, be creative. That is all gone now. Two more years and the money runs out, then what? Will the Gates social experiment with the children of Pittsburgh be over.

Bill Gates and Eli Broad could not spend one day doing what I do for a living.

[ ]

Old Timer said...

I'm wondering how this all will be spun at the end of the day, when that money does indeed run out.

Not a penny of it has been spent on what we need the most: crumbling infrastructures, the lack of good technology and supplies available to the kids.

What is problematic in all of this is that central administration drinks the kool aid. They actually believe the tripe that comes from Pitt's IFL and the Gates mantra.

And folks, it is so out of touch with the needs of your children that it is chilling. What you have in this district is pure theft. Consultants who are barracudas and see the cash as blood in the water, and truly, the only empowered people in the equation: administrators--meaning, anyone who is NOT in the classroom and still earning a paycheck which amounts to more than the lowest paid teacher.

Imagine sitting on your ass all day and writing policy to check the effectiveness of people who actually ARE in the classroom.


400 teachers will soon be pink slipped, all to keep these people gainfully employed.

Good God, what is wrong with this country?

Anonymous said...

Old Timer: Let's focus on this city. If our city can remove the waste in Central Office and begin a process which truly educates our children, then we (Pittsburgh) can be the model for achievement. We are NOT a succuessful achieving school district, and hold a comparative place that puts PPS at the bottom of Academic Achievement in this state. Yes, the PR is spinning and creating a very different "image" for PPS.

But the facts of PPS failure is abundant on objective PDE websites and there are at least four that must be accessed to see the story of progressive failure in Pittsburgh.

However, we KNOW enough to REVERSE this FAILURE with the help (at no charge) of people who have achieved success in PA. This is definitely DOABLE with community commitment, contributing knowledge, experience, expertise, cooperation, and collaboration on behalf of our children.

Old Timer said...

Anon, thanks for your comments. Do-able? Yes, I agree.
I just don't see it happening.
Let's look at the problems.
PPS essentially owns the media. I don't know if that is because of the marketing of PPS or just that media has changed. 25 years ago, you would never have reporters ripping and either reading or writing a press release in their own words, but now it is commonplace. No questions asked. Just report what you have on the press release.
Sorry, that's not journalism. That's public relations. But since we see that on the national level, let's just say it is now the nature of the business. Shame, but the public is being fed public relations baloney rather than news.
So how can one count on the public for change?
Among teachers, a similar effort is going on. The PFT would have you believe all is well, that we are a partner in the progress of a magnificent district and that naysayers are just older teachers who really should retire in the name of progress.
I've watched the dumbing down of our kids via a force-fed, inane curriculum.
I've watched kids who have no desire to take part in academia be granted passing scores via an outrageous 50% policy, all to get them on the pathway to the promise and thereby garner more good PR.
I've watched good principals shoved out the door in favor of individuals who were washouts in the classroom.
I've watched countless teachers --almost always people with over 20 years of service--placed on improvement plans and then basically forced to resign or be fired.
I've watched union leadership do absolutely nothing to help those wrongly under fire and have watched it rewrite rules to squelch the voices of those appointed to positions via a mandate from union voters.

And that there is a group of teachers out there--true cowards-- (many at the teacher center at Brashear, it appears) that actually believes the PFT is working to empower, that RISE is a wonderful tool and that there is a pot of gold out there to those who genuflect and drink the kool aid. They'll work to keep things status quo. Sickening. Cowardly. And with no clue as to what solidarity and union mean.

So tell me, how do we affect change? I haven't even begun to discuss the teachers who are constantly under fire from PELA types who wouldn't know an educator if one but him on the ass.

Anonymous said...

Is the free help the same help the Duquesne district received before the state decided to close it for poor performance?

Anonymous said...

No, the Duquesne District paid for ALL of their help!

The principal in Duquesne was trained in PPS.

His PSSA instructions to his staff demanded that students READ ALL of the QUESTIONS on a PSSA BEFORE reading the TEXT. This resulted in students skimming and scanning for answers rather than reading for understanding.

As a result, it is documented that the majority, if not all, of the students, missed questions that required understanding or comprehension of the content. Check the results and you will see that students missed questions that involved the following: main idea, supporting details, context clues, inferences, multiple meaning words, distinguishing fact from opinion, generalizations, and citing evidence.

Tests should not be given to see if students find answers or remember answers, but to determine if they are able to read and comprehend the content of new material and demonstrate the ability to use the previously mentioned skills. The purpose of the PSSA is to assess these skills after reading carefully for meaning. The answers are implicit and explicit to the ability to think! (Not to skim and scan, and search and seek answers without understanding content.)

Do all of PPS principals teach skimming and scanning for answers? Maybe that is why they also do poorly on PSSA's!


Questioner said...

Why would a district as poor as Duquesne, with no Broad/Gates money behind it, pay for someone to come in and teach these skills if free training was available?

Anonymous said...

NO FREE TRAINING was available to Duquesne last year. NONE!

What are you referring to Questioner?

And, WHY would a District with new administrators across the board, NOT want experience, expertise and professional development for staff from someone who had been very successful in other districts to assist them in their sustained quest for academic achievement?

Questioner said...

Why was free training available to Pittsburgh but not Duquesne, and which school districts have used the free training?

Anonymous said...

Well, let's try again. If the issue is "free training" it is absolutely AVAILABLE to ALL PA District. Most districts take advantage of several available formats through which this is available. Pittsburgh is rarely, if ever, present at these multiple opportunities which occur locally at PaTTAN and IU#3, in Harrisburg at PDE and at other IU's and PaTTANs. Until last year there was another "free" long term, by comparison, program for identified "lowest-achieving districts" (one of which was PPS). However, it is critical to note that the
Roosevelt/Lane Administration REJECTED this "free to the district" long term support and assistance (REQUIRED for the all others of the 30 lowest achieving PA districts). Behind the scenes, negotiations with PDE allowed PPS to opt out in favor of Broad/Gates. Was that a good decision? You be the judge after reviewing the decline in achievement during that timeframe.

Programs have been discontinued with the Corbett Administration that were available under Rendell.

Hope you can see the differentiation between and among some of the answers to your questions.

You might find it interesting that this past week (from Sunday to Wednesday) "free" presentations, workshops and critical information on the changes in law, regulations, PA Standards, PSSA, Keystone Exams, Common Core Assessments, Project-Based Assessments, AYP, Graduation Requirements, etc. were open to all Pennsylvania Educators in Harrisburg/Hershey. More than 1000 PA Educators (Superintendents, Central Office and School Administrators and Lead Teachers) were in attendance (including high achieving districts).

HOWEVER, there were NO personnel from PPS in attendance!!??!!!

How would you justify such a decision??? It certainly is NOT because PPS is among the top 475 districts out of 500!

There are real answers and real solutions at hand; but it just depends on what you are looking to learn and WHY!

Questioner said...

Was the "help (at no charge)" mentioned in today's 9:13 am post available to Duquesne as well as Pittsburgh and if not, why not?

Which low achieving districts have used the help mentioned in the 9:13 post?

Anonymous said...

Broad/Gates does not have any intention of helping "schools succeed"--or even school districts.
That is why PPS does not accept training from the places where other PA districts get help-- IU etc. Their goal is indoctrination-get rid of exciting, creative teachers-- keep preaching scores to very young students. PPS moves further from education every year. Imagine all that money and no student is helped. A real school board would read half of the incidents on this blog, and be very worried.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 7:12. You summarized it in a nutshell. Its all about the money and career advancement in PPS. It is never about the kids. Too bad, new Board member, Regina Holley's comments were not broadcast.

On her first meeting, she rightfully challenged publicly the many, many, highly paid, high positions at Central Office, who NEVER touch children. These positions are maintained while those in schools, working with children are cut.

We have more administrators, and "chiefs" at Central office than we had when there were 40,000 students in PPS not 24,000.