Monday, January 30, 2012

Antioch free tuition

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"$106,000 College Education For Free? Antioch College Waiving Tuition For Students Enrolling In Next 3 Years

Article: "

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Changes to CAS/ collapsing levels part II

Continuing the original "Changes to CAS" post Anonymous wrote:

"Here's some enlightenment for you: so this year, mainstream English classes became "PSP" amid a flurry of double-speak as to exactly why. Interesting to note that the PFT contract states that MAINSTREAM English class sizes may not exceed 30. It says NOTHING about PSP, which, according to Union leadership, opens the door for those classes to be an AVERAGE of 35, plus or minus 4. Smart move for the administration; they slipped it right past us. Welcome to the new "state of the union".

As to the CAS fiasco, research proves that gifted students learn differently. They need to be challenged on a differentiated level based on the nature of their "giftedness". That is next to impossible when class sizes are growing exponentially. For now, CAS is the new PSP, while PSP is the new mainstream, and mainstream? Why, they just don't exist as that would mean that some are simply not "Promise-Ready". And we can't have that now, can we?"

What's behind the cuts

From the PG, a letter headed "Weakening schools":

"Sadly, while the public school district has had to reduce its budget for next year by $11.1 million, or 2.1 percent, Dilworth faces a budget cut for next year of nearly 15 percent."

Read more:

- Budget problems are based on cuts in state funding of education, but as this letter illustrates the reduction in money from the state only partially explains PPS's financial crunch. There would have been serious problems state cuts or not.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The other side of what happened at Westinghouse

Another view that has been making the rounds:

"A History of Lack of Support at Westinghouse

As someone who has worked very closely with the Westinghouse community and staff, I thought it very appropriate at this time to voice my concern for the lack of support that the board administration has given the school leadership team at Westinghouse over the last several years. The central office administration continues to use the media to give the appearance to the community that the principals’ lack of leadership is the sole reason that the transformation of Westinghouse was not successful. Those of us who are a part of the school community know that is clearly not the case. In a survey given to the parents prior to Abbott and McNeil being placed on leave, only 6% of the parents surveyed felt that the school leadership was poor. The overwhelming majority of both parents and staff that were surveyed understood that the school leadership was working diligently to establish a culture of learning that was quite different than what the students had experienced previously. It is a shame that the board administration not only showed a lack of support for the change that was being instituted at Westinghouse, but placed additional barriers in the principals’ and teachers’ way. It makes us wonder why they would do this. If the administration did not support the change into a single gender school, why allow the principals to open the school as such.

And we all continue to read about the school being unorganized. How much did the district administration contribute to the lack of organization within the school, when construction that was critical to the effective opening of the school was delayed for more than two months? During a time that the use of the school is critical for the effective opening of the school year, the entire staff was unable to have access to classrooms. Four schools were being closed, classrooms moved, materials shipped to a new location. How many additional custodians were sent to support the major changes that were taking place? How is it that all of the necessary books and materials from Peabody High School were delivered to Westinghouse two school days prior to when students would arrive? This was an entire cafeteria full of items that would need to be sorted and distributed. Where was the board administrative team when the staff worked diligently to have these materials in their classrooms and establish a welcoming learning environment for the opening day of school? Who is being held accountable for opening the school earlier than all other high schools, when construction continued to delay the staff from being able to have access to the school?

In preparing for the students, the principals understood the importance of emphasizing academic and behavioral expectations from the start of school. As a community school, the school leadership team requested the opportunity to focus on expectations for the classroom, halls, assemblies, and overall school wide performance. This was to be the focus of the first four weeks of school. Students would receive the necessary guidance in transitioning into the new school. Unfortunately, the assistant superintendent for high schools, Christiana Otuwa, would not allow the principals to have a major focus on these areas. Although the students were coming from many different schools and neighborhoods, the school was supposed to begin like any other school. We see now that student behavior and expectations continues to be a major issue at Westinghouse. When given the opportunity to allow students to see that the entire community supports the change that they are a part of, once again the initiatives of the principals were not supported.

At Westinghouse, there is a level of disorganization that surpasses the authority and responsibility of the principal. On numerous occasions the principals of the Academy at Westinghouse were told that the new scheduling software could handle a trimester calendar. If the system was unable to handle the unique structure of scheduling that was being developed, why would the board administration continue to emphasize a trimester calendar? It was a technology issue that created the inability to have students scheduled properly. Up until the day before school, Principal Abbott was told that the scheduling in Pinnacle was correct. Christiana Otuwa arrived at Westinghouse the second day of school, knowing that the Pinnacle software was not correct and pressured Principal Abbott to print the schedules that were in Pinnacle. Why would Principal Abbott not be allowed to use a hand scheduling method that other schools were using? Schools that did not have a trimester schedule were experiencing the same problems and these schools opened for students more than a week after Westinghouse. Christiana Otuwa showed little regard for the students who would be more frustrated as a result of receiving schedules that were unreadable. The principals should have been allowed by their supervisor to schedule in the manner that would work for the school.

There has been a clear pattern of disregard on the board administration’s part as it relates to the support that has been requested by the principals at Westinghouse. How is it that every year Westinghouse continues to receive a large percent of the displaced teachers from throughout the district? Teachers are placed at Westinghouse that have no desire to work at the school, while those that want to make a difference within the community are assigned elsewhere. In July of 2010 Principal McNeil brought it to the attention of his supervisors that over 40% of the teachers at Westinghouse were coming from displacements. His continued communication regarding this situation that was not equitable was not given the attention that was necessary. Students at Westinghouse should have been afforded the opportunity to be taught by the district’s best teachers, not constantly receiving new teachers that lack the skill set and experience to teach the students in our community. Yet, the principal continued to follow protocol and support the reform agenda that was being proposed by the board administration, hoping that the board leadership would hold true to the promise of hiring staff for the school that would be required to go through an intense hiring process.

But what was the incentive for an effective teacher to come to The Academy at Westinghouse? While the district was promoting the Teacher Academies at Brashear and King as career ladder positions for teachers with monetary incentives, who was busy recruiting teachers for the most important task of creating change for the students of the East End? After all, it was only the closure and consolidation of four low performing schools. The principals were being asked to do this while remaining committed to all the responsibilities of other principals as well. So the principals not only had to advocate for the school and recruit teachers, but initially students had to sign up to attend the school as well. And who was out in the community meeting with parents and families and the community in order to recruit students? It was the principals again who were charged with ensuring that students signed up to attend the school. Yet, given the outright lack of district support, more than 500 parents chose to send their children to the Academy at Westinghouse. They desired to send their children to a Westinghouse that would be designed different, hoping that the district would hold true to their promises. So the principals communicated to parents and students that they would receive qualified teachers who would present an approach to learning that was different than what they were currently receiving. So did the district hold true to this promise? The answer is an unequivocal No.

Out of the 50 teachers at Westinghouse, 21 were placed there without going through the rigorous observation and interview process conducted by the principals. How is it that the district can say that they were committed to making the new school work for the students at Westinghouse when the district continues to display a lack of effort in hiring and assigning teachers to the school? After Derrick Lopez left the district, who was the board administrator who was committed to the work of this transformation? Who would have brought this issue up in executive meetings with all of the attention that was being given to the Teacher Academies? Again, the school leadership and staff were left alone to deal with the results of these poor decisions. The school leadership would have to tell teachers, who were assigned to a school that they did not choose, that the school was designed in a manner that would require them to work additional hours each day. Also, these teachers were asked to report to the school three weeks prior to the opening of the school for training. But somehow, the teachers and school leadership came together for the benefit of the students and 50 – 60% of the staff regularly attended the summer training.

So when the school year began, many people were under the impression that the teachers who were at Westinghouse wanted to be there and were the top candidates. What has not been addressed by the district administration throughout all of the communication with the media is the fact that the principals were told by assistant superintendent, Christiana Otuwa, to place 17 teachers on Employee Improvement Plans. How could the principals, who had personal relationships with parents and students, and had promised the best teachers, now say that 35% of the staff is performing at an unsatisfactory level? Were these same teachers unsatisfactory at their previous schools? Why would these unsatisfactory teachers be placed at Westinghouse, the new school with the greatest need of support? Christiana Otuwa and the board administration did not care about the school climate that would be created by such a directive as this. Placing 17 teachers on an improvement plan in a newly designed and consolidated school would have negatively impacted the entire school community. Teachers were already being required to perform tasks that were new and take leadership roles within the school community. These teachers were putting forth effort to meet the goals being set by the board and school administration. There has not been any principal in the district that was required to address teacher evaluations in such a manner as the principals at Westinghouse. Otuwa’s directive to place these staff members on improvement plans was unacceptable. Were these teachers on plans at their previous school? I applaud McNeil for standing up to a supervisor that attempts to bully people into doing what she wants.

Curriculum implementation has also been a topic of concern, but as I recall the district was to hire a curriculum coordinator for the school. Of course this did not happen as it should have. The district administration chose to hire a project manager rather than someone that could help with the necessary curriculum support. The project manager, that the principals were not permitted to supervise, reported directly to Christiana Otuwa. Why is it that the leaders that are in the school each day, were not able to assign important tasks to the people that were hired by the board administration to perform those responsibilities?

But was there to be a different curriculum anyway? The students were given additional time in the classroom. The emphasis on a different curriculum was not a priority. A theme of leadership was being infused into the curriculum throughout the school. This is another plot to distract us from the true issue at hand, which is the lack of support and true effort that the school district made to ensure that Westinghouse was a success this school year. Many of us communicated that the school should grow by a grade each year like other schools that were new in the district. There is no other school that serves similar students that was approved to open in the manner as Westinghouse Academy.

We are constantly reading reports that the school is better now, but how can that be when the amount of citations issued to students has drastically increased. Teachers are afraid to voice their concerns for fear of losing their jobs or being an eventual target. The district implied that the principals were the issue, so it must be better now. The current school administration that was placed at Westinghouse has been given a new level of support. But what has happened is a decrease in the expectations for students. The school was designed in a manner that required young men and young women to understand the importance of dress. On the first days of school, community members called the school constantly to thank the leadership for the change that was visible in the community. Young men and women were dressed in a uniform that identified them as a student involved in a special movement within their community. Students are no longer required to wear the same uniform dress. Why did we lower the expectation? The students were previously required to submit all electronics/cell phones at the door, prior to entering the school. This is no longer taking place and students have reverted back to having phones and music out as before. Implementing change takes a commitment and focus. I only wish our students had been given a chance to adjust to the higher expectations that were being established.

It seems that everyone that was closely connected to the process of transforming Westinghouse has moved on to other positions outside of the district except Principal McNeil. Principal McNeil has received satisfactory performance evaluations and qualified for the principal incentive bonuses both years as Principal of Westinghouse High School, and as recent as October 2011. He received an evaluation from Otuwa in August that was satisfactory. He was then placed on an improvement plan in October 2011 and placed on leave less than four weeks later. Did he even get the opportunity to work towards improvement as suggested? Principal McNeil even questioned the sincerity of his supervisor to support his improvement after she stated in her first meeting to discuss the plan that she was looking to rate principals out. It appears that his job performance is now being questioned to the point that he may no longer hold any administrative position in the district. This is a shame and I am hoping that the school board will correct the negligent actions of the administration that supervises Principal McNeil."

Now it's adults doing the hitting?

Incident at Weil, from WPXI:

Teachers receiving unsatisfactory ratings

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"I WOULD LIKE to start a new post asking information regarding the WHYS 6 tenured teachers received Unsatisfactory ratings at Midterm this month 2012. My son’s teacher directed me to the PFT WEB SITE. Please post so we can discuss. This is so sad for teachers. As a parent I am on the teachers’ side.


Is this related to RISE.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

This would increase enrollment

President Obama calls for every state to require students to stay in school until age 18:

From the article:

"Several economists, over two decades, have found that higher dropout ages improve not only graduation rates but entrance to higher education and career outcomes."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"The Teacher Salary Project"

Link to information about a film, not yet showing in the Pgh area:

Public notice of Fadzen hearing

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"New post:




NOTICE is hereby given that, pursuant to the provisions of Section 514 of the Public School Code, the Board of Public Education of the School District of Pittsburgh, PA will hold a public hearing regarding the employment of Robert S. Fadzen beginning Wednesday, January 25, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. and, if necessary, continuing on January 26, 2012, January 31, 2012 and February 1, 2012. It will be held in Conference Room A, First Floor of the Board of Public Education, Administration Building, 341 South Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213.
No public comments will be received."

New Pittsburgh Courier article on Oliver and Arsenal mergers

New Pittsburgh Courier article on PPS achievement levels

Pittsburgh Courier article on PPS achievement levels


Link to site devoted to restoring funding for public education:

Two steps- 1) We need funding but 2) We need to spend wisely (see posts re: heavy funding on consultants, marketing, administration, poorly thought out moves, etc).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How we got where we are Part XXXVII (October 2009 cont'd)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

How we got where we are, part 37, October 2009, continued...

October 21, 2009: Mathematica Research receives yet another contract. Yes, that Mathematica, the firm that Paul Gill, the former PPS Chief Operations Officer and Broad Superintendent's Academy graduate (certificated in seven weekends!) that stayed less than one year, would see his son Brian leave the RAND Corporation for.

Randall Taylor exposes how the curriculum-industrial complex operated during the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss administration: “I would just hope that as the Board goes forward, that we just won't, as this one here passes through, not remembering a little bit of history. That the person who originally had worked -- who had worked with Mathematica, was I believe -- I forget his name, but it was either Brian Gill, or that was his son, Mr. Gill worked for the RAND Corporation, and you remember they -- Mr. Brentley, that they put forward the graduation rate that we argued very much about, you know, that report, and questioned its accuracy, and the like.”

“And then I believe Mr. Gill left here, and went to Mathematica Corporation, and then immediately I believe he received a contract for or Mathematica received a contract for $130,000, to do work around evaluating our math programs, and he came and gave a one -- I think a one meeting report, that all of our math programs were all about the same, everyone is good.”

“And then now, you know, we see another major contract with this company, and the District had never worked with Mathematica before. So I am not saying again that anything is, you know, wrong, or amiss here, but what I am saying is that relationships develop among people in the educational industry, and each one takes care of, you know, the other. They leave positions, you go with this company, you know, and sometimes again these things aren't in the best interest of the District. I am not saying that at all about this contract, I am not saying anything is wrong, or anything is in a state of amiss, but I am just saying you have to be aware that these things happen, and try to think back at some history, and maybe try to look at who is on these Board of Directors, and who is on these things, because again Pittsburgh isn't immune to that educational industry, and the people involved.”

“It is a big, multibillion dollar industry in this country, and there is many times when these groups come through, we have no need for them, they come through, they do a study and report that nobody ever uses, and they have walked away with 200, 300, half a million dollars.”

“And so I was just saying, on this one, this is obviously somebody again that we have had a relationship with in the past, it was again strange that he leaves to go to another company, and boom, there is a contract, almost immediately, at his new position. So, I'm only saying that I think the Board should -- should again watch these contracts, watch who is involved, watch where they are going, and try to remember a little bit of history.”

How we got where we are Part XXXVI (October 2009 cont'd)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

NEW POST [this one meeting is in three parts]

How we got where we are, part 36, October 2009, continued...

October 21, 2009: Evidencing Mark Roosevelt's long-term commitment to Pittsburgh – he would announce his departure not even a year later and frankly would spend much of the next year looking for his next job – the Board approves a five-year extension for the Superintendent.

Very interesting features of the contract include the provision that “for each year of completed service as Superintendent, the District will continue to pay the cost of a life insurance policy as designated by Superintendent in an annual amount equal to $28,650, with such payment commencing in the first August following Superintendent's separating from service with the District....and continuing in each August thereafter based on two (2) years of payments for each year of completed service as Superintendent under this Contract and under any prior agreements between the District and Superintendent ("deferred life insurance payments").

Roosevelt's new contract with a starting salary of $225,000 per year was quite sympathetic to his cash flow needs, requiring that “in addition to other payments provided for in this Contract, within twenty-one (21) days following the execution of this Contract by all parties, the District shall pay the Superintendent in cash $16,150, less applicable employee withholding taxes.”

The District further “shall pay the legal costs incurred by Superintendent in connection
with negotiation of this Contract by paying such legal costs as Superintendent incurs such costs, which will not be subject to tax withholding, consistent with applicable law. The District also shall pay in cash to Superintendent, on or before December 31,2009, an amount equal to twenty percent (20%) of the total amount of such legal costs, which amount will be subject to tax withholding, consistent with applicable law.”

Mr. Brentley objects that the Board only received the contract 48 hours before the meeting. As to the alleged threat that others will hire Roosevelt, Brentley responds: “I have yet to see one e-mail, letter, fax, from any organization, or school district that has expressed an interest in pulling Mark Roosevelt.” Mr. Brentley, you really have no idea just how correct you were. Roosevelt launched a thousand job seeking inquiries in his time at PPS, only to learn that the only suitor was a closed college that would open with 35 students.

Ira Weiss, clearly grateful for the amount of business Roosevelt created for him, responds: “I would only comment that the Board has expressed a desire to add stability to the governance of the District through a commitment of five years.”

Brentley, obviously angry that PPS' aggregate statewide ranking did not move at all during Roosevelt's tenure, argues that “I would like some accountability in my community, and there is nothing here, there is no measurables, where we can tie in to making and holding this administration accountable.”

In order to skirt the law on Superintendent's contracts, Weiss has Roosevelt first resign then have the Board approve the five year agreement, steps that seem to only both Brentley and Taylor.

To be continued. Yes, this meeting is THAT good.

How we got where we are Part XXXV (October 2009)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, part 35, October 2009

October 21, 2009: Seemingly oblivious to the fiscal warnings delivered loud and clear in public at least since April 2008, the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss administration recommends that the Board “enter into a contract with Gallup Consulting to utilize their online assessment tool, Teacherlnsight. Galllup's research-based selection and development tool, supported through over 30 years of teacher research, would support our district to find more teachers who drive student engagement and achievement.”

Much like the PELA program before it, anyone with even a moderate working knowledge of econometrics can only scratch their head in wonder as PPS gears up to hire more teachers when the trajectory of declining enrollment coupled with flat/declining local, state and federal resources would suggest the need to plan for a smooth landing, capturing as much value from naturally occurring retirements and resignations so that biblical layoffs at one time would not be necessary.

Printing its own newspaper remained a PPS priority, as the Board authorized “its proper officers to renew the contract with Grant Communications Consulting Group to continue working with Communications and Marketing to produce two issues for publication in the Spring and Fall of 2010. Services provided include writing, photography, layout and design as well as coordination of printing and mailing. Development of story ideas and editorial approval of all newsletter content are the responsibility of the Division of Communications and Marketing. Grant Communications Consulting Group has worked with the Division of Communications and Marketing since 2007 to produce The Pittsburgh Educator.

And yet no school year could be started without all students receiving a glossy picture of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. The Board agrees and renews “the contract with Blanc Printing Company for printing, assembly, design, editing and pre-production and mailing services for the 2010 - 11 welcome back-to-school materials” at a cost not to exceed $202,993.

Fresh off of two already Board approved trips in October 2009 – and clearly quite concerned that perhaps she was spending too much time in schools – Dr. Lane seeks Board approval for another professional development trip to participate in the Developing Teachers colloquium in October 2009 and again in early November at the Strategic Management of Human Capital Conferences. Perhaps this is a sign that we should take her seriously as Superintendent when she says she hasn’t been part of the review conversation of any particular Board action item; it may well be that she was on the road at taxpayers' expense.

The internal financial statements again warn that “Significant efforts must be made to reduce operating costs.”

To be continued. This meeting is just warming up."

Agenda review on TV at 3:00 today

Should be on at 3:00 on city cable channels.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trib update on Fazden

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Trib.update on Fadzen"

Friday, January 20, 2012

Incident at Pgh Greenfield

From the PG:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

PPS/ legal services

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"What does PPS pay Weiss each year? PPS "outsources" many "jobs" to other law firms. The tax assessment issue that resulted in delaying the new values a year, was handled by an outside law firm. How much do we pay law firms each year? I'll bet it is alot."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Update on PSSA cheating inquiry

From the Tribune:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A+ Schools/ new Board Chair

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Educational leadership consultant Judy Johnston has been named chair of the board of A+ Schools, a local public education advocacy organization


Monday, January 16, 2012

Article critiquing changes in public education

On another post Anonymous wrote:

Published on Monday, April 11, 2011 by

Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

by Chris Hedges

Changes to CAS/ collapsing levels

From the PG:

The article describes the change as phasing out dual tracks (PSP and mainstream) leaving just CAS and PSP. Whatever the tracks are called, a more accurate description would be that the CAS/ PSP/ mainstream tracks are being changed to two levels, an regular level that blends mainstream and PSP students and an honors level that blends CAS and PSP students.

A change that the article for some reason fails to mention is that CAS classes will not be limited to 20 students. Instead of just looking the other way when classes exceed 20 students, PPS has come up with the justification that the regulations merely limit gifted classes to "20 gifted students"- meaning that the district can add to the 20 students identified as gifted. So, according to PPS, a class of 21 gifted students would not be permitted, but a class of 20 gifted students and 10 students not identified as gifted is fine. The overall goal for HS class size is 30 students.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

How we got where we are Part XXXIV (September 2009)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, part 34, September 2009

September 29, 2009: The Board approves “the Bureau of Technical Education Approved Program Evaluation Correction Plan and Status Update for 2008-2009 for the district and t he nine high schools with CTE programs to be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education as required by Chapter 339.”

2.5 years later, we still have no comprehensive plan for services and frankly significantly lag in quality and quantity compared to the suburban cooperative AVTS ventures. All PPS students and parents are reminded that the school code may permit you to attend one of those half-day programs at PPS' expense if they have an offering not available to you in Pittsburgh.

The Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss administration declares the Accelerated Learning Academies such a smashing success that the Board authorizes an amendment to the America's Choice contract to increase the amount by $100,000.

The Board authorizes Deputy Superintendent Linda Lane to spend three days in Baltimore at the Summit for Courageous Conversations and yet another two days days in Charleston for New Teachers for New Schools, both in the month of October.

Clearly not heeding the fiscal warnings, Human Resources is “reorganized” to include both a Chief of Performance Management and a Chief of Talent Management. All told in the September minutes there are 12 positions opened, but only 10 closed. When you add the director and manager positions opened in August, that's a 40 percent increase in management in roughly 30 days. The exponential expansion of human resources described here during Jody Spolar's reign does not even include the contract with The New Teacher's Project (a Gates' funded, anti-union outfit), nor the already existing positions not touched by this reorganization.

Not to be outdone, the Research office joins the central office expansion parade, with the creation of a “Project Coordinator, Measures.” A Director of Communications and Marketing is also hired.

All in the same month that the internal financial statements, swimming against the riptide of Roosevelt everyday math, remind the Superintendent and Board that “the delay in adoption of the State budget leaves our cash, equity and revenue positions lower than they should be”, although not yet in a position of cash flow borrowing because of the prudent reserves in place at the time. Once again the Board/Gates crowd is warned that “significant efforts must be made to reduce operating costs.”

Mark Brentley gives a scorching critique of Mark Roosevelt's goals: “I think clearly what we see here is just these are real general terms...where are the measurables? We are getting ready to put our teachers through a very, very serious programming of checking, and monitoring, and measuring their progress. Where are they for the Superintendent?...our children are short changed, because we have nothing we can really hold should know by now it is awfully uncomfortable to disagree with this administration....getting some of these measurable things in there would have been next to impossible, because that's just the path that's already been put before us. I am disappointed on behalf of our students, disappointed on behalf of our parents, who are looking for this Board, and this administration, to really help....the masses of students in this District need some serious direction, some serious leadership, and something the parents can say, "Well, we can monitor you with, we know how to follow you, and check your progress as we go forward."....with these kinds of goals, almost anybody can obtain...very, very, very general terms, that nowhere, no how, can move it forward. So automatically, you know, someone automatically, at the end of the year or so, will give the appearance that they have met all of the goals....totally disappointed on behalf of those children who really need some real direction, and some real help in this School District.” "

How we got where we are Part XXXIII (August 2009)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, part 33, August 2009

August 26, 2009: the Board enters into a contract with the Council of the Great City Schools “to execute a comprehensive audit of all existing programs for students with exceptionalities. This audit would encompass the impact of special education programs on the District's pre-school through age 21 students with disabilities. Audit challenges will include: a comprehensive look at the overall efficiency and effectiveness of special education service delivery, design and implementation of all programs as well as a critical look at programmatic and department expenditures. Special attention will be given to the overall organizational cost shall not exceed $40,000.”

At least one member of the CGCS study team was pretty amused by the grand celebration of PPS adequate yearly progress, because 1) AYP requires two years of making the standard; 2) she quite clearly knew that it was a combination of confidence intervals and future growth models contrasted with a prior year of pretty poor performance that equaled the “making progress” designation. Not surprisingly, her stinging critique of our public relations focus would not make the final report.

That being said, it is interesting that nowhere in the report does it suggest that the District should staff the Executive Director of Student Services position with a candidate that has absolutely no administrative certification to supervise special education. Who needs certification when you have Broad connections, eh?

Fresh off of the $257,670 contract awarded in July 2009, the Board authorizes a contract “with Focus on Results to provide 96 days of training and consulting to 19 K-5 principals and their leadership teams around The Seven Areas of Focus - A Strategic Framework for Whole School Improvement. Through Year 2 of this initiative, principals and their teams will refine the skills and strategies they need to lead effective, results driven efforts at whole school reform. Two consultants will meet monthly for 8 months with principals and their leadership teams. These meetings will consist of professional development training in content and process and school visits between and among the 19 schools to see implementation of the seven areas of focus. The consultants will make school visits to provide additional support as the teams work with classroom teachers on the school's instructional focus. The consultants will also plan and debrief with the K-5 assistant superintendent. In between visits, the consultants will provide distance coaching, planning, preparation, coordination and collaboration with principals. The operating period shall be from September 1,2009 to July 31, 2010. The rate of payment shall be $2,300 per day/$650 planning per day plus travel, total cost shall not exceed $230,350.”

It does beg the question, if we paid nearly $500,000 to Focus on Results to perform the essential duties of the Assistant Superintendents, exactly what did we need the Assistant Superintendents for, let alone why they were in the mix for bonuses when PPS was paying twice for the service.

Central office expansion continues in dramatic fashion, with the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss administration recommending that the Board open the following positions: Executive Director, Office of Teacher Effectiveness; Director, Employee Evaluation; Manager, Employee Evaluation. Amazing action, given that the Gates grant application and award mandates dramatic reductions in teaching staff to pay for the program.

The internal financial statements once again warn the Superintendent and Board that “Significant efforts must be made to reduce operating costs.”

Randall Taylor connects the dots: “I will abstain on this item [addendum to open new positions listed above] that I raised in our executive session. There are some concerns about two major hirings, that I am concerned about the source of funding, which is general fund. I encourage the administration to seek alternatives.” "

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fadzen hearing

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Is the Fadzen hearing open to the public?"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some HS students attend Apprentice Career Day at IUP

From the Tribune:

Any chance PPS sent students, or has a system even been set up to inform students about this type of opportunity so they can go on their own?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Superintendent performance review from October

Article just now reporting that the Board announced in October that the Superintendent had met performance goals not spelled out in the article, but at the same time stating that "The Tribune-Review determined that Lane fell short in her oversight of changes at Westinghouse High School, where she replaced two co-principals after telling the board about organizational and disciplinary problems at the school".

So the article seems to be saying that the Board announced all goals were met but the Tribune has determined that one of the goals was not met.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Achievement gap

On another post (involving administration of majority AA schools) Anonymous wrote the following, which applies to majority AA and non-majority AA schools and so will be a new post:


What is the difference between the achievement of African American students in majority White schools as compared to majority Black schools?

Whether there is a majority or minority the results are not very different.

The NON-proficiency rates at Langley and Perry for Black students in Math is 70% to 80% not proficient, right? Is that “doing pretty well” ?

Look at the achievement for Black students in any and all schools. There is no equity or excellence for Black students. A predominantly “white” curriculum across disciplines, in conjunction with a predominantly “white” faculty does not allow Black students to see themselves as successful in the school or in the world.

Do you not think that this situation might be an advantage to White students?

Friday, January 6, 2012

A different bus incident

"Flipped classrooms"

PG article about area teachers (not PPS) trying the Khan method of having students watch the lecture portion of classes at home and work on problems in class with the assistance of the teacher:

This way students can watch the explanations of lessons as many times as they need to, so that those who need repetition receive it and those who don't can go on to other work. The article describes the kind of thoughtful exploration of new approaches that would be much more welcome than constant opening and closing and reconfiguration of schools and programs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New fraud hotline for tips about public schools

From the PG:

The hotline is aimed at obtaining tips about "spending irregularities, corruption in the contract and bidding process, theft and embezzlement of district funds, and bribery, kickbacks or other forms of illegal collusion with outside vendors" by schools.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Close call

From wpxi:

Good work by the school bus driver, but it is important for the reason a bus erupted in flames to be determined. Are inspections thorough enough?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Trips sponsored by education publisher

On another post Anonymous wrote:


New Questions About Trips Sponsored by Education Publisher
Monday, January 02, 2012
By MICHAEL WINERIP, The New York Times

Keep in mind that “Pearson, the nation's largest educational publisher” which is being investigated here, now owns America’s Choice, Inc. which it purchased last year.

As we in Pittsburgh know well, America’s Choice is the program that Roosevelt brought hereto be used by PPS for the ALAs (Accelerated Learning Academies).

Is this one more thing to keep an eye on?


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Westinghouse parents reflect on pros, cons

From the Pittsburgh Courier:

Truly incredible.