Friday, November 27, 2015

The state of career and technical education at PPS

Anonymous wrote:


Johnson Martin is correct. PPS erred when it eliminated numerous career technical education programs. All students do not want to go to college, especially with the cost of tuition today. Pittsburgh Promise money or not, college is expensive. Plus, you get a degree and can't find a job. We need more "hands on" courses - maybe then we can keep more students interested and vested in attending school. Why not use one of our many buildings and house all the "technical" programs under one roof instead of one here and one there. "


Anonymous said...

I too agree with Dr. Martin. However, this is not the only program that was eliminated over the past several years. The welding program was dismantled even though it was a viable and thriving endeavor with an instructor that was one of the top people in the welding industry. There are companies all over Western Pennsylvania that can't find enough qualified welders yet the PPS welding program was closed because of one spiteful person in the PPS Career and Technical Education department. And because that same administrator had the ears of a few school board members who didn't have clue as to what the field of welding was about, the ax fell on that program. And then the CTE Executive Director wonders why fewer and fewer folks from industry want to participate in the PA mandated Occupational Advisory Committees. And contrary to what Dr. Martin says, he was part of the problem. While he had some good ideas, they were nothing new and innovative. Furthermore, he was not qualified for or certified in Vocational Education in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

If they can be eliminated, they can be ' resurrected '.

Better, more innovative, entrepreneurial, targeted and efficient than in the past.

New energy, new insight and a new leadership.

Anonymous said...


Why was Dr. Martin part of the problem?
Because he was not qualified for or certified in Vocational Education?

Anonymous said...

This is for Anonymous at 9:14. If a teacher is not certified in cosmetology, should they be permitted to teach that program? If a teacher has an English certification, should they be permitted to teach a machinists program just because they read some books on the subject? Should a cosmetologist be allowed to teach Health Technologies? Then why did the Board give him a pass to run a CTE department? The PA 339 guidelines would have never permitted it. Moreover, he was arrogant and when things didn't go right on the administrative end he was always ready to blame someone else with the program teachers usually being chastised and talked down to. Ask anyone who attended a professional development session with Dr. Martin at the podium. Yes he was well-read and could talk the talk. Just because he thought that he knew the words to the song, doesn't mean that he was able to sing it in the right key and on pitch! I highly doubt whether he even knew how to use basic hand tools.

Anonymous said...

Johnson Martin is retired. In retirement he advocates (PG Article) for increased career and technical education opportunities for our students.

We can keep the spotlight on those issues in meaningful ways or we can digress.

Seems to me that in the search for new leadership and with new school board members soon to be seated at the table, the 'pitch' should be: How can we best make our children competitive in a changing world.

Anonymous said...

Yes lots of good programs got shut down and that is shameful, but now we must rebuild. There is alot of information on CTE from other districts. We need to find a csrtified leader, and a district-wide plan, even a 5 year plan. At one time the idea was to centralize this( yes Connelley) Now we seem to want to put program in various schools-- like magnets. But whatever we do-- gotta do it. We had board memebers that were sick of hearing about technology -- uh how's that workin' for you? Pittsburgh has s reputation -- either 10 years ahead or 10 behind-- and that is what we did in technology-- we were ten years ahead, now we are 10 years behind. Stop paying consultants to reinvent the wheel. Suburban districts with more " college bound" folks still have good vo-tech, regional vo-tech etc. now is the time to quit whining about what was, and make it happen for kids today. Sure we HAD our own " business high", we had continuation school ( might school for trades training) but now we need to HAVE something!

Mark Rauterkus said...

Attack the messenger and not the message is foolish.

Bravo to Dr. Martin and any others who stand up to cheer for a renewal of better schools, better programs and better Vo Tech options for our kids -- even if you can't weld a pipe or repair a fender.

Anonymous said...

What is preventing the CTE dept. from reintroducing welding now? One of the most successful kids in my neighborhood (never has been unemployed and just pruchased his first home at 24 years old) was trained as a welder in pps before the program was closed.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Nothing is going to be done in PPS until a new Superintendent is hired, sadly. Then it will take a year or so for that person to get a grip on the challenges. Then it will take another year to hire the consultants to come up with a plan. Then the consultants get 2 years to craft a plan and buy some post-it notes. Then comes the PR blitz with the P-G and a golden parachute is packed for deployment if needed.

Those in 4th grade in 2016 might have a chance to become trained as a welder at PPS.

Zoom, zoom.

Anonymous said...

To the person who asked " What is preventing the CTE dept. from reintroducing welding now? When the welding program was closed, the current CTE Executive Director assured former board member Colaizzi that there was a welding aspect to the Machine Operations program at Langley. That was a lie and they both knew it! On the other hand what did Mrs. Colaizzi really know about the trade? She was a hairdresser! When someone proposed a driver education program at Westinghouse several years ago, she took a temper tantrum. The only thing she was really good at was trying to discredit Mark Brentley whenever he tried to accomplish something. So you see, as previously stated by Mark Rauterkus, nothing will be done for a long time if at all. The PPS administration is only interested in photo opportunities and data to justify their positions. In the end, the students lose. Welding wasn't the only program to be eliminated over the years: Robotics, Electronics Technology, Computer-Aided Drafting and Electrical Occupations(electricians training).

Anonymous said...

The other side of the argument could very well be: Where is the community leadership and business leadership in all of this?

Are they engaged in the process of finding a Superintendent who can lead the district in the direction that this blog advocates?

Instead of sadly, why not surprisingly?

Where is the 'zoom in' on the photo op of a placard reading: Better schools, better programs, better Vo Tech options for our kids?

Anonymous said...

We need to think outside the box and we don't need consultants to do so. What about child care, health care options, culinary arts, and cosmetology (which we used to have at South and Schenley I think), to suggest a few. We need to take a good look at the world today and see what program options are actually relevant for our students without pushing everyone to college whether they option to go or not. Where are there realistic job opportunities in today's world? Prepare our students for the "real" world. A good CTE program will benefit our students, plus, may bring in students from outside our district.

PPS spends LOTS of money on administrative staff, consultants, etc. Let's put that money to good use for the welfare of our students. They are, supposedly, what matters aren't they????

I've seen it happen said...

People here are missing a very important point. Yes indeed, bringing the trades back to PPS would be a wonderful thing. As others have noted, It would open up many great opportunities for many students.

But I doubt if that will happen, and here's why. A district's reputation depends on standardized test results. And an administrator's reputation depends on standardized test results. These tests check for knowledge in math, science, and the language arts. They don't check for welding skills and the like.

That's a big reason why the trades were eliminated in the first place. Take a student who wants to be a welder, and shove him into an advanced algebra class instead. Take a student who wants to be a carpenter, and force him to take theoretical chemistry instead. That's a terrible disservice to those students! But it just might increase the school's test results a bit. And that's what administrators care about.

Anonymous said...

Administrators and people here are missing a very important point... or not.

Back in the 80's and 90's PPS offered the following occupational and vocational electives for it's students. ( Auto Body repair,Printing, Machine Shop , Marketing, Carpentry, Horticulture, Mechanical Drawing, Small Engine Repair, Bakery and more.)

Incorporated in all of the above was knowledge in math, science, and the language arts. Incorporated in all were the business and entrepreneurial skills needed to be successful.

If our students are to be competitive the argument needs to be made accordingly.

Anonymous said...

The advanced algebra student and the theoretical chemistry whiz need to know how to navigate today's job market and business climate.

Career paths teach those critical thinking skills.

I've seen it happen said...


You said: "Incorporated in all of the above was knowledge in math, science, and the language arts. Incorporated in all were the business and entrepreneurial skills needed to be successful."

You are absolutely correct! The trades made practical use of math, science, etc. And it showed the trade students that studying those subjects had a real-world value.

But as I noted earlier, standardized tests do not check for those skills. Those tests check for things like how to apply the quadratic formula, and not how to successfully lay out a floor plan. That's the fault of those tests, and not of the trades. And the real irony here is that there is little demand for quadratic equation solvers, but a great demand for good plumbers and carpenters.

Every national and state standardized test should have a trades option. Every student would take the basic part of the test, then take either an academic test or a trades test. Scores in the trade section should be given the same weight as those in the academic section.

Anonymous said...

YES! 12:39, you are correct! Unfortunately, those in (E)xecutive positions for ELA, Math and Science at PPS are very poorly grounded in the "Standards" for those disciplines and do NOT understand the BASIC concepts required for "proficiency." Without this basic knowledge, understanding, experience, skills, or expertise those in 'authority' that determine curricula, instruction, and professional development have a very confused notion of what is required to INTEGRATE the BASIC SKILLS ( in ELA, Math, Reading and Science INTO each and every CTE course ( or any other course). The CORE Standards/Knowledge are critical to ALL COURSES offered in ANY school!

The lack of knowledge and understanding (demonstrated by PPS CO administrators) is painfully obvious at every CO/BOARD meeting, presentation, training session that is offered by PPS "(E)xecutives) in all EDUCATION sessions/workshops/etc. The level of competence is truly WOEFUL (whether CTE or basic ACADEMICS.)

Who makes the hiring decisions? Who does the interviews? Are these educated “educators”? Or what? What is HR’s level of knowledge about the various components critical to “good hires” in education?

As difficult as this may be to believe, the “LACK of knowledge/understanding” is EVIDENCE-BASED and the evidence is abundant!

ALL efforts to remedy this situation have been rejected in spite of the evidence regarding effective, available, accessible resources----and in spite of the egregious decline in PPS's majority population achievement results.

The problem is HUGE! How can it be solved----by stakeholders ?

Mark Rauterkus said...

South Vo Tech was populated by kids who were often in 2 or 3 prior schools. Sure. The test results at South were in the gutter. SO WHAT. Screw the test results. The kids that gravitated to South Vo Tech, generally, found an academic home for themselves, and the pathway to South was often bumpy. And, the ride at South was full of rumors of looming closures for the bulk of the decade before it eventually did close.

Many of the kids at South grew to become like a FAMILY.

Those kids who were not able to finish got screwed. And, for years since then, many of our kids who would have gravitated to South have gotten the shaft as well.

The kids at South were IN SCHOOL and had not fallen OUT of SCHOOL.

Low test scores are still much better than NO TEST SCORES because the kids check out and stopped going to school and never sat for the dang tests.

Getting a new type of South Vo Tech has always been a noble priority for PPS. That new school can be funky with diversity of programs and respectable outcomes and TEST SCORES in the TOILET. But, (insert a toilet plumber joke here) so what.

Anonymous said...

The economic engine of our times is the creation and growth of small businesses.

Scroll up and glance again at the possibilities in 12:39's post.

In an era of Farm to Table and fresh market gardens in our urban areas - what's not to like about an elective such as Horticulture?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you say , 1:43PM , stakeholders instead of shareholders.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps changes coming in federal involvement in education may help our direction. Yes the damn tests will still be there-- but the feds wont dictate how to use them. Parents, citizens etc need to come forth and say-- no i do t believe a school is better because it has better scores-- i believe a school is good because students learn what they need to launch out into the world-- might be AP, might be welding, might be culinery, might be clothing ( yes burbs still have it) might be the arts-- but at the end students leave ready to do something-- sure they could change, but it doesnt hurt that they have had cosmetology, butcthen decided a different path...young people do it all the time. But adults have to demand so,e paths for their students!

Mark Rauterkus said...

Changes from the Federal Government GOT THE SCHOOLS in such a SAD state. No solution comes from DC. Rather, we desire local control. And, nearly as bad as DC over reach is the National, and often Global, nonprofits. That foundation money turns priorities upside down.

Anonymous said...

I agree Mark-- I was just hoping for the Feds giving up some control so we have more local and by local I mean in the hands of people who have an interest in Pittsburgh and its schools- not imports from the foundation community!

Anonymous said...

Mark and Others:
In reality, the PPS system as it exists, is NOT in control of the Feds, believe it or not.

PPS (and others) are more likely controlled by the foundation community who buy control with money all types of programs that have not improved what is happening IN our schools. (Maybe OUTSIDE, but not INSIDE SCHOOLS.)

Please cite the "control" mechanisms by the Feds beyond ONE Reading and ONE Math Assessment per year that gives (all of us) some indication of whether or not School Districts are providing a MINIMUM competency level in the education of students.

The very low competency levels in PPS as measured externally by ONE assessment reveals corroborating evidence for "Careers and College" personnel that PPS students LACK BASIC SKILLS.

The PPS Deputy Superintendent (and PD Team) are in DC at a conference this weekend INSTEAD of attending the PDE yearly conference on PA's StandardsAlignedSystems (which PPS has not attended for the past ten years.)

Anonymous said...

"The state relies too heavily on test scores":

Anonymous said...

The purpose of any State Assessment is to get some measure, a minimum measure of whether or NOT the School Districts in that state are providing the BASICS, the minimum competencies expected in Reading and Math, among age groupings of students attending that District's schools.

The PSSA is the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments which assesses the SCHOOL's level of success in providing the BASICS only. There is no other purpose and "minimum competencies" are not to much to expect!

Anonymous said...

The PDE seems powerless to influence it's failing school districts to attend the yearly conference on PA's StandardsAlignedSystems.

How does this happen?

Perhaps "control" mechanisms are needed on the State level.

Anonymous said...

You are quite right that PDE is powerless to influence its failing school districts. There are no consequences for adults who do not attend. There are no consequences for any infraction, neglect, failure or incompetence. PDE can't dismiss or fire anyone in school districts that are failing children. Nor can they "take over" a district. PDE is very, very short staffed and those staff have literally NO AUTHORITY over schools___ NOR do they have personnel or finances to run school districts that are failing.

Some very limited monitoring is in place in some districts, but monitoring changes nothing. Often these are just appointments to 'friends' looking for some extra money in retirement.

Check out the School Improvement Plans (in PPS). Many are truly pitiful offering minimal "plans" that are often just words filling the space so that 'something' is written on paper and submitted to the state. That's compliance, but certainly not action.

There is not a single person in PDE's hierarchy on the Personnel Chart who is responsible or held accountable. Just look at the past few Secretary's of Education who have hit the news. It is all politics.

Learning happens in schools totally dependent on the skills of teachers who build relationships with students and are COMPETENT, INDEPENDENT-THINKING, and ACCOUNTABLE to STANDARDS that they are able to meet.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is meant for college. Make education relevant for the real world.

Anonymous said...

hr is the last department that should be involved in any decision making decisions. they can't enforce current policy let alone institute new programs and policy and hire appropriately for them. every disciplinary situation is handled differently even when the same infractions are done......NO consistency which is why there is always such a high potential for lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

Another case of Bellefield crying wolf about PPS running out of money. Here is money that could/should be used for student programs. I wonder what else an across the board audit would unearth?