Tuesday, December 12, 2017

CAPA auditions and admissions

From the PG:



Questioner said...

This is a good example of how parents getting involved can get results!

It has been pointed out for years, including to Board members, that there was something wrong with CAPA admissions. There is no shortage of talented African American singers, dancers, artists, musicians, etc., but these students are very much underrepresented at CAPA.

The article notes that a meeting on the issue, open to the public, is being held this evening at the August WIlson Center.

Anonymous said...

The student didn't do their class assignments and there was a consequence. Parent says it's suspicious that all students who didn't do their assignments were black. There are racial disparities and inequities in our city, but doing a class assignment is something that anyone of any race can do if they choose to.

What this will lead to is a quota of black students that must be admitted, meaning some nonblack students who have better auditions than some black students will not be accepted to CAPA.

Pittsburgh families work to develop their children's artistic talents for years in hope that they will some day attend CAPA, the only high school in the city that performs close to the level of a suburban school. Rather than punish nonblack students who have spent so much time and effort vying for admission, why not put more resources into developing artistic talent at the elementary level and level the playing field there?

I've worked at elementary and middle schools in the district and I can tell you that art and music instruction are virtually nonexistent. There are art and music rotations, but many schools can't keep a music or art teacher because of the poor working conditions and terrible student behavior. Potentially talented kids are currently getting nothing out of their art and music classes. Additionally, instrumental music was not offered to elementary children (where I worked). Compare that to suburban districts where most students are starting instruments at 3rd or 4th grade, getting weekly small group instruction, participating in chorus, and playing in middle school orchestras and bands. Suburban middle schools offer art and music electives which they have room for in their schedules because they are not in ELA and math for 4 periods a day. Perhaps kids who are proficient at reading and math could take an arts elective instead of sitting through double periods of ELA and math. These strategies could boost black candidates for admission without punishing nonblack candidates.

Questioner said...

Judging from the abundant talent in the arts of AA students that end up at other schools, an observer could reasonably question whether it is lower test scores that make AA students less attractive to CAPA.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Questioner - that is what I believe to be the crux of the situation! Those scoring Basic or Below on the PSSA whether white or black are not readmitted beyond grade 8. Those scoring proficient or above are passed through to the next level. This makes the school look even more enticing to all based on the official 11th grade PSSA proficiency scores. Some of these students being passed by are gifted in many ways but may not perform well on standardized tests.

PPS Teacher said...

Every Pittsburgh high school could be like CAPA, or at least have a CAPA component. All they'd need to do is make the Pittsburgh Scholars Program (PSP) all that it was meant to be.

At one time, the PSP courses were rigorous, and restrictive. For example, a math student couldn't get into PSP Algebra II unless he/she had at least a B grade in Algebra I. And that PSP Algebra II course was every bit as challenging as anything the fancy suburban schools could offer.

But then someone at central administration decided that the PSP courses were too restrictive. Very unfair! So the PSP courses were opened up to everybody. What then was a PSP teacher to do? The teacher could continue making the course challenging. But then the students who shouldn't be there in the first place would fail. And the teacher would be held accountable for that. It would be seen as a failure in teaching.

So the PSP teachers watered down the courses. They had no other choice. The PSP classes of today are no different than the worst of the mainstream classes of years ago.

Anonymous said...

PSP courses were challenging years ago. Algebra I was taught to 8th grade. Geometry taught in 9th grade followed by a rough year of Algebra II in 10th. 11:02 makes a point here. "Central administration decided that the PSP courses were too restrictive" then goes way off the mark to say "PSP teachers watered down the courses". Teachers did no such thing. The folks at central administration held the watering can.
11:02 begins with "Every Pittsburgh high school could be like CAPA, or at least have a CAPA component" At one time, all high schools had a band, chorus, and an orchestra. Allderdice, Westinghouse, Peabody and Langley had the biggest programs. (Allderdice had three marching units) Oliver and Perry had smaller programs. It is worth mentioning that while Perry had a smaller band orchestra, it was also the first to have PSP. We just called it the scholars program. Oliver started offering scholars courses in the early 70's. Also worth mentioning that while Perry had a smaller music program, It had most of the principal positions in the all city orchestra. Bass, trombone, clarinet, flute and viola. Not a bad representation.
High school music programs lost much of it's talent to CAPA. Dr. John Keyheas was given the blame for the demise of the music programs. His tenure as Superintendent of Music did not last long.

PPS Teacher said...

"The folks at central administration held the watering can."

9:38 AM, that's true enough. But when 25% of a class fails, no one will blame the central administration. Instead, everyone (central administration, the principal, the parents, the public) will blame the classroom teacher. So yes, it's the classroom teacher who must make the ultimate the decision to water down the course.

And that's not a crass move at self-preservation. Instead, it's a recognition of reality. A classroom teacher must play the hand he/she is dealt.

Let's assume that in a 2017 Honors (PSP) Algebra II class, 25% of the students there don't belong in that class. In the old days, those students would have been in a mainstream Algebra II class instead. And they would have done well there.

But it's 2017. Those students are all in PSP classes. It's what the district wants. So what's a teacher to do? If the teacher keeps to the old standards, most of those 25% will fail. That makes the teacher look bad. But more importantly, it wrecks those students who fail.

So a PSP teacher waters down the course. I know. I'm one of them. And I don't regret my decision there. I will not leave behind a decent kid who is misplaced through no fault of his own. And I will not fail that kid. But I very much object that the district placed me in this position in the first place.

Anonymous said...

PPS teacher-- you are doing all that you can do. And it is all a sham-- There is no shame in taking "regular Algebra II" In other districts there are 3 levels for most courses-- modified, regular, and honors/AP. Most students take a variety of these options-- some modified, some regular, some honors--schools are operated to...teach-- not be a show for the school. They are also somewhat liquid-- so if after the first 9 weeks you cant hack it, you may move down a level-- its STILL algebra! We all babble about "individual learning styles" and yet we have moved back to a "one size fits all" as part of a show!

Anonymous said...

Is anything happening on this topic?