Thursday, March 24, 2005

Study details city school students


Study details city school students The biggest percentage loss is at the middle school level. This year, there are 11.8 percent fewer students in sixth grade than there were last year.

Jeepers. Where have you been?
I get beside myself here. This is another example of how many people just don't get it. I'm not saying I know all the answers. But, I get to say this again, "I TOLD YOU SO."

I'm not "gifted." I'm not the only one. I retell as I can from great insights and wisdom from others I meet and talk with.

We know that the Pittsburgh Public Schools has a piss-poor record (yeah, I'm hacked off and slinging slang) at the retention of kids as the family's oldest child goes to middle school.

The leap to middle school is an invite to suburban living. This is not just a sticking point -- it is a killer. We are choking here.

And, you don't fix the serious problem by holding a walk-a-thon for kids. (See my other post below.)

When the kids hit middle school ages -- you can't fool em like you used to be able to do. The toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary kids are easy to fool.

I'm not interested in fooling our kids. I want to challenge them. I want to get them to perform. I want them to be able to master at levels of excellence.

Here is another fact that doesn't show up on any "street list." -- Too many 9th graders fail algebra. Not 15% -- more like 65%.

People and families vote with their feet.

We've asked for these numbers in the past. I've been denied. It is GREAT to have this study. We need to do the homework now and begin to understand the real issues and real solutions.

Mr. Lamb, this isn't something for a cabnet level administrator. This is something for the mayor to come to grips with him/herself. I took no comfort in hearing from Bob O'Connor that he was going to hire a cracker-jack manager to run the city if he was mayor. Lamb pointed out that that manager should be the mayor, not the mayor's hired gun. And I'd go a step further and say the mayor needs to really understand schools and the city. And, sadly, I've seen little from A+ Schools to show that there is anything there other than a resume bullet.

To bring this back home to the PA Senate race. Diven had a big hand in messing up the election process in the school board races four years ago. That was a power grab that was a total failure and hurt the system greatly. It set the stage for the justification for the foundation pull-out of support for PPS.

Let's avoid the cluelessness.

Schools are critical to our region. Schools issues go way beyond the buildings. This quagmire is more of a software problem. Schools and the success of the students have little to do with bricks and mortar.

As one looks at the numbers, what is more important to grip is not the number of 6th graders from this year to last year. No. Look at the number of kids who moved from 6th grade to 7th grade. Follow the kids, name by name. Micro decisions matter most. Even on a class basis, there are hundreds of kids moving out, but being replaced by another hundred. So, the real migration isn't being charted.

We churn the kids, the families, and in turn the troubles. This is like baseball. We got to keep our eye on the ball. Follow the students, as individuals and as members of families.

Then we begin a real conversation.

I want to know, over the past 20 years, how many of the oldest kids in the family went to 5th grade and didn't advance to a PPS 6th grade class. And, is 5th grade the only choke point?

Another hunch, we have a lot of kids who move into the PPS district in the high school grades. They've been branded in their home district and they need a new setting with a ton of diversity, and it is found in the city schools.

The frustrations are noted with the bogus street names and maps. That is another sign of our decay in infrastructure, but on a data-driven level. We can't even get good maps around here.

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