Saturday, May 03, 2008

Pittsburgh Parents Confused By High School Reform

kdka.com - Pittsburgh Parents Confused By High School Reform: "The Pittsburgh Public Schools District calls it high school reform, but some parents are calling it high school chaos.
Darn tootin.

The sweeping changes have not helped to improve grades at all.

Where are the numbers and the proof of improvements in the formation of the K-8 Schools?

Where are the numbers and proof of improvements in the ALAs?

Where is the proof in plain old attendance figures for the expanded school year? The kids are not showing up for classes in August.

Most of the things that have been championed in recent years have been a failure.

Sweeping changes -- yes. For the good of improvements in grades and graduation rates -- NO.

The drop out rates are high. And, after South Vo Tech was closed, the drop out rates have gotten higher. The kids that were going to South and getting a diploma are now dropping out. South was a safe place for many kids and gave them opportunities to finish school and learn a trade.

The problems that have been identified are middle schools, first and foremost. So, they focus on high school reform. What about middle school reform?

Then there are know problems with certain schools. Five of the Pgh Public Schools are tagged as "drop out factories." But, the schools that are getting the sweeping changes are NOT these failing schools.

Roosevelt's method is to fix what is NOT broken.

Massive changes are being pushed upon Schenley High School and CAPA High School. Those are good schools. Furthermore, the best middle school in the district, Frick Middle School in Oakland, is getting starved and it is slated to close too. WRONG move PPS.

Frick works, mostly, for many kids. Now they are killing it.

The time and attention needs to be put upon Westinghouse, Oliver, Peabody, Carrick and Langley.

Roosevelt went out and closed 20 schools a few years ago. Now his goal is to OPEN new schools. Go figure.

Roosevelt went out and made schools that span from grade K to grade 8 just two years ago. Now he wants to make smaller, more specialized schools. Go figure.

And, the figures are not in. They are not releasing the reports and self evaluations.

South Vo Tech was closed because it was a 'smaller and specialized' school. Now they want to open smaller and specialized schools. Go figure.

They continuous yanking around of the families that choose to send their kids to Pgh Public School is overboard. The yanking is leading to the decline of the district. People are feed up. They are departing and voting with their feet.

Parents are not being consulted with. Rather, they spend more and more money on consultants.

And, you ask the administrators and they think that they are keeping the parents in the loop. Yet the administration CLOSED the Parent Education Recource Centers. They were called PERCs. They were shut in one of the first moves after the arrival of Mr. Roosevelt.

The kids are not playing 'musical chairs.' I love music. Rather, the kids are being treated like rats in labs. The maze and roadblocks are by design it seems.

Choice is great. I love choice. I want all the kids and all the families to have choices. But, there is no choice when your school closes. There is no choice in the programs that are being designed by this administration. The choices are fabricated by the administration on a macro basis and being lost on a micro basis.

No kid wants to go into 9th grade and enter high school by going into a school that is for grades 6, 7 and 8. There is no choice for those that need to stay at Frick Middle School -- rather than being in high school.

No kid wants to go to high school and be the big man on campus in 9th grade because there isn't anyone in that school in 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

Those choices suck.

Those are the choices that are being dished out to our kids NOW, thanks to the bone-headed leadership of Mr. Roosevelt as superintendent.

The kids at Schenley High School loved the interactions among all the students as a student body. The smart kids (and Schenley is sending kids again to Stanford) and the not so smart. The robotics and the I.B. and Spartan kids mixed well in all the sports and after-school efforts. The social fabric of the urban educational center is now ripped into bits.

Roosevelt and his solutions are awkward.

"I would agree with you this is an awkward time in re-creation of high school in Pittsburgh, greatly exacerbated by what happened at Schenley," Roosevelt said.

Nothing happened at Schenley, other than the LACK of BUILDING UPKEEP, awkwardly avoided by the administration of the district. They didn't fix the new windows -- still under warranty. They didn't fix the leaks in the roof -- so some plaster got soft. They didn't take care of the building with on-going upkeep.

Schenley was raped by the district's administrators.

Schenley was to be closed when the 'right-sizing plan' came out four years ago. But the right-sizing plan was only for elementary schools -- except for Schenley High School.

The story of Schenley was told to the board then and the school was taken off the 'closed list.' They forgot. They failed. They should be sent back in grade and made to repeat the lessons that were not mastered.

The asbestos problem at Schenley was taken care of in the 1970s. Look at the records.

There has NEVER been a threat of ASBESTOS at Schnley in the past couple of years. They monitored. They found NOTHING in the air. Schenley is safe.

The plan was a lie. The high school reform plan took a year to complete and it went out the window in one meeting. Mr. Roosevelt ignored the plan and made a crisis.

Those who had been on the special hand-picked committee to chart high school reform that did not agree with the closing of Schenley, because it was NOT a part of the high school reform plan, were not invited back. They were left out in the cold once the changes of Mr. Roosevelt seized the day.

The blue-ribbon-task-force was flicked apart and didn't meet again. Experts were isolated and left to wither.

Then comes the justification for moves -- all lies again. To set up Reisenstein was only peanuts -- but now the costs are four times as much. To rehab Schenley was expensive. Well, to move the multitude of students and change the half-dozen schools is way more expensive. And, those are short-term expenses, not long term fixes.

The consultants are racking up $200,000 at first blush. Then the change order comes and it becomes $3-million.

The move of Rodgers Middle School, a good school, to Downtown CAPA, another good school, was studied. Then studied some more. The prices are going up -- double, triple. Yet the results are still the same.

You can't put 10 pounds of shit into a six pound bag!

This is a FAILURE.

And the parents are upset.

The kids are being yanked around.

The costs skyrocket.

And our kids are still not learning enough.

But Roosevelt now says the cost to renovate Reizenstein has come in much higher than expected. So again - confusion.

Told ya. That is not "confusion." Rather, it is called being untrustworthy. It isn't stewardship. It isn't prudent. It isn't ideal. It isn't Pittsburgh. It is a formula for failure for a generation to come.

Roosevelt wants to apologize for the uncertainty. He manufactured the uncertainty. He needs to say, "I'm sorry. I quit."

He tried. He failed. He left us much worse than when he arrived. He is spent. The district is at the brink. He can't get onto the high road again in Pittsburgh.

College scholarships like the Pittsburgh Promise are not going to get the kids a decent 6th grade language arts teacher. That's what Mr. Roosevelt should worry about -- and he did the distraction game.

Mr. Roosevelt and the PPS are to worry about the public education of the kids in grades K to 12, not college. We've got a great higher education system in this country. We don't have much to brag about in our public school system. He worried about the wrong things. He didn't worry about what he should have been working upon.

Perhaps the best line in the article is this:
And for the time being, International Baccalaureate students from Frick Middle School will be spending their 9th grade at Frick until this sorts itself out.


Alert to Mr. Roosevelt. Sort yourself out. Then the solutions are sure to surface upon your departure. We told you what needed to be done years ago, months ago, weeks ago, and just yesterday.

Our kids can't stay in 9th grade forever. The kids are growing up. They are getting older but they are not getting more edumacated.

Fix:

Keep Rodgers Middle School open. Don't close it. The school works.

Replicate Rodger Middle School in another building. Have two. Perhaps Rodgers South should open in the now empty Knoxville Middle School.

Expand CAPA downtown. The new space that was purchased can be utilized for high schoolers in a high school building. Perhaps you'll be able to attract more students at the high school level there in the years to come.

We don't need kids in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades downtown.

We don't need yellow school buses downtown either.

The Gifted Center works. Don't fuss with it. A pilot program is going to occur for the next three years. That's bunk.

If you want to have five-day-a-week gifted education for kids that are gifted then you should open a gifted school.

Mr. Roosevelt wants specialized, small, learning communities. Then open a 'gifted high school.'

Mr. Roosevelt wants specialized, smaller, learning communities -- then find a way to re-open a school just like South Vo Tech High School. Perhaps you need to re-do Connelley High School and make that into a Vo Tech School. Make it part of the new development in The Hill District.

By all means, fix the windows at Schenley. Fix the plaster. Do a modest fast lift of Schenley High School and get the kids back into that school in one or two years.

While Schenley High School is closed, keep the gym and swim pool open. Those are new facilities.

Do NOT put 9th graders in FRICK Middle School. Send them with the rest of the high school student body.

Expand Frick Middle School.

Close the K-8 schools, in a gradual basis. Don't yank the families without a 2, 3, or 4 year phase out.

Give out teacher contracts to the language teachers in April. Time and time again the district is trying to hire teachers that speak other languages in September. Good teachers are hired sooner than that. Too often the district is too little and too late in getting talented teachers. Focus on that for once!

Get all the sports teams in the PPS to join the WPIAL. Scrap the city league. It is a joke, by and large. Pittsburgh is a sports town. We'll play well with others if we are only given the chance.

A+ Schools needs to compare and contrast what happens in the city schools to what happens throughout the rest of Western Pennsylvania. Families don't choose between Roosevelt and Phillips (both Pgh Public Schools). The real action and real choice is between a city school and a suburban counter-part. What about Brentwood, South Park, Baldwin, USC or Mt. Lebo schools -- next to PPS offerings and opportunities.

Don't start any school year before Labor Day. Ninth Grade Nation can wait too.

Put some sports, lifetime ones especially, at CAPA.

Open a second I.B. program, if you must, at REISENSTEIN. It can be a regional magnet for people in EASTERN ALLEGHENY COUNTY. Then that 2nd I.B. program can compete with the 1st I.B. program at Schenley.

Put the University Partnership program with Pitt at Schenley high school too. Make that the "Spartan" program. Then Schenley can have I.B. and University Prep. Give choices to the kids and the families at the micro level. They can switch between majors and not need to leave their school.

Put the new Science and Technology program at WESTINGHOUSE.

Make Peabody an all girl city-wide magnet. That school should compete as a public all-girls school against Oakland Catholic.

Make Oliver High School an all boy city-wide magnet. That school needs to compete with Central Catholic.

The kids that go to Langley should be able to spend their 10th grade at a boarding school.

Open two to five PPS boarding schools. Build a few dorms. Get some partnerships with others from around the state. The kids can come home on the weekends.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, a city about the same size as Pittsburgh, 300,000 residents, there are a handful of boarding schools, in the city, with great academics.

We spend too much money putting our kids in prison and Schuman Center. Let's allow for some of them who want to learn to get into a different environment on a 24-hour period. That's how you make for a longer school day and longer school year.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

full article:

Pittsburgh Parents Confused By High School Reform
Reporting
Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― The Pittsburgh Public Schools District calls it high school reform, but some parents are calling it high school chaos.

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt has mandated sweeping changes to improve grades and graduation rates.

More than one-third of the students are dropping out and of those who remain, half are not proficient in math and 60 percent are not proficient in reading.

But some parents say the proposals have their kids playing musical chairs and they don't know where they're going to land.

To attack the problem of failing high schools, Roosevelt has a basic idea. Rather than students attending the big high school closest to home, he's creating several smaller specialty high schools that anyone can attend.

"The biggest problem we have with our comprehensive high schools now is too many kids are getting lost and you don't see that happening as much in schools of choice," Roosevelt said.

But many parents like Nick Lardis now complain that high school reform is more like high school chaos.

"Where is my kid going to end up? Why is he going to end up there ? What's the program going to be like," he questioned.

Under the plan, Peabody High School would become a robotics and technology magnet. Milliones in the Hill District would become a university prep school in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, and the district will create a 6th through 12th grade International Baccalaureate high school.

The problem is in the fall, some students will be sent to buildings which may or may not be their permanent home.

"I would agree with you this is an awkward time in re-creation of high school in Pittsburgh, greatly exacerbated by what happened at Schenley," Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt says the discovery of asbestos-laden plaster at Schenley High School throws a monkey wrench into the plan. While the district decides the fate of the building, Schenley students will be going to Reizenstein Middle School, which was the likely candidate to become the 6th through 12th high school baccalaureate school.

But Roosevelt now says the cost to renovate Reizenstein has come in much higher than expected. So again - confusion.

"Some people think the move to Reizenstein is temporary. Some think it's permanent," Lardis said.

Roosevelt apologizes for the uncertainty.

"What I do not apologize for is the fact that we are seeking to create high end, high achieving high school options for our kids that we do not currently have.

And for the time being, International Baccalaureate students from Frick Middle School will be spending their 9th grade at Frick until this sorts itself out.

A decision on what to do with Schenley and Reizenstein will be made in the coming weeks.

We'll let you know what the superintendent and the school board decides.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Anonymous said...

I am still digesting your post and will comment further when I do. I do not think Roosevelt is all wrong or all right about anything. I attended Schenley's final performance of ALL SHOOK UP on Saturday (your suggestion Mark). Does Reizenstein have an auditorium? If not it is the wrong destination for these kids. It does not take much for the burdens of logistics to take the wind from sails. The 9th graders at Frick will get bused to Reizenstein after school to participate in sports. I assume they will get bused back to Frick or directly to their neighborhoods on activity buses after a game or practice. Should be interesting. If Reizenstein has no stage where will the musical kids go to rehearse and perform how will that be worked out?

MK said...

I could very well be wrong, but I believe Reizenstein has what is known as a "cafetorium" that would be in some way renovated for the Schenley kids coming in the fall.

Yeah...it sounds like a terrible idea to me too.

Mark Rauterkus said...

There is NO auditorium at Reisenstein.

The have a mini stage at the edge of their cafeteria.

What's more, the suburban schools are putting in food courts rather than what has been the traditional cafeteria.

Reisenstein not only has NO STAGE -- but -- it doesn't have a single window in the entire building.

The school was a failed school when it was a school.

There have been studies that prove that you can increase the kids test performance with the introduction of sunlight.

Go figure.

And, go digest. I'd love to read your feedback.

Mark Rauterkus said...

By the way -- let's look at the facilities at all the schools.

Rodgers Middle School was to move to Milliones -- and get a new stage upgrade.

Well, now they move to CAPA -- where the auditorium is sorta small and without ways to get into and out of the seats except at the edges.

There is a net loss of space there.

And, the new high school is without the facilities of a high school.

No gym at CAPA downtown that suits them for middle school games and P.E., etc.

MK said...

so yeah - small, sad cafetorium, no windows, inconvenient neighborhood, and a facility that would take millions of dollars to renovate to even make it habitable.

I was a senior at Schenley a few years ago when this idea was first floated, and I literally thought it was a joke. It still is.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The joke is on us, now, it seems.

This is a horrid joke.

= = =

More news. There was to be a briefing on the progress of the Schenley situation tomorrow, May 6.

But, the meeting was canceled.

No joke.

They will have the meeting AFTER the public comment this month. And, the meeting will be squeezed in just a day or two before the board meets to vote on the long-term status of Schenley High School.

Ploy.

Sucks.

Joke isn't funny.

Truth.