Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Population decline and Pure Reform about Schools

PURE Reform - Parents United for Responsible Educational Reform: "the number of children enrolled in noncharter Pittsburgh public schools is projected to drop much more sharply- from about 38,500 in 2000 to about 25,000 in 2014. So, while the number of children will have dropped by only 5%, enrollment will have suffered a 35% drop from the year 2000 to the year 2014.
The numbers in the projections don't add up.

I like this thinking. Ask families: What would it take to convince you to choose a Pgh Public School for your kids?

That is a big deal question. I've got plenty of thoughts on the expected results. But, I don't think that the PPS Administration nor Board has the courage to ask the right question and start the honest conversations that could unravel.

This is ironic. The most popular school in the disttict with Pgh Public Schools are put in tiny settings. So, people want to go to these schools. Yet the schools are shrunk.

CAPA High School is a the best performing school in terms of academics. It has a 'waiting list.' So, the PPS Administrators and Board voted to cram additional grades, grades 6, 7 and 8, in to the building for high schoolers. Hence, the total number of high school kids is reduced. Wrong way!

CAPA is not a clown car!

CAPA should have expanded, not contracted. CAPA is getting an expansion -- and it should have expanded so as to allow more high school students into that successful setting.

In similar ways, consider the new Sci Tech School. It is popular. It has a waiting list. It is going into a building that was not built to be a high school. The school is going to have 400 students and it could have been put into a building that would have allowed more than 1,000 students into a popular program in a school that has the necessary space.

Other good questions worthy of reposting here:

A large portion of ARRA funds will be spent on middle years summer programs. When will the details of the summer literacy camp be available? How will the district ensure that the students most in need of this program actually attend?

• When will there be an update on how the district is doing w/ excellence for all goals i.e. # of students taking AP exams, # of AA students taking AP exams, # of students scoring 3-5 on AP exams, # of students graduating?

• In the true spirit of transparency, committees that are formed by the administration to address various reform issues should include people with all perspectives and opinions. We request that the formation of these committees be announced in advance and that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate and that these meetings be open for the public to observe.

• When will a high school facilities plan complete with names and locations of buildings rather than general descriptions such as 3 comprehensive or 5 comprehensive schools be provided for public review and comment? In addition, it seems like some buildings may be ruled out for future use based on replacement cost compared to a general "build new" amount per square foot that does not consider the location or quality of the new building. Calculations and underlying assumptions of this cost comparison should be provided.

• When will the results of the March community dialogue held a month and a half ago be posted- at the meeting we were told they would be on the Building Excellence website.
We wait. We listen. We wonder.

Parents of Pittsburgh won't put their children into the schools until deeper levels of trust are established. FUD spreads all the time. Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt = FUD. With FUD, people choose to vote with their feet.

If Pittsburgh Public School administration turned to a policy of being open and honest -- then the district would turn the corner and begin to thrive. These are major changes and new types of thinking and communications. But that is the bedrock of what parents want for their kids. We want to be in safe, open, clear, fair, and just schools where kids are given all sorts of challenges and have a great chances of success.


Anonymous said...

You make a valid point in regards to CAPA high school and consolidating them into one building. But I ask this: When the new building was erected Downtown why didn't they make it big enough so both the middle school and high school could exist side by side? Having them next to the high school means they can share the resources that make the upper grades so successful.

PPSparent said...

To answer anonymous, because that many years ago, no one thought that having a 6-12 school was a good idea.

In fact, judging by every parent I've spoken to or heard speak at meetings, they still don't think it's a good idea.

The point is that the resources downtown were designed for a high school -- One school, serving high school age children. Clearly there was some room to expand -- for instance, they could have expanded into the space that will now be used for Rogers. However, they've been using the studio spaces for classrooms, because they were already crowded.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Part of the expansion decision came on the whim of a marketplace opportunity. The PPS had an "option" on the other parts of the building should they be vacated. They did become empty. PPS got an option offered. PPS accepted the option. Hence, more space. Hence -- the need to get the middle school there -- all because of a building space matter and downtown building particulars. No planning, really.

The plan was to move the middle school - Rodgers - into the U-Prep building in the back of Oakland / The Hill District.

That set off a chain reaction too.

I don't know why, given that Rodgers has been a success, the PPS does not DUPLICATE the success and have two middle schools devoted to creative and performing arts.

Put one at Knoxville. Put another wherever. Then take the space at CAPS and expand the HS progam.

Anonymous said...

Do you get the feeling that maybe the administration doesn't trust people enough to be open?