Thursday, September 02, 2004

First day of school

The kids are back to school, starting today. But, today also marks the first day South Vo Tech is empty. There was summer school.
Fifty percentage of all eleventh grade students score below proficiency in math in Pittsburgh Public Schools. For eleventh graders who scored below the proficient level of reading, there has been small improvement as the percentage decreased from 41 percent in 2002 to 39 percent in 2004.

The percentage of African Americans that scored below proficient in math is a staggering 82.5 percent in 2004 (virtually the same as the 82.7 percent in 2002 (but an improvement over the 84 percent in 2003)). The results are slightly better on the reading part of the test: 72.1 percent scored below proficiency in 2004. The group scored better than those who took the test in 2002 (74.1 percent), but not as well as those who took the test in 2003 (71.8 percent).

The students who are closest to graduating and entering the workforce and higher education are doing the worse.
Policy Brief in PDF formatted version from the Allegheny Institute

My suggestions: Split up the Pgh Public School District with one HORIZONTAL slice and a number of vertical ones for the K-8 levels. I'd love to see three to five new school districts come into formation. Each district with its own elected school board, superintendent and geographical area would be constructed for students from K to 8th grade. Then the existing PPS District would be city-wide and only need to focus on the education of the high school aged students.

I coached at New Trier High School, named at the time by Town and Country magazine, the very best public high school in America. It was. The New Trier school district is a 9-12 district. It has a number of other districts that feed into the high school. Each of the other districts, smaller, are able to focus upon the education of the younger kids, grades K-8.

Pittsburgh's Public Schools, as a district, is too big. It is too hard to get volunteers, focused attention on learning, and other challenges into solutions.

My kids are excited about the new school year. My hope is that everyone feels the same and that the desires to learn never fade. And, as a parent I know that I can best impact the kids in their youngest ages. And, when it comes to teaching higher level lessons, like those found in high schools, great teachers are necessary. We need to overhaul our approach to education in Pittsburgh, and a split in the district would be a great solution.

To hedge his adventure, our oldest boy did ask last night if it was still possible to take Semester at Sea. Not this year Erik.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

from a policy brief from the Allegheny Institute:

It is time to demand a major overhaul of City schools. The system as it exists now has demonstrated that it is incapable of fixing itself. Clearly, students who are being so poorly served in the present system deserve much better. Taxpayers have a right to expect more.

There is blame enough to go around. Finger pointing at teachers, parents, the school board and management has long since become a useless exercise. Only a dramatic change in the system will cut through all the finger pointing and excuse making. The state has an obligation to ensure that students who want to learn have that opportunity. Failure to follow through on that obligation is a moral failing.
Formatted version in PDF of the Allegheny Institute brief.