Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A+ Schools Report in today's PG and on the web

A+ Schools has published the second annual "Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh," as an insert in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The report contains data about each school with a few blindspots.

The Report is based on the 2005-06 school year. So, the new Accelerated Learning Academies (ALAs) were not included in this year's Report. They were "reconstituted." The K-8s that were elementary schools last year are listed in the elementary section of the Report.

More to come from me.

In general, in my humble opinion, A+ Schools is but a bad joke. The organization used to have a web-based discussion group -- but that was taken down. I've never been able to see any minutes to any of the A+ School meetings. Who attends? When? What is said? The bold support from A+ schools for the 'right-sizing' came without a board vote.

The organization is built for political leverage and little else. Michael Lamb is associated with the effort, and that is one of the worst things he has ever done.

There are hundreds of things that A+ Schools could and should be doing. Our schools need lots of help and support with critical thinking among many sectors of the community. But, we've got another entity that strives for a scripted, elitist, top-down agenda.

Just as I don't want my schools to cater to some students and ignore others -- nor do I want organizations that are about our schools to do the same.

A comprehensive look at the schools that isn't comprehensive is fine. But, trouble comes when they say and think this is a comprehensive view. If they called it what it was -- I'd be fine with that approach.

There are serious blind spots in this report about our schools, about our school district and about our communities.

The ALAs (Accelerated Learning Academies) have been reconstituted. But, the kids that go to those schools have not been reconstituted. And, the performance of the schools that closed are just ignored and not a part of the report. What's up with that? If we reconstitute schools every year, we'll never need to put important data into a report.

Furthermore, getting base-line numbers of the old system is not welcomed when you have a new system. Let's erase all hopes of being able to fail. Don't publish the numbers of the old schools. Then the new schools numbers are never going to be worse that that of the old school -- because we're not going to reveal the numbers from the old school.

Shame on the report for selective reporting by not sharing results that enable us to look back. Perhaps 'history' isn't part of the new accelerated math and reading programs -- and that's another failure.

How did Knoxville Middle School stack up? How did Greenway Middle School stack up? Those schools just are NUKED from the report. There were kids that went to those schools last year. Those schools fed into other high schools.

The best thing we learned about Knoxville -- Hanna Montana was in a movie that was filmed there last month. The place is a nice movie set now. That's it. That's their version of comprehensive.

Perhaps they should have done a phone book. Perhaps they are trying to make a hype and PR brochure to get people to move into downtown loft apartments.

The expansion into the realm of charter schools is welcome. Next, let's see an expansion into private schools and catholic schools too.

My big knock when it came to the report last year was that there were no benchmarks as to how the kids in the city did with a contrast to those in suburban schools. Face the facts. A family that is able to move from one school setting because they see that the kids are not progressing as they should won't look at this booklet and say -- humm.... Frick vs. South Brook vs. Schiller ... ??? No way. People who are pulling their kids out of the school district are moving outside the city. The choices are South Brook vs. Baldwin. Or, Frick vs. Shaler. Or, South Hills or Montour.

This isn't being framed well. It isn't really a battle among city schools. The real contrasts need to be among schools in the region, city and not, public and not.

On the last page of the report is a call for opinions. I've given my opions on a number of topics central to our schools and communities -- at the A+ Web Forums in the past. Then they pulled the plug on that communication tool. They don't really want to hear my opinions.

With watchdogs like A+ Schools, we're sure to stay in a heap of trouble. Comprehensive trouble.

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