Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Some outstanding school questions, ... await the answers

Reform/Alternative Options Committee
Questions Regarding the Pittsburgh Public Schools High School Reform Plan
Submission to PPS Board of education

Reform Options Committee Members (names deleted)

After the announcement of tentative high school reform plans as well as the tentative breaking up of Schenley High School, a group of concerned parents formed a committee to try to sort out the complexities of High School Reform. Representatives from this group contacted Mark Roosevelt, who welcomed the opportunity for parents to engage in a dialogue with the administration to ask questions and voice concerns about the proposed changes in our schools.

Over the last several months, our group has met twice with Derrick Lopez, Director of High School Reform. Below are the questions that have resulted from many hours of reviewing the information presented by the administration over the last year as well as the information given to this group by Mr. Lopez. Although much valuable information was gleaned from our two meetings with Mr. Lopez, answers to the questions below remain elusive. We hope that you, as school board members, will find these questions helpful while gathering information regarding the reform of our schools.

1. Is there an overarching plan that addresses the remaining district high schools?
a. Are there 2, 5, and 10 year visions of the district?
b. When will these be widely disseminated in the media and to parents directly?
c. Could you please provide specific data supporting each of the components of the proposed reforms (eg themed high schools, eliminating middle schools, smaller high schools, separating poorly performing students into their own facility)

2. During our meetings with Mr. Lopez, he stated that community councils would be formed while assessing the districts needs for school reform. He also stated that there are currently steering committees addressing the new IB and University Prep High Schools.
a. What is the process for member selection of these committees/community councils? Who are the members? When will they start meeting? What will be the frequency of meetings/agenda?

*Parents have continually expressed concerns that we are not getting a voice at the table regarding the massive changes proposed. We have suggested that each school PTA should elect one representative to be a member any community council or steering committee that is formed regarding all aspects of PPS reform.

3. What are the citations of research regarding 6-12 configurations? Since Brashear is currently configured as a 6-12 High school, can there be a comparison done regarding drug use, drop-out or transfer rates, suspension/referral rate, test scores and staffing considerations between Brashear and another demographically similar high school/middle school set?
Please review attached analyses regarding increased/decreased transitions. This is a google document.

4. One component of the reform plan will create a predominately African American high school at the Milliones Middle School site.
a. Is integration a priority in the reform plan? If so, what will be done to ensure that Milliones will not remain predominantly African American? How was the racial make up prediction (80%-20%) calculated? Has there been discussion of recruiting at risk students from throughout the district to attend University Affiliated HS?
b. Are smaller classrooms for low achieving students a priority? How will the goal of smaller classrooms for at risk student population be achieved? (more teacher hires?) Has there been consideration/discussion regarding smaller classrooms district wide?
c. What is the reaction from the Hill community and the rest of the African American students/parents in the district to this component? Who, specifically, has been contacted for input? Has there been an effort from the administration to reach out to the community at large? If so, when? What was the response?
d. Is there a signed deal with Pitt? What is the time frame of their commitment to “University Prep”?
e. What are the specifics of the “University Partnership” with Pitt?
f. Is this a replicable model or a one-time, one-place model? Who is on this steering committee? How were they selected? Has anyone contacted the educators involved with the successful Spartan Classics program that was discontinued due to lack of funding to incorporate the best practices from this program into HS reform? What are the state’s requirements regarding hours for student teachers?

5. Has the alternative of housing the University Prep and IB/IS high schools in the the Schenley building, thus creating a new Schenley University Prep HS and a new Schenley IB HS? (Schenley is big enough to accommodate both schools in the 6-12 format, thus creating everything that the administration is proposing (new IB, University Prep, and getting Frick for the Science and Technology HS while preserving the unique social integration that works so well currently at Schenley.
a. Please see attached alternative proposal for revised cost analysis
b. Please go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/govpub/2130small_schools_final3.pdf for data regarding housing two schools in one building.

6. What are the plans for assessing the success of changes at the elementary/middle school levels?
a. How are the problems in the Homewood K-8 schools being addressed? Should we move forward with new reforms when others seem to be foundering?
b. What are the results of the America’s Choice evaluation of the elementary/middle schools?
c. What methods of assessment will be put in place for the new reforms and how will these be reported to the public?

7. What will be the mechanism for the high school choice component of the reforms?
a. If feeder patterns are completely eliminated, how will the district deal with over requesting of certain schools (for instance what if all of the students in Squirrel Hill choose Allderdice as their high school)?
b. What will be the mechanism for student assignment regarding the HS choice component of the plan?
c. How can the community be involved in this process before rather than after the fact? What are the plans for developing acceptance of this plan?
d. How will this be addressed? Can there be a regular newsletter that will update parents on reform plans/progress? Can there be a dedicated section of the website to reform plans/parent updates? Can school board members hold community meetings regarding reform plans in their districts?

8. A large component of the reform plan seems to rest on teacher/principal/professional development.
a. What can be done to ensure complete and rigorous evaluation of teachers in the three years BEFORE they acquire union protections?
b. Will the review process of teachers/principals be open to review change with input from all parties involved (teachers, principals, parents and administration)?
c. How can a parent/student component for evaluation of teachers/principals be incorporated into the process?

9. How will the transportation issues of moving students from Hill to Reizenstein, as well as future high school choice, be resolved?

1 comment:

optimist said...

Thanks for consistently posting on PPS planning.