Sunday, August 03, 2008

Right direction: Roosevelt has made the tough calls for city schools

Original from July 28, 2008. Updated below.

Let's re-hash the P-G editorial on the boss of the Pgh Public Schools, Mark Roosevelt.
Right direction: Roosevelt has made the tough calls for city schoolsRoosevelt has proven that he knows how to make the tough, fiscally sound choices it takes to start solving the district's pervasive problems.
Roosevelt has made tough choices. These are choices that did NOT need to be tough. He made them very, very difficult.

Roosevelt has also proven that he is keen on not taking on the real problems: Oliver, Westinghouse, Langley and Peabody are the high schools that have been called 'drop out factories.' Nothing is being done with those schools -- that we can say is 'tough.'

Mr. Roosevelt choices do not start to solve the district's pervasive problems -- rather -- they work to terminate the district's successful schools. Frick Middle School has been a very good school. Schenley High School was the districts best school in some areas, and near the very top in other areas. Rodgers Middle School is another great school that is getting a whole different location, less access to theater spaces, less room for students, staff and programs. Likewise, Rodgers CAPA High School, the best performing school in the district should be expanding and it isn't.

Roosevelt is not dealing with the problems as much as killing the successful schools.

One problem was too many schools. Now Roosevelt is opening more schools.

One problem was schools with few students. Now Roosevelt is making smaller schools.

One problem was the capital expenses for school buildings. Now Roosevelt is putting high school kids into buildings designed for middle school students -- and making temporary schools (Reizenstein) that don't clear long-term locations.

Roosevelt has made tough choices -- because they are not logical. Reasoned leadership is absent.

We agree that the most significant buzz is the Pittsburgh Promise. That promise is but a 'cruel joke' as 20-percent of the kids from Pittsburgh that go to college stay in college. The rest flunk out. The promise isn't about the mission of the PPS -- to eductate kids from K to 12. It misses the mark with a lot of sizzle.

One way to narrow the racial achievement gap is to cause an exodus of those with the capability to depart the district to do so. To close the gap by subtraction isn't a victory in my book. Families are departing the city. That's the benchmark to measure again. Think again, PG editors.

To be specific, the district didn't release the numbers on the math and reading scores -- in full. We are still waiting for them. The raw numbers are hidden, just like the school board can't see the newly updated 'dashboard' that computerizes the results. Still in the dark and waiting. Watchdogs don't generally fall for that -- except the P-G.

Update: Since there was some discussion as to the source of the comments I made, here are a few photos from that event. Video might need to wait for a month.

From people & vips

From people & vips

CEO of Pittsburgh Foundation, Mr. Grant Oliphant, was the prime speaker to for Wireless Neighborhood annual meeting.

Woops. Sorry. I said that he was with the Heinz Endowments in the messages on this thread. Perhaps he worked there in the past.


Anonymous said...

Right direction: Roosevelt has made the tough calls for city schools
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three years ago, a divided Pittsburgh school board took a chance on an unconventional choice to lead the district.

Mark Roosevelt, great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, had never been a teacher or a principal or a school board member. He had never managed a staff larger than 25 people. And he was new to Pittsburgh.

Since then, he has proven that he knows how to make the tough, fiscally sound choices it takes to start solving the district's pervasive problems.

Mr. Roosevelt's most significant achievement could be the Pittsburgh Promise, a $250 million program that rewards city public high school graduates with college scholarships. Just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal credited a similar program in Kalamazoo, Mich., with increasing school enrollment, job growth and home building.

He has controlled school district spending, which had been escalating. Between 2002 and 2005, the budget rose 9.1 percent; in the last three years, spending fell by 0.02 percent.

He has made some necessary but unpopular choices, including the closing of 22 schools, the shuttering of Schenley High School and a plan to move the middle school for performing arts into the high school building. A responsible, new contract with teachers was reached this year after contentious negotiations.

Last week the district released its latest test results, which showed improved overall math and reading scores, although probably not enough to meet federal standards. Mr. Roosevelt said the numbers also showed a narrowing of the racial achievement gap.

To be sure, the job is not done, which the school board recognized a year ago by extending the superintendent's contract through the 2010-11 school year. Under its terms, the board will vote next month on whether to give him a $15,000 raise, bringing his salary to $210,000.

For making the difficult calls and turning the system in the right direction, he's earned it.
First published on July 29, 2008 at 12:00 am

Anonymous said...

Where in the world did the factoid come from about 20 percent of PPS grads stay in college?? That is just silly. Does anyone even keep that kind of data?

If you want to be taken seriously, dont be so blatantly misleading.

Mark Rauterkus said...

It came from the Exec. Director of the Heinz Endowments in a speech to the Wireless Neighborhoods a month or so ago. I have that 'factoid' statement on tape. I should have given Grant O the footnote. Thanks for asking.

PURE Reform website said...

Here's some graphs that use the information that the district did put out. It looks at classes of kids, with their scores in each grades. Obviously, this is district-wide, so you can't see school differences or achievement gap differences.

But all in all? Not a lot to write home about. 7th and 8th grade reading scores are way up this year, everything else? Lots of stagnant...or lower than when Roosevelt got here.

Anonymous said...

and where in the world would the Heinz Endowments get that data????? Do they find out which college EVERY grad attends and track their progress??? I still cant and wont believe that only 20 percent stay in college.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should call the Parent Hotline 412-622-7920 and ask if they can confirm the 20% that was cited at the Wireless Neighborhoods meeting. That figure is disgraceful. Mark can you provide a date? We will understand if you are busy getting prepped to travel.
And, is anyone having problems posting to PUREreform?

anonymous2 said...

Hey anonymous, we are posting at the same time I will be anonymous2 for now. OK?

anonymous2 said...

Hey anonymous, since you sound so doubtful, as I do about the number, are you thinking that people are just tossing out numbers to paint a pic that would go a long way in getting MORE support for the admin to do what they want?

Anonymous said...

I think it suits some agendas to perpetuate the image of failing urban schools. It seems to me that people with children in public schools should be as informed and supportive as is possible. My kids have graduated from the PPS now, but I still get steamed when the city schools ( and their grads)get so little regard.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I was shocked when I heard the statement of 20% success rate of Pgh Public School grads in college.

But, then again, when I went to college, the retention rate was very low at my university. I'm sure that 50% of the Ohio Univ. freshmen didn't get a degree in 1982. That has nothing to do with the PPS -- just overall college success percentage of a college.

Today's numbers are much better. Cost of college is much higher. The Ohio U students are different too.

I'm not sure what's what in the PPS numbers.

I'm more the messenger.

anonymous2 said...

Glad you are the MESSenger Mark.
The high number of comments on the topic is interesting to me.

Anonymous said...

But being the messenger of DISinformation does no one any good. Info should be verified before presented as fact.

anonymous2 said...

I agree, thus my message to call the hotline and ask for verification and the source of the data. If this gets uncovered just one time and then reported everything will be open to additional scrutiny. Right?
I appreciate the message from anonymous about his children. The most positive thing can be people to stop hanging their heads and apologizing for where they got their educaion. Especially if it was a good one, which apparently is possible in PPS.

deegazette said...

I will try to call tomorrow. I think it is a good idea. Gotta run today.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Then prove the info not to be accurate. To just huff and not have an open mind is way worse than an attributed statement.

The burden is not just mine to support it or not.


I do not pretend to fact check everything that shows up on the blog.

Anonymous said...

But you take particular glee in reporting the bad news you dig up. If the schools are so bad, you best be looking to move your sons to private school.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The 'glee' statement is just goofy. And, I didn't 'dig up' that 'mention.'

Yours is just an attack on the person (me) which is smoke and fuss to divert the real conversation. Hence, it proves the point within in the convesation. Yours is just a first grade ploy for online actions -- Anonymous.

Feel free to bully elsewhere.

As to 'moving' IMHO there are three main ways of dealing with trouble. And, the city is still in deep trouble. 1. Flight. 2. Fight. 3. Leverage the other's logic/indifference/do-nothing-ness into a fulcrum for helping to move the world.

Our opportunities to leave are clearly present. We're staying. Except for next month. Enrichment beyond the school day is very important, given where our kids sit in classes.

Your comment might like to be more within the camp of helping and not being just a turd in the middle of the road.

Those that stay and do little are able to wallow in the landscape, generally picking up pay checks.