Saturday, April 24, 2010

Open East End Panel suggestions (part 2 of many)

Strong enrollment occurs at schools that enjoy economic and racial diversity.

Virtually all of Pittsburgh's public schools with economically and racially diverse populations enjoy strong enrollment, while most of the less diverse schools are seriously under enrolled (including the new University Prep at Milliones). Our panel affirms the benefits to students of attending school with classmates from backgrounds different from their own, including specifically special education students, and notes research findings about the difficulties faced by schools with high concentrations of impoverished students. In Pittsburgh the schools that lack significant racial diversity also lack significant socioeconomic diversity. These schools are very different from many successful, economically diverse, historically black post-secondary institutions that students attend by choice rather than necessity.

Recent trends from PPS run counter to these principles, in part apparently because the district asserts that housing "disparate programs" in a single school will necessarily result in one of the programs being "less well served." With the right funding, programs and implementation, however, students who are not enrolled in programs such as CAS, AP and IB can be just as well served as those who do participate in such programs. In fact, there are many Pittsburgh public schools (such as Allderdice) in which some but not all students participate in CAS, AP or CTE programs yet there are no apparent plans to move those students to separate schools. And, there are Pittsburgh public schools where all students participate in the same "theme" but there are nonetheless wide achievement gaps, such as the dramatically lower percentages of low income and African American students at the "advanced" level at Allderdice and CAPA. Finally, the district has proposed placing at Oliver a disparate mix of programs including early college, career training, credit recovery and a program for older students who have dropped out but seek to reenter the system.

Pittsburgh Public Schools should seek to create schools that will attract a diverse student body in terms of special education needs, socio-economic status and race.

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