Good News coming from local schools
The Pittsburgh Public Schools have made history as the largest urban district in Pennsylvania to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this past year.
Leading the way for the district were grades three through five in the K-5 and K-8 schools. Under the leadership of Dr. Barbara Rudiak, assistant superintendent for elementary schools K-5, 16 out of 18 K-5 schools met the requirements necessary to make AYP. The state benchmarks currently call for at least 63 percent of students to be proficient or advanced in reading and 56 percent of students to be proficient or advanced in mathematics. Students in grades 3-8 and 11 take the PSSA exam each year and their scores are counted into AYP calculations.
The principals and staff at the K-5 schools attribute much of their success to the work that they had been doing last year with a national consulting firm, Focus on Results. As its name suggests, the consultants guided the school staff to review their data, determine an instructional focus, and use best practices to reach measureable goals.
Several local schools have developed a "Good News/Urgent Message" as a way to inform parents and the community of how their schools have performed on last year's PSSA exam. The schools have analyzed their data and identified areas of strength and areas of concern so that all stakeholders would be up to date with the latest test scores. Staff from Concord, Grandview, Phillips, Roosevelt, and Whittier schools spent time developing these informative messages early this year.
At Pittsburgh Concord, the good news is that 78 percent of students in grades 3-5 are proficient or advanced in mathematics. This percentage is highlighted by the fact that 88 percent of Concord fourth graders were proficient or advanced. The urgent message at Concord is that although the school met AYP in reading, it did so through an alternative measurement allowed by the state because their 62.5 percent proficiency rate just missed the 63 percent state benchmark. The goal at Concord for this year is to exceed the reading benchmark this year and to prepare all students to be successful readers.
Grandview students exceeded the benchmark in mathematics, with 60.6 percent of tested students scoring proficient or advanced. Students at Grandview also met AYP in reading through an alternative measurement, but it is important to note that all students at Grandview showed one year's growth or more in both reading and mathematics. The urgent message at Grandview is that in order to exceed the 63 percent state benchmark this year, students will need to make more than one year's growth, so there is a lot of work ahead.
At Pittsburgh Phillips, the good news is that the school has once again far exceeded the state benchmarks for reading and mathematics and is again among the highest scoring schools in the district. Phillips is also celebrating the fact that although the 2007-2008 data showed disparity between the achievement of African-American and white students, the 2008-2009 data shows that African-American students at Phillips have slightly outperformed the white students in both reading and mathematics.
The school's urgent message is that there is still slight disparity between economically disadvantaged students and students overall. There is also a strong focus at Phillips on ensuring that all children in the building show at least one year's growth this year.
Pittsburgh Roosevelt wants to highlight that they have scored well above the state benchmark and are among the highest scoring schools in the district also. Most impressively, 87 percent of fifth graders were proficient or advanced in reading and 81 percent proficient in mathematics at Roosevelt. The school's concerns are to better support all students in their quest to reach 100 percent proficiency in both reading and mathematics and to deepen their instructional focus on reading comprehension across all content areas.
Pittsburgh Whittier is happy to note this is the third year in a row that the school has met the state AYP targets in both reading and mathematics. Whittier is also celebrating that the achievement disparity between African-American and white students is narrowing.
African-American students at Whittier showed an 11 percent increase in the number of proficient or advanced students. The improvement focus at Whittier this year is to work at making all students proficient in grade level literacy skills, improve teacher's ability to formatively assess student progress, and eliminate poor student attendance as a hindrance to student achievement.
All schools in the Pittsburgh Public schools are working very hard to improve student achievement. The five schools noted here for their achievements are indicative of the type of focus found throughout the district under Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.
Mr. Roosevelt's leadership has provided the entire district with a clear direction for giving students the necessary tools to achieve at higher levels and take advantage of "The Pittsburgh Promise." This unique opportunity provides all Pittsburgh Public School graduates with money toward higher education, effectively eliminating money as a barrier to higher education.
For more on the Pittsburgh Promise, visit www.pitts burghpromise.org.