Pittsburgh Schools Want Excellence for All

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Something exciting is happening in Pittsburgh. The educators and leaders of Pittsburgh Schools have committed themselves to improving not only the quality of education that students receive, but also the excellence at which they perform. But is this just talk, or really some action? Here are the facts.
Representing the 2nd largest school district in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Public Schools
serve 29,447 students in 65 schools. Three- and four-year-olds are served through the Early Childhood program which is held at 95 of Pittsburgh Schools.
In 2006, Superintendent Mark Roosevelt unveiled a new and ambitious plan to improve the success of each student. Called “Excellence For All”, the plan asserts that children, no matter what part of the Pittsburgh community they come from, can achieve excellence.
The Pittsburgh Schools’ mission statement reflects this plan. They want to be one of America’s premier school districts, student-focused, well-managed, and innovative.
The Excellence For All plan calls for leaders to hold themselves accountable for preparing all children to not only achieve academic excellence, but also strength of character. Preparing these Pittsburgh Public Schools children for success will ultimately give them opportunities they need to succeed in all aspects of life; as children- but more importantly as adults.
The Excellence For All plan is founded on some core beliefs: that all children can learn at high levels, that Pittsburgh Schools teachers are integral to student development and deserve plenty of training, support and resources, and that education requires a safe and healthy learning environment. The plan also states that Pittsburgh Schools families are essential to the learning process and that communities need to be committed and involved with the schools and students to assure excellence. At the leadership level of Pittsburgh Schools, the plan calls for improvements in effective and consistent leadership, and the establishment of a central office that exists to serve all students and all of Pittsburgh Schools.
Aiming to take the No Child Left Behind Act one step further, this ambitious Pittsburgh Schools plan comes complete with measurable objective for not only getting each student proficient, but also intends to increase the number of students rat the highest levels of achievement. To this end, the superintendent has set high expectations with measurable objectives for all students attending Pittsburgh Schools.
The Superintendent intends to increase the percentage of students who are proficient in reading by the end of the 3rd grade from 49% to 80% in four years. Another important measure that the reform agenda addresses is the high school graduation. The Pittsburgh schools leader wants to lower the drop out rate by 10%.
One way to check to see how many students are working at the highest levels is to look at the participation in Advanced Placement courses. The goal is to see twice as many students taking AP exams, four times the number of African-American students taking these courses, and the number of students scoring 3-5 on AP exams will increase by 50%.
The truth is that every district creates a lofty set of goals that look good on paper. The real test will be what the Pittsburgh schools can actually make happen in the real world.