Clergy organize to get better teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools classrooms

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A group of Pittsburgh clergy members has formed to support the Pittsburgh Public Schools efforts to place a highly effective teacher in every classroom.

Made up of 25 local clergy members, Shepherding the Next Generation -- Pittsburgh announced its formation today during a press conference at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral next to the Pittsburgh schools administrative headquarters.

The Rev. John Paul Chaney, pastor of the Seeds of Hope Anglican Church in Bloomfield, and Rev. Debra Thompson, pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Crafton, expressed their support of the Pittsburgh school's efforts to hire and train effective teachers district-wide.

The clery group was recruited by the national Shepherding the Next Generation organization, which has worked to improve early childhood education.

In June, the Pittsburgh clergy members honored teachers in their congregations during services.

Shepherding the Next Generation received $75,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to recruit Pittsburgh clergy members for the effort. The Gates Foundation also gave $40 million to the Pittsburgh Public Schools in 2009 for its Empowering Effective Teachers effort, which is working to improve teacher hiring, training and professional development.

In a report similar to one that Shepherding the Next Generation released in Memphis in April 2012, the organization cited studies that show placing an effective teacher in a classroom leads to significantly improved academic achievement among students and that a highly effective teacher has more impact on student achievement than class size, curriculum or other factors.

The Memphis City Schools received $90 million in Gates funding to improve hiring and training of teachers.

Errika Fearbry Jones, special assistant to Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane, said district officials welcome the support of the clergy.

"Community partners matter," Ms. Fearbry Jones said. "They want to energize us to stay the course."

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Mary Niederberger: or 412-263-1590.


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