Most pupils' parents approve Pittsburgh schools

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About two-thirds of Pittsburgh Public Schools parents surveyed would recommend their child's school, according to the district's 2012 parent survey.

Parents of more than 4,000 students responded to the mailed survey, which puts the response rate at about 15 percent, a few points higher than in recent years.

Of those who answered, 56.7 percent are white and 31.3 percent black. The student body in the district is about 35 percent white and 55 percent black.

At a board meeting Monday night, some board members considered the response rate too low and the demographics unrepresentative. Jean-Anne Matter, a volunteer who helped to analyze the results, said, however, that there were more similarities than differences between white and black parents.

While past surveys focused on questions about the district, this one asked questions about the individual schools. Schools then will review the results, looking for ways to improve parent participation and respond to the survey results.

On the question of whether they would recommend their child's school, 35 percent strongly agreed and 34 percent agreed.

Parents were more likely to recommend the early childhood centers and K-5 schools, with 85 percent and 74 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing, respectively. Those who would recommend the school and those who wouldn't answered 10 questions dealing with perceptions of teaching and communications with the school significantly differently. For example, of those who would recommend the school, 67 percent thought the quality of teaching is improving. For those who wouldn't, only 16 percent agreed or strongly agreed with that.

Some of the other teaching questions that separated the two groups included whether the child is challenged to do his best, discipline strategies for disruptive students are effective and teachers believe all students can learn at high levels.

Some communications questions that separated the two groups included whether the school provides useful responses to questions, considers a parent's recommendations or gives useful information on how to improve a child's progress.

At least 3 in 4 agreed or strongly agreed that the school keeps them informed about important matters and meetings, but just over half agreed or strongly agreed they were informed about their legal rights.

Parents were less positive about whether their recommendations are considered. While 56 percent said the school solicits their recommendations on events and activities, only 45 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their recommendations were considered.

About two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed all children are treated fairly and their child has the same opportunities as other children. However, white parents and parents of younger children scored the school higher on this measure.

Nearly a third said their child has complained of bullying, with the greatest response -- 44 percent -- coming from parents of children in grades 3-5. Those whose child complained of bullying were less likely to think there was fair treatment.

Errika Fearbry Jones, coordinator of the office of teacher effectiveness, said the district is developing a parent guide on bullying. It already has developed a teacher toolkit.

Only 41 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the most effective teachers should be assigned to the neediest students.

Some other categories in which at least three-fourths of parents agreed or strongly agreed:

• Adults care.

• The district provides a wide variety of school options and programs.

• Parents are aware of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships and the criteria for them.

• Factors other than seniority should be considered in teacher layoffs.

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Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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