A+ Schools finds much needing improvement in Pittsburgh Public Schools

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In delivering A+ Schools' eighth annual report today on academic achievement in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, executive director Carey Harris said it marked the first time she had delivered so much bad news.

The racial achievement gap, which narrowed for the past three years, widened this year, increasing 1.3 percentage points to 31.0 percent in reading and increased 3.6 percentage points to 30.9 percent in math.

The graduation rate decreased from 70 percent to 68.5 percent and the number of seniors who earned a 2.5 or higher grade point average -- the total needed to qualify for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships -- dropped 1 percentage point to 58 percent of all students. For black students, the number dropped 4 percentage points to 39 percent.

Pittsburgh Superintendent Linda Lane said the news in the report reflected much of what district officials saw in the 2012 PSSA results.

"We need to go after it and recognize what we need to get done," Ms. Lane said.

For academic achievement, A+, an independent alliance for public education, didn't look just at Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exam measures of proficiency but looked at whether student at each grade level made a year's growth in achievement from the previous assessment.

In reading, a total of 91 percent of Pittsburgh public schools with seventh- and eighth-grade students made a year's worth or more growth in reading.

But 42 percent of schools with fourth-grade students made less than a year's growth. And 39.4 percent of schools with fifth-graders did while among schools with sixth-graders, 59.1 percent made less than a year's growth.

Data for Pittsburgh schools with 11th-graders show that 44 percent made less than one year's growth in reading.

In math, achievement measurements were best in grades six and seven: 68 percent schools with sixth-grade students made a year's or more growth as did 73.9 percent with seventh-graders.

But in schools with fifth-graders, 72 percent of students achieved less than one year's growth. Of schools with eighth-graders 65 percent showed less than a year's growth as did and 67 percent of schools with first-graders.

In schools with fourth-graders, 46 percent demonstrated less than a year's growth in math.

Some bright spots included that the number or students enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement courses increased 1 percentage points to 15.2 percent.

Also, there were nine schools with a racial achievement gap of 10 percent or less in reading and seven in math.

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Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.


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