African-American leaders come out in favor of change in Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher evaluations

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A group of African-American leaders today came out in favor of Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane's efforts to strengthen teacher evaluations.

The new system is to be used this school year. A dry run using last year's data showed that 9.3 percent of city classroom teachers would have received failing -- the new term for unsatisfactory -- ratings, compared to the roughly 3 percent who actually received unsatisfactory ratings in June.

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers have criticized the way the performance levels were set as being substantially higher than anywhere else in the state.

The new system is supported in part by a $40 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a news release following a news conference, Wanda Henderson, a representative of the Advocates for African American Students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools said, “Over 20 years ago we filed an action to make sure that there was greater equity in our schools. We know that the outcomes for our students aren’t good enough. That’s why we were hopeful that the work to help teachers improve would lead to something better for our students.”

In the news release, Tim Stevens, chair of the Black Political Empowerment Project and parent of a district student, said, “Teaching is too important of a job not to have high standards. Initial research shows that a great teacher in Pittsburgh, no matter what school or neighborhood she/he teaches in, can get a child to learn almost twice as much in a school year as compared to a failing teacher. Every child deserves a great teacher in every classroom, a goal everyone should strongly support.”

Also at the news conference were Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Tracey Reed-Armant a district parent and A+ Schools board member; Rev. Glenn Grayson of Wesley AME Church; Dr. Marilyn Barnett Waters of the NAACP Pittsburgh Chapter; and Dwayne Barker, a parent of students at Pittsburgh King Pre-K-8.

They are urging the public to sign postcards at their organizations or online at

Education writer Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955.

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