James B. Stewart rightly challenges the Pittsburgh community to rededicate itself to closing the achievement gap in his Feb. 15 Forum piece (“Still Walking in Circles”). He asserts that none of the efforts to reduce racial disparities in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be successful unless a “broad coalition that includes PPS, local government, foundations, businesses and community organizations” confronts the issue.
We at Crossroads Foundation agree but would like to expand the discussion of educational equity to one that encompasses not just the city of Pittsburgh and its public schools but to the broadest coalition possible — one that includes members from across Allegheny County and includes charter schools, nonprofits, community organizations and other stakeholders.
A conversation that focuses only on the city schools excludes the thousands of deserving students enrolled in low-performing districts in other under-resourced areas as well as those who have gone outside their local districts in search of educational opportunities. Impacting the achievement gap requires us all to come to the table. Hundreds of nonprofits and community organizations support these promising students, many of whom are outside of the initiatives of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Promise. And many of these organizations, charter and private schools, and nonprofits are making great progress in closing the black/white achievement gap.
On March 28, Crossroads Foundation will host an educational forum, “Expanding Education’s Promise: Impacting the Achievement Gap From Outside the Public School System.” Our hope is to stop walking in circles and to enlarge the region’s efforts to eliminate the opportunity gap. While our focus is on the work that goes on outside of public school districts, we invite any person committed to building a community committed to educational equity to be part of the event.
ESTHER MELLINGER STIEF
Manager for Research and Special Projects